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Pre-rehearsal rehearsal.

Pre-rehearsal rehearsal.

The swallows cartwheeled in the sky, the huge audience waited expectantly in the square, many standing, Mozart’s final symphony fizzed into life and the Anghiari Festival 2013 was launched. Even the cat with the limp, a regular attender, made an appearance, making it all seem just right. We had had a starter earlier in the day in the form of a chamber concert, the leftovers from the afternoon storm necessitating a move into a nearby church, but the hope is for decent weather for the many concerts which remain.

As happens every year, the amount of work needed to be done increases hugely once I come out here, and often needs to be fitted in between other things with pinpoint timing. Yesterday was one of those days, and I expect plenty more of the same throughout the week. As I write this the orchestra are performing in the church against which I am leaning in the shade of this hazy Sunday. This is the first of three concerts today, and I need to fit in a rehearsal as well. I have also been invited for lunch and dinner, so it is not all work, but my timetable has very little room for manoeuvre.

There is a tangible sense of happiness out here, which is quite something to experience. Bringing music to people is an end in itself, but the appreciation of it here in the middle of Tuscany is different from that in music-saturated London. I am not saying it is better or worse, but it is different. We are also made to feel honoured guests, never something I take for granted, but people could barely be more helpful.

I am trying to settle into a productive rhythm here, leaving the bar earlier in the evening, resting more completely and getting up at a decent hour, the better to prepare the day and get other things done before the assault starts. This rhythm is still on its first day, I must admit, but I am determined to keep it going for the rest of the week. If I am rested and prepared things are so much less stressful.

As for my music, things continue to go well. I am meeting for a session tomorrow with the clarinettists who will play my piece on Tuesday. They were sitting next to me last night and one of them played me an impromptu snatch of my piece, and it took me a while to realise what it was. In my defence, I have never heard it performed, but it sounded like they were having fun learning it. I hope so.

I also sketched out some ideas for a new piece, a competition entry further down the year. Once my two current commissions are out of the way there is nothing yet on the table, even though there are big possibilities ahead, so I am going to take the opportunity to write something big, learn some moves, and keep the brain ticking over. I am also travelling today with the new text for the Exeter piece, scaring those near to me while I mutter to myself in broken (Old) English, sounding like an extra from The Hobbit. I am still enthralled by the beauty of the language, the sheer musicality of it, and I feel that the music is just waiting inside me to be transferred onto paper.

I’ll also be taking the opportunity to do further work on the string piece. All three movements of this are at the stage where only relatively small amounts of material need to be added to bring them up to the needed length, and then it will be a case of orchestration and detail work. Despite the pressures of this week, I still intend to head home with both of these pieces near finished. As they need to be done by the end of August I shall still be substantially ahead of schedule.

Tomorrow is Monday, half way through my trip, meaning that every step taken thereafter is a step nearer to home. Once back in the UK there are a few commitments to honour, a concert here, a weekend’s playing there, and then it will be time for my annual leave, when I shall hide myself away with a pile of manuscript, board games and my other half. In many ways, this is the storm before the calm, just like the weather yesterday.

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