Anil Umer, Archers, Cadogan Hall, Cello Concerto, Composer of the Week, Elgar, Exeter College Oxford, Flyht, George de Voil, Locatelli, Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir, Messiah, Parliament Choir, Parry, Requiem, St John's Smith Square, Stanford, The Creation, Verdi
It has been one of those busy weeks, the focal point of various efforts since the start of the year. The Malcolm Sargent Festival Choir performed Messiah at St. John’s, Smith Square on Thursday, largely from memory, and the Parliament Choir’s performance of The Creation is reaching its final stages, the concert due on Wednesday evening at Cadogan Hall. In amongst all the rehearsals and performances were several other exciting goings on.
On Friday the choir of Exeter College, Oxford, directed by George de Voil, gave the first performance of Flyht to a capacity audience at the University Church, Oxford, and the good folk at EM Records put in a mammoth effort to ensure that the CD release of the piece, pitching it up against works by Parry and Stanford, was available that same evening. Their website has various sound files, including Flyht, and you can, of course, buy the CD if you feel that way. I spent a pleasant evening in Oxford, discussing the piece and my work with various people who had been hugely important in bringing the piece to life, including sponsor, lead contact and Old English expert. I hope that my gratitude was adequately expressed.
Towards the end of last week I found myself in a couple of meetings to discuss details of a significant piece. I have hinted at this before, but am still not in a position to confirm what it might be, even though matters seem to be coming to the point where everything is beginning to align. This project appears to be bringing more and more people within its gravitational pull and could prove to be very exciting indeed, and both organisations I spoke to last week appeared to be keen to get involved. In the rare moments of calm over the weekend I took the opportunity to jot down ideas into my manuscript work, panning for nuggets of something which could, eventually, become gold.
Somehow, in amongst this all, I also played for a service in Horsham, enduring a violin concerto by Locatelli on Radio 3 on the way down. I have to say that I will go to my grave happy if I never have to hear that noise again, for it sums up everything that is wrong with so many violin concerti. It would be unfair to single out concerti written for that instrument as being the only ones which put the emphasis on empty virtuosity at the expense of genuine musical expression, but the noise produced is manifestly less offensive when expressed by a flute, let’s say. Emerging bleary-eyed from my car, worrying that my hearing had been permanently damaged by the kind of music which might set off dogs and bats, I went to the service and played two movements of Verdi’s Requiem, balm for the soul.
Towards the end of my hellish journey later that day from Horsham to Oxford (M25, Friday afternoon) I was aghast to hear similar screechings from my radio, having switched over to avoid the omnipresent Archers, spreading over the airwaves like some kind of plague. Alas, I had caught the repeat of Composer Of The Week and the replay of that same concerto. Hearing it twice was twice too many, especially in a single day. As I sat in the University Church, post-Flyht, fortunate enough to be in the front row to listen to Elgar’s Cello Concerto given a truly magnificent rendition by the young and clearly very talented Anil Umer, I was gently and elegantly reminded of what a concerto should do. Apologies if you are a fan of Locatelli, but I’ll take Elgar any day of the week, and, yes, that includes his Violin Concerto.