Days like yesterday do not come around often, but when they do they are worth grasping with every fibre of one’s being. I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it, wallowing in marvellous performances by superb musicians in breathtaking venues, sharing the experience with colleagues and friends, staying up late in the bar afterwards celebrating the day.
It seems unfair to talk about me when so much yesterday was done by so many other people, but I should mention that I had no fewer than three pieces performed, including the premiere of Prelude, Fugue & Epilogue, written as a birthday present for my great colleague Simon Over, and an unofficial run of one of my other pieces as well.
It is terribly difficult to choose a highlight, but, yet again Simon was involved, with the string players of Southbank Sinfonia. The intermittent rain in the evening forced us out of the cloister and into the church, something I had been hoping would not happen, but – selfishly, I must admit – it turned out to be the right thing for against the pull of silence.
Even before it had started there was an atmosphere of expectation, the maestro holding the audience until it fell quiet after a rustle here, a mobile phone there, and then the cellos emerged from the depths. The second movement, especially, felt more secure than first time around, as one might expect, the energy within controlled and bursting out at certain times, but it was the third movement, again, which made the deepest impact. As at the premiere at St. John’s earlier this month, the final chord hung there quietly in the air and faded to nothing, and then a yawning, chasmic (is that a word? It should be!) silence crept in. It was held, held, held until I, and probably many others, thought it might go on all night. Then, almost as a relief, the applause started.
Listening to one’s own pieces in live performance is always a tough experience, one feels somehow stripped bare and entirely vulnerable, and when I came out from my hiding place to thank Simon and the orchestra I had to be reminded to take my bow. I might have looked a little awkward, but I was in a bit of a daze.
Since then many, many kind comments have been made, and, even as I write this in my hotel, I have been approached twice by people to comment about the piece. I even received two enquiries yesterday about further commissions and dropped a large hint about another half-finished work which could well be completed if nudged in the right direction.
By the end of the night, sharing some celebratory red with friends, I felt as though I had been through a wind tunnel, slightly buffeted by the whole experience. I have just been approached by two more people wanting to talk about pull of silence, so I might well keep that dazed quality through today, although I am sure that some might think that my default setting.
Today we have two more concerts, an O’Neill free day after the performances yesterday, and then, tomorrow, home.