I had a wonderful time in London yesterday, up for the performance of Sweet Was The Song by the London Oratory School Girls’ Choir, directed by Clare Dawson. This is a piece existing in several versions, and I think that this is the first time I have heard it performed in the upper voices arrangement. It was like seeing an old friend anew, and intriguing it was indeed to discover in the heat of the performance which lines it was I had chosen to highlight.
However, there was another carol in yesterday’s service which was so finely attuned to the needs of the service and the possibilities of the building that it became, without any doubt, the focal point of the discussion afterwards. Sad though it may be to have to admit that my own effort trailed in a distant second, that disappointment is entirely dissipated by the pleasure I have in supporting my colleague David Terry, whose Coventry Carol was devastatingly beautiful. In baseball terms, it hit the ball straight out of the park.
David is a composer whose work I am very, very happy to support. We are, I believe, closely attuned in ideas and ideals, and I believe that he has the potential to be a real contemporary star and that, more importantly, his music has the potential to endure. The Parliament Choir has performed his beautiful arrangement of Entre Le Boeuf for the past three years, and Classic FM will broadcast it on Christmas Day, rightly so, but his setting of the Coventry Carol goes at least one step further. The triple layers of the sound moving around the church, the subtle hooks to pull the verses back into the refrain, the densely layered but still strongly differentiated textures in the verses – all of these facets, and many more, ensured an unforgettable experience.
In my mind this is, beyond any doubt, a piece that deserves to be recorded and performed, the only obstacle being the forces required. My immediate thought was that it should be pitched to the finest choirs in the land, and forcefully, too. Hopefully somebody somewhere will take this on board and give the piece a go. It certainly would not sound out of place at something like the King’s College Nine Lessons and Carols, and I would be very happy to hear it there in 2015.