I am just back to Hounslow after a hugely entertaining evening in the company of a gentleman who wears his power and position very lightly indeed, but who is wonderful, stimulating and very funny company. Prior to all that we spent the last Parliament Choir rehearsal before the summer working on the Te Deum Laudamus, sent off to the printers on Friday and good to go this evening.
There is something about this piece that I like, a sense possibly of stature, maybe to do with the lengthy text which means that the piece is going to be reasonably long, although, next to 1215, of course, it is a mere stripling. Even so, playing and listening to it I have found that it seems to hang together well, and that it is unified enough to project its idiom decently. What I did not expect, however, was that the whole-tone idiom would settle in so profoundly that the moments in standard harmony would prove the most difficult sections to get right. Odd how that happens.
Over the summer I’ll be recasting the piece for orchestral accompaniment, but even in its current organ version it might have a chance of entering the church repertoire. While writing it I had three other settings going around my mind – Vaughan Williams in G, and the two brilliant settings by Britten, in C and E. Tucked away also was Howells’s setting for St. Mary Redcliffe, which I have not listened to for some time, but I admire deeply. The difficulty was to aspire to the standard of those great works but also to write my own piece and I hope I have managed to do it.
The choir reacted well to it and, after all, the piece is for them and, at least until November, will be for them alone. It represents a step forward in the music I have written for them, and that is a reflection not of my writing, but of their ability. Now I know that I can push the boundaries, and for them to run the entire thing less than two hours from being given the copies for the first time is hugely impressive. Even tonight there was the occasional whisper of future life for this music.
It has been one of those days when many other things have happened as well, but, for now, the Te Deum is what matters. The latest piece has come to life and seems to be right for the choir, and that makes for a good day.