A good few days since my last post, with some downtime amidst all the bursts of business and busyness. The highlight thus far was undoubtedly Sunday’s premiere of the Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis on Eb, at a really joyful service in Hampstead. It was wonderful to see so many friends there as well, supporting not only the couple celebrating a significant anniversary but also, dare I say it, there to hear the music. The reception for the piece was overwhelmingly positive, and we even managed to get the bell ringers involved, which had been my intention from the start, and rarely, I must say, have I known performers to be so enthused about being part of a performance. The peal overlapped with the Gloria of the Magnificat, and had been kept a secret from most, so it was a surprise to nearly everybody in the church when the organ stopped and the ringing of the bells was heard. Even the singers were taken by surprise. My impression was that the Nunc Dimittis went down particularly well, and I am (at least for now) very pleased with is as a movement, thinking that it worked better in the flesh than it did in my head, not always the case, I must admit.
Monday afternoon, in the middle of a ridiculously busy day, was the first orchestral rehearsal for Wednesday’s Parliament Choir concert at Cadogan Hall and, therefore, the first run with the players of the Te Deum Laudamus. A couple of moments needed rebalancing, but there was nothing seriously amiss, and my orchestration of Wesley’s Thou Wilt Keep Him In Perfect Peace was also sounding good, lovely russet tones from the horns and low clarinets in an attempt to bring some definition to what can be rather thick organ writing. At tonight’s choir rehearsal the Te Deum was also sounding good, so I am hopeful for two really decent premieres in the space of four days, a rare treat. My goodness, though – Herbert Howells’s orchestration is something spectacular, the detail in the scoring of Behold, O God Our Defender simply breathtaking in its beauty and intensity. People like me, from the composers’ county (according to Howells), know of the brilliance of his technique but, well, sometimes even that brilliance needs to be recalibrated in the presence of new information. So much to learn from it, too.
There has also been confirmation that Sweet Was The Song will be appearing at various carol services this year, and Parliament Choir will be presenting my arrangements of We Three Kings and The Angel Gabriel (written for them) along with a new Westminster Wassail, which sounds suspiciously like an arrangement of the Gloucestershire Wassail…
On the other side of the musical fence I spent almost all of Saturday in the depths of a rehearsal studio with the chaps from JEBO as we hammered through some material with a new singer. We sound pretty good, and whatever magic might have been there in the past has clearly not deserted us entirely, so we are as resolute as slacker fortysomethings can be about being more resolute next year. There is even the interesting possibility of something quite different for album number three, but we shall see where the currents take us.
Enough for now. Sunday was long, the evening late, and today has been the same, for emails, if not done promptly, have a habit of stacking up when you are looking the other way, and they all take time. The immediate focus is Wednesday, and then carol season is upon us with almost indecent haste (the Christmas carollercoaster, as a singer called it yesterday), but, as always, I am going to remember to breathe a little in the midst of it all