After a relaxing patch it is coming up to a busy time of year for musicians. Friday, for example, encompassed playing and directing at a funeral, meeting a bride and her mother to discuss wedding music, running through a couple of arias with a soprano, an hour of organ practice, a little bit of writing, an hour of singing teaching, taking an evening rehearsal, and then a drive back home, avoiding the closures on the A303, finishing off with a cup of ginger tea and some emails before bed.
So I head into one of the busiest weeks of the year, including two concerts with Trinity Laban Chamber Choir and the annual St. John Passion at Mary Abbots. I worked at Trinity for many a year and, in general, I am averse to the whole going back thing. School, college, workplaces, all have done absolutely fine without me over the years, and it is really only the Old Chorister bash at Gloucester to which I return, and only occasionally at that. Trinity, of course, is purring along in my absence, but many memories of those days came back as I rehearsed in the Stuart Room. Some who are still there are slightly older and greyer, but those who did not look straight through me as if I were some kind of ghost (to be fair, they were hardly expecting to see me) appeared interested in what I was doing and, again, as I described what my life is these days I managed to remind myself once more that things are good.
My listening choice for this week has been the music of Max Reger, who wrote an enormous quantity of music for his forty three years, much of it very dense and (from personal experience) very difficult to play indeed. He stands in the line of Brahms and his great hero Bach, his music essentially abstract and of great contrapuntal complexity. Dotted in there are some really wonderful and sensual things, though, and the orchestral song An die Hoffnung has really struck me, especially as, in places, it sounds so much like Strauss’s transcendent Vier letzte Lieder, and yet was written several decades before. In many ways I can understand why Reger’s music is seldom found on the concert stage, for it demands to be listened to rather than heard and, even then, can be forbidding in its density, but the calmer, more meditative side is really quite beautiful.
On Wednesday evening I hotdesked, Somerset style, as the image below shows, my local landlord luring me to the pub with the offer of the pictured 2010 Rioja at house wine prices. “What would Beethoven have done?” I asked myself as I pretty much ran to The Dusthole, thereby minimising the distance between myself and the Rioja and answering the question at the same time. Strangely it was a very productive evening, gentle bits of composition and writing (for I am scribbling some articles now as well) done to the background of a table of French tourists, here for the rugby and staying the B & B right next to us, a couple from Yorkshire, and a gent from Kent (sounds like the start of a limerick, I know) who stayed on late to share a glass and a chat about the life artistic. I could get very used to this indeed.
Last Thursday was also the first anniversary of the death of my friend and colleague Nick Gale. I have written and deleted several posts on the subject over the past few months, and in the end I simply raised a glass of red to him, allowed myself a moment (really just that) of sadness, and then wallowed in all the happy memories which, after all, is how I am sure he would want to be remembered.