There is, I am told, an air of mystery around my recent posts, references to possible commissions here and news there.  That is true, I think, as it is unwise to go public on commissions too early, at least until the initial payment has been made, and also because some of the not unexpected news to which I referred last week has not been of the pleasant kind, and certainly not something I should be sharing in so public a medium as the internet.

So what can I say?  First things first, I do hope to be able to confirm one of the commissions within the next week or so, as I had a helpful discussion with the prospective commissioner last night, and we seem to be very much on the same page (or should that be sheet of manuscript paper?) as far as our thoughts for the piece are concerned.  Thus far all the important people whose opinions matter have been in favour of this idea, so I think we should be good to go in fairly short order, at least once I have emailed two more people today.

Commission number two, substantially bigger, is also substantially more complicated, part of the trickiness tied up with attempting to find somebody who might be willing to take on the completed work.  If this were not an issue then I think both the commissioner and I would be happy to start work straight away, but we are looking to nail down at least the probability of a performance in due course, lest the piece remain forever stuck on the page.

As for the not entirely unexpected news, let us just say that it is the kind of thing that puts one’s own life into focus, although I must admit that I am very happy with how things are at the moment.  While hotdesking in the pub the other night (where else?) I was approached by a running child who asked me what I would wish for if I were granted three wishes, and I was genuinely stumped.  House in the country?  Doing a job a love?  Time for the important things?  Tick, tick and tick.  Eventually I plumped for the facetious and said “well, to start off with I’d wish for more wishes”, and at least said child’s parents had a laugh, even if I think the child was unimpressed.

In the meantime I am continuing to work on a choral piece for a competition and also the new work for the Parliament Choir’s autumn concert, a setting of a sonnet by some chap called Shakespeare…and while we are talking about the greatest of art (Shakespeare, of course, not my new piece!), I cannot hold back from writing a little about the book that has me totally engrossed at the moment.  While not quite a voracious reader, although I certainly used to be, there is something resolutely defiant these days about reading a book on public transport while all around are plugged into phones and tablets.

The book I am reading is part historical drama, part art appreciation, but written in an engrossing and crystal clear style.  I caught a little on the radio while driving one home one evening, and was hooked from the word Velasquez and then reeled in by the mention of a lost portrait of Charles I made during the Spanish Match, a disastrous attempt by the then Prince of Wales to win the affections of the Infanta.  The English Civil War is one of my musical and historical obsessions, an obsession which actually led to my meeting with my partner, and, since encountering Velasquez’s Las Meninas, though sadly not in the flesh, I have become one of many – and certainly not the last – to be entranced by this enigmatic master’s work.  In fact, in a previous blog post I wrote It is one of those dangerous interests that might turn into an obsession if not nipped in the bud.  Oops.

Well, obsession here we come.  Laura Cumming’s The Vanishing Man: In Pursuit Of Velasquez is more than simply a discussion of the man himself, it is also a historical detective novel, an extraordinary vision of the daily life of the Spanish court, and a brilliant analysis of his style and technique.  I have found the first hundred pages or so utterly enthralling and – bizarrely for an art book – I cannot wait to find out how the story ends.  Best of all, there is that strange portrait, presumably of Charles I to be, staring lugubriously out of the canvas with his newly acquired Spanish beard.  We all know that his story ends outside Banqueting House a quarter of a century later, but, at that stage, all is possibility, and, underlying it all is the question that runs through the book – is it really him?  Now that’s an air of mystery.

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