We began the last week with the first rehearsal of This Light Of Reason on Monday evening. This was more of in-at-the-deep-end sight singing than anything else, due to time pressures, but the Parly Choir were happy to get their feet wet. I do not think that the piece is as immediate as either Tu Es Petrus or The Human Seasons, but I think that it will come into focus and has already begun to do so after another session earlier this week.
Running more or less in tandem with that I managed to complete the arrangement of the piece for the first performance in December (string quintet, trumpet and piano) and the version for unison voices, and I have added the latter to the download page on this site. On Thursday I was in the middle of a bike ride (don’t worry, it’s a stationary bike with my laptop poised on the handlebars) when my mobile rang and it turned out to be a chap from Classic FM asking about the piece. Off went the score to him and off, shortly after, the press release to accompany it, my first. In a week in which Jo has been very much in the news it has been fitting and in some ways a refuge just to listen to the music in my head, and especially the message in Donne’s inspired (always) prose.
The piece now has five confirmed performances this year, which is more than we dared hope for when the commissioner and I first discussed the work, and there are more in the pipeline into next year. It helps that the text is suitable not just for Advent and Christmas, but also for other occasions, and that the message is strong enough to transcend temporal considerations. Again, it is Donne’s prose that really weaves the magic.
On Tuesday I tripped along to the art gallery at 180, The Strand, to see the multimedia exhibition there, along with my students from Central Saint Martins, a lovely group. Apart from the occasional trip to Hauser & Wirth in Bruton (with the obligatory stop at the Godminster shop on the way back) my time spent in art galleries is limited, not through design but mainly because my time in London is so full of work and appointments, but I had a very enjoyable time, despite the cold in the building. One of the most eerie exhibits was the ghostly reconstruction of Maria Callas at the end of a derelict corridor. Drawn in by the voice, so immediately recognisable, you are led to a pretty run down area of the building, wires hanging down from the ceiling, bits of plasterboard here and there, and suddenly the apparition can be seen in the distance. It all felt quite unnerving, like going into the long forgotten wing of some country house and finding the family ghost in there. All very memorable, and there was other good stuff too – I enjoyed my time there very much indeed.
On Saturday I was with the Anton Bruckner Choir, accompanying a rehearsal for a performance at Smith Square this week. We were rehearsing Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Mozart’s Mass In C minor, both staggering pieces, the former a dazzling statement of intent by a twenty one year old, even if he does not quite yet understand that voices are not the same as string instruments, the latter a tour de force by a composer forcing himself to put out the veru best of himself. It is the kind of music that is depressing to listen to if you are a composer, along the lines of pretty much anything by Bach, but we try our best.
As we head into the Advent and Christmas season, don’t forget to click on the Performances tab at the top of the page, and I will try to keep it up to date with notified appearances of my music.