By any standards you would have to say that 2016 was a tumultuous year, and nobody, I think, would have been able to predict where we are now. But here we are and musically, at least, it has proved to be immensely satisfying. I have been less prolific than in previous years, but the performances of my works have been higher in profile, and I think that the standard of my writing is pretty good. Notre Dame, the Bundestag, Sansepolcro, the main London venues, various festivals and so on, it has all helped to get performances out there and get my name and my music more widespread.
Personally this has been a tough year. My life has continued along its tranquil path as much as possible, despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, and I continue to value my time in Somerset with family members and with friends and neighbours very highly indeed, remaining convinced that the most precious thing one can buy with the money one earns is the time to do the things one wants to do. It also helps that the work I do is pretty much exclusively with people I enjoy working with and being around, a very civilised bubble indeed of like minded people.
2016 was also the year in which my father died, of course. Let’s not sugar the pill – I knew that this was coming, and suspected strongly as we rolled into 2016 that the year would be his last. Still, it was a gradual decline and the shadow of his looming death hovered over the mid to late summer, and has been, I would say, the defining event of the year for me. Some bad things have come of it, including seeing some as they really are (and certainly not how they would wish to be perceived), but some good things as well, including a greater self-awareness and serenity, although both have been hard won and I suspect that the battle is not over yet. I treasure the time I spend in Somerset with my partner, mother and stepfather, but this has also been the year that I have reconnected with my brother after a long time, something that came about because of my father’s illness. We were very close as young children, and then grew apart through adolescence and into our careers and lives, and sometimes there have been bumps in the road, but the time we spent in France as my father died in the next room and our meetings since have felt very much like the rediscovery of something that felt lost but was in fact always there, only hidden below the surface. We discuss life, mortality and all the other grown up things, but we also play games together and enjoy our lives fully, and it is good to head into 2017 with those ties strengthened.
Musically I have no idea what 2017 will bring, but it would have to be going some to reach the giddy heights of 2016. Pleasantly it took only twelve hours before the sound of my music was heard in 2017, the quartet at St. Mary Abbots producing a really beautiful account of my A Sad Carol For These Distracted Tymes, which rather sobered up the Christmas festivities a little. I wrote the piece late in 2002, after we went into or invaded Iraq (depending on your point of view), the title echoing Tomkins’ Sad Pavan, written during the tumult of the Civil War. The Carol still seems relevant, though, and it clearly made enough of an impact for some people to stay behind and talk about it. The next confirmed performance is of This Light Of Reason on the evening of 4th February in Oxford – this tends to be a quiet time of year in any case for concerts, so getting a couple of performances this early in the year is heartening. As for the rest of the year, we shall see where it will lead, likewise with commissions – in the words of actors I am currently “between jobs”.
What I do know is that I will remain with pencil close to manuscript and keep refining my voice and my technique in the meantime, and maybe the curmudgeon in me will point out quietly that for all the Bowie and Prince and George Michael being played at the end of 2016, personally I could still have done with a bit more Boulez and Maxwell Davies, but I doubt that the London fireworks would have been quite as audience friendly…
As always, but particularly at this time of year, thank you for reading and following, and also for all your priceless support and encouragement. Avanti!