Last week I was in a rehearsal of the Reproaches by John Sanders.  Regular readers of this blog will know that John was the Organist at Gloucester Cathedral when I was a chorister there, and he gave the first public performance of my music, on Easter Day 1983.

The Reproaches are unaccompanied, so I was fortunate enough to be able to listen and waft away in that sound, pungent of harmony and expressive of line.  Because Good Friday, when the piece is usually performed, tends not to involve organists, it was the first time I have heard the piece for many years.

I found myself back at Gloucester all those years ago, picturing John and his piano, and thinking about that lovely photo of him composing, glass of red at his side, but also I thought of that wonderful Cathedral and the composers who have been associated with it – Howells, Gurney, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Wesley (father and son) and so on.

There is something very special about the choir at Gloucester.  Beyond the organ screen the stalls are very close together, almost intimate, retaining that character of the monastery that survived Henry VIII’s dissolution (unlike Merton Abbey, near where I used to live, now the site of M&S).

I last saw John in the year he died (2003?  Really that long?) and we had a lovely chat during which I was able to tell him how much his guidance and tuition had meant to me.  He was in good humour, as he had been when he once bumped into me and a friend in Gloucester and remarked “Ah, the long hair brigade!”

Last week, after running through the piece, the Director of Music turned to me and said “Nostalgic?” (yes, and how!) and I was ripped back to the present, but what a delightful bit of reverie it had been.

John Sanders

Manuscript?  Check.  Pencil?  Check.  Red wine?  Check.  John composing.

 

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