I wrote last month of the predicament of a long-standing friend, apparently nearing their last hours and that friend’s time ran out yesterday morning. This has been coming for over a year, but one keeps on hoping that somehow things will not run to their end as, inevitably, they always do.
I met Giles in 1995 – he gave me some of my very first work in London, commissioned at least two pieces from me, including that massive Spem In Alium, a forty-part motet written before writing forty-part motets became fashionable shortly after he had mentioned it to another composer. Did I mention that it was for forty countertenors?
Looking at my catalogue I see that Spem was written in 1997. That means that Giles had commissioned me when I had only a little of quality to show for my writing, and I was working full time in one of those record shops in Notting Hill, and if that goes a small way towards illustrating the calibre of the man, the depth and intensity of his quiet support and loyalty, then so be it.
In the years between then and now Giles moved away from London and then back, happily for those many of us who had missed him, but vanished suddenly from the scene early last year. At a performance in December Giles reappeared, physically changed after his ordeal, but mentally – thankfully – the same. I had spent many months steeling myself for bad news about him, so to see him suddenly there was one of the most powerful emotional experiences I have ever had.
We spent some minutes chatting that evening – I was part of a long queue of people – and he was open and calm, planning to fight whatever ill was to come. When he pulled out of another concert earlier this year I knew that the situation must have worsened, and so it proved.
Giles was a kind, loyal, generous and refined man, a gentleman in all things, and I doubt very much that he would have wanted people to make a fuss or ever – heavens! – write a blog about their feelings for him. I remember with great happiness singing alongside him as well as many off-duty delights, and it may well have been Giles who introduced me to Gordon’s Wine Bar, a place that always leaves me poorer financially but so much richer emotionally.
I stopped off on my way back from the RetroChic rehearsal to buy a bottle of Barolo in his memory last night, sitting up and reminiscing. Thankfully there is enough left in the bottle today for more memories tonight when the work is done. He will be profoundly missed and fondly remembered.