We began work on my latest carol with the Parliament Choir yesterday evening, a setting of an old English text Gabriel, That Angel Bright, and it already sounds as if the choir understands what is going on, although they are by now very well versed in my style of writing, such as it is, and I have a good knowledge of what they can do and also what they might enjoy. The only significant error in the piece is that, in my excitement at getting it finished, I put entirely the wrong title on the score, was even singing it in my head with the incorrect words. Still, no harm done.
Although there were some sketches for the piece from a couple of weeks ago, the bulk of the work on the carol was done in two and a half hours on Sunday afternoon as a deadline suddenly appeared. Having envisaged maybe a little tinkering with notes here and there, I suddenly had to produce a complete piece in a short space of time, along with various other things that needed to get done.
Thankfully, I have tucked enough experience away to know that I think I am capable of rising to a challenge such as this, and there are certain twists and tricks that a composer can use to get out of a corner, what I refer to a the compositional toolbox. Thus it was that by five o’clock the piece was on its way to various people, incorrect title and all.
One day, perhaps even as early as next year, I really am going to carve out time to sit down and do some proper composition in proper chunks, turn out some proper music. It seems absurd that I should need a deadline to prove to myself that actually I do not have writer’s block, rather that I need a good hard kick up the backside.
It also felt good to have the complete piece done, dusted and of a decent standard, reminded me of the joy that composition can give me on a good day. Elgar famously said that being a composer was “damned hard work, my boy”, and I am inclined to agree, but the good times are definitely worth it, especially when a choir takes to a piece on its first run through.