It is one thing to take a decision but quite another to live with the consequences of what you have chosen to do, but my grandmother, feisty, fiery and forceful, always told me that if you can work out the very worst that can happen and live with it, then should make your move with confidence. I have followed this sage advice through my life, most notably when, half my life ago, I left all of my easy and well paid jobs in Cheltenham in the space of a fortnight and moved to London with nothing, but also at other key points as well.
Today is another of those rare key points that occur possibly once in a decade, but this is slightly more than that, maybe a four times a century thing, a leap into the professional void whose end I genuinely cannot see. Are my aims and ambitions for the next months wildly out of kilter with the obvious reality of the thing? Will I have to traipse back with my tail between my legs and knuckle down to something I had not previously considered? Worst of all, what if I am simply not good enough to carry out my exotic plans, am deluding myself in thinking that I have talent and drive in sufficient amounts to do what I want to do?
Well, there is one way and one way only to find out, and I have often thought that sometimes you just need to fling yourself into the air without a safety net and trust that something – drive, ambition, whatever – will catch you. As part of that general flinging I said a temporary goodbye to the Parliament Choir last night, an arrivederci rather than addio, at the end of their Christmas concert which featured my arrangement of We Three Kings as well as the first performance of The Oxen.
This latter was particularly finely performed and very well received, and I heard the audience begin to react just slightly before the last chord had faded away, although I must say that the piece’s chances of success were immeasurably enhanced by Baroness McIntosh’s wonderful introduction and reading of the Hardy poem. I shall miss Parly Choir very much indeed over my time away, for their support, trust and unfailing desire to get stuck in to whatever I might happen to produce has been – yes, this is the right word – inspirational. Even so, as I drove home late last night through the fog it was as if a dam had burst in my mind, and I woke up this morning with all sorts of musical fragments and ideas running through my head, a good start.
I listen to much modern music, like to know who is up to what, and I have a list of composers I admire very much indeed, also another little list of those for whom I have less time, so the listening at either end of that scale can be intimidating or infuriating, but I still feel that I should be out there more, and that is at least partially what the next few months are about. People sometimes tell me that I have a style, even though I have very little idea what it might be other than the result of the decisions that I take, different from those that other composers would make in the same situation. Frankly, I sometimes think that my music is just a little earthbound and could do with a dab more imagination, although I then hear something like the middle section of The Oxen and think that’s not too bad. I just need to keep on keeping on.