I have mentioned it many times before, but these are really tricky times for musicians. I have had a couple of opportunities to ply my trade this year and am doing what I can online, but there have still been many, many cancellations, and it is exceptionally difficult to make any plans for the future.

These uncertainties are affecting other professions as well, of course, but this is where my personal experience lies, and I am most aware of the impact that the pandemic and the lockdowns have had upon my own diary – the cancelled performances, concerts, premières, rehearsals, festivals…the list goes on. There are couple of dates in the diary for next year, but so much depends on what happens between now and then.

It is important to cling to the positives, though, to light a candle against the darkness, so I spent yesterday morning playing the optimist and sketching some ideas for the Parliament Choir Christmas carol concert, in the assumption that it will happen. It may not take place, but now is a time for embracing the positives, so I went doodling with pencil and paper and then transferred ideas to the screen.

I have a couple of ideas about how this piece might work to include all singers who would like to perform, distancing or not, but I want to keep them close to my chest at the moment, not least because I am still at a very early stage of trying to tie all the different strands together. I have no doubt that the more work I do on this piece the clearer the process will become.

If nothing else, it was refreshing to be able to sit down and do a morning’s work on something entirely new, interrupted only by the daily scammer (“John” about the loft insulation this time), rather than to be gazing at the sketches of the symphony and asking myself Where next? It was also good to have just a little taste of what compositional normality was like before this wave of weirdness washed across everything, memories of which now always take me by surprise.