So, farewell to the Bach Mass in b after almost two years of work. It was initially planned to be a much shorter journey from first rehearsal to concert, but we all know what happened to get in the way, and at least if you are going to be stuck with a single piece for over a year then the Bach is a great choice. We had a full house, some stunning playing from Southbank Sinfonia Baroque, and the Parliament Choir with our guests from St. Albans were on great form. I have lost count of the number of times that people have mentioned how inspiring a work it is, and I wholeheartedly agree, an astonishing fusion of bravura technical writing and profoud emotional expression. I am sorry to leave it behind.
After the concert I had one of those journeys home that only London can offer. I waited for twelve minutes for a tube train – not so unusual so far – which then waited in the station for ten minutes before it was announced that the line had been suspended, so everybody got off. As I walked along the platform they announced that the suspension had been suspended, or something similar, so back on we got. The line cleared and, apart from a change in destination, the rest of the journey passed without drama, although it had taken more than half an hour to leave St. James’s Park in the first place and, as a consequence, it was around two in the morning when I finally got back to Somerset.
The following day was spent tidying up some administrative odds and ends, as well as looking forward to Advent and Christmas concerts and repertoire. In the course of my various drives up and down the A303 I also had a significant breakthrough regarding the new cantata, which suddenly brought the shape of the whole thing into focus. I did a few sessions of work on it during the week, and was pleased to see that it was in a better state than I had remembered, which was encouraging. The thing about Bach is that he is simultaneously the inspiration above all inspirations and the reminder that you will never, ever be good enough as a composer. Strange.
Over the weekend I played for a wedding in North Cadbury (in a very cold church) and then was at the organ stool in London (in very warm churches), but I seem to have been unaffected by the extremes in temperature. The wedding provided a musical contact who might well ask me to do some more work in the future, which would be a very fine thing indeed, and it was good to find some familiar faces in the choir as well and to feel the sense of a world getting back to normal.
The new week is still suffused with the warm afterglow of the Bach, however, and it will take a long, long time for the experience to fade. I played some of the very small chorale preludes yesterday and they served as a reminder that, even on the most intimate of scales, Bach’s attention to the tiniest details never wavers, and that is one of many lessons that he still teaches composers.