It has taken a while to get a few things back on track, but this past week has seen me return to a few long-standing projects. I have done a couple of good sessions on the new orchestral work, managing to put behind me some of the (many) doubts which were the focus of last week’s post, deciding instead to forge ahead, make my own decisions and see what comes out at the other end. Why I still have to remind myself that the bulk of work on a new piece is unpromising and disheartening I do not know, but there must be a moral in there about composers striving against the odds and always chasing some distant positive. Maybe Beethoven was an optimist after all, who knew?

I also went back to the symphony, having been ever so slightly defeated at the end of last year by all the quavers in the last movement that need to be orchestrated. I still think that it is a good piece, though, even if it is now running massively behind schedule, so the latest deadline is April (maybe), which will mark three years since the first sketches, which were, by definition, sketchy. It would seem like an appropriate time to wrap up the project, print out a couple of scores to proof, and then maybe send them out to likely suspects.

RetroChic also emerged from their hibernation last week, rehearsing with our stand-in bassist for the next gig, and getting ready to get funky and groovy and other outdated terms from the 70s this coming weekend. I have always viewed this side of my music making as important, taking the attitude that everything one does in any field goes to inform everything else, but last week was probably the first time that I triggered the compositional juices by imagining a certain violin passage as a prog rock keyboard solo. Possibly best not to go down that avenue too many times, I think.

Professionally it has also been a really interesting start to the year. Close friends will know that I went for an interview at a rather large organisation a couple of months ago, and pulled out of the process when I realised that it was not right for me, even though I felt that the interview itself went very well. I concluded that what I really needed was a tidier addition to my portfolio rather than a fundamental change, and, as chance would have it, one of those opportunities fell into my emails, and I am delighted to report that I am currently working as the Music Director of the Occam Singers. I worked with the Occams for many years as their Assistant MD before moving to Somerset, and stepped down at that point as the role was rather light compared with the miles that would now separate us, but David, their MD since the inception of the choir forty years ago, retired from the post last summer, since when it has been vacant. I am really delighted to be back working with this choir on a much more regular basis than before, and it has also been wonderful to catch up with so many friends from the group who I have not seen since I retreated to the wilds of the west.

With the Occam Singers alongside my newly expanded role at Parliament Choir, my return to Christ Church last year as Head Of Music, and my occasional appearance at Mary Abbots I feel that my professional life is rather tidily organised at the moment, offering me musical fulfilment in a variety of settings and with a variety of approaches, while also allowing me the time to get writing. Maybe, after the pandemic years, this was the thing that I was hoping to achieve after my sabbatical, a balance of fine music-making with great people and quiet away from it all with manuscript, board games and my mathematically improbable better halves at home.

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