Tonight we have a choir committee meeting to put the finishing touches to the forthcoming season and confirm general details. We will also be trying to work out where we go on tour next year. This year's trip to Strasbourg was such a success that we have engendered high expectations of next year.
Wednesday, 31 August 2005
Tuesday, 30 August 2005
The Festival has a unique atmosphere partly because of this round of services. But also because the Festival format allows the performance of music which is more elaborate than would be possible every day. The choir members are drawn from Cathedral and College choirs and attain a very high standard, considering that they have not sung together before. Entry to all the services is free, you just contribute to the collection. You have to arrive an hour early if you want to get a decent seat; which means that the service is preceded by your eaves dropping on whichever choir is rehearsing in the church at that time.
Thursday Evening’s sequence was memorable for the performance, by the consort, of Tippett’s Negro Spirituals from A Child of Our Time; the soprano soloist gave a lovely performance despite being heavily pregnant. As a concert piece I find the spirituals very moving, but they are rendered even more so when performed in context. The evening started with a stunning motet, Verbum caro factum est by John Sheppard.
Friday morning’s service was choral matins: the consort sang the 3 canticles from Byrd’s Great Service. It was wonderful to hear these substantial settings in context of a service, but they are very long and this is only possible in such a festival setting. The choir of men and boys contributed Elgar’s lovely The Spirit of the Lord from The Apostles.
The Friday evening service was Solemn Eucharist with the setting being Josef Rheinberger’s Mass in E Flat for unaccompanied double choir. This was quite a find and given Rheinberger’s dates (1839 – 1901), was full blooded Romantic music. I am not sure it was quite suitable for a choir of men and boys, but they gave it a brave shot and I was pleased to have heard it.
Saturday morning’s service was another Solemn Eucharist, the setting this time being Palestrina’s Missa Brevis sung by the consort. This is a mass that we sing at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Cadogan Street, Chelsea and it was lovely to hear it sung so beautifully here.
Saturday evening was another Sequence; but this was a very special service. This week is the 50th Festival (the first took place in 1956) so the congregation contained a great many ex-members - the Festival Companion listed all of the participants over the years and a great many well known names seem to have performed there either as children or young adults. Both the men and boys and the consort joined together to perform Bach’s Jesu, mein Freude and the consort were joined by ex-members for a truly memorable performance of Tallis’s Spem in Alium, sung 1 voice to a part with the choirs distributed round the church in a circle, Jeremy Summerly directing from the middle of the nave. The opening alto solo was taken by Robin Blaze and the choir included Andrew Carwood, Robert Quinney and Julian Thomas (the present festival director). We were sitting quite close to choirs 5 and 6 (situated in front of the West Door), but the result was still stunning as the sound approached and receded. After that, we needed the quietness of Compline to calm down.
Finally, Sunday morning’s Solemn Eucharist was the last service of the Festival. Mozart’s Spaur Messe received a lively performance from the choir of men and boys, the consort sang two Russian Orthodox pieces (by Nikolai Kedrov the Elder and by Tchaikovsky). Finally, all choirs gathered together to sing Robert Parsons’s Ave Maria
So now life returns to normal and all we can do is wait for next year’s Festival.
Tuesday, 23 August 2005
For the concert GCDYO had brought back many of his ex-pupils. Jonty Harrison had written a piece for a ridiculous number of horns, 4 horn players played the Schumman Konzertstuck for 4 horns and Orchestra and Arthur himself had produced a lovely piece called Moments with Weber for a rather large no. of horns and orchestra. A magical evening.
We were listening using Broadband rather then the Radio. Radio 3 reception here in Brixton is pretty poor so its a joy to be able to get a good signal view my trusty PC. Though it is rather un-nerving that the Internet programme is not quite in synch. with the radio, so you can't have both on at the same time in different parts of the house.
Tonight we'll not be listening to the radio we'll be there for Julius Caesar, our first prom. of the season.
Friday, 19 August 2005
Which reminds me again, of the programme notes in this year's Grange Park Opera programme book. In an article about Donizetti, the writer asserted that Donizetti's Grandfather had been a Scotsman called Izett who had taken an Italian wife and Italianised his name. Is this true, it sounds so far fetched. I must pop to the library and see if they have a Donizetti biography!
Wednesday, 17 August 2005
I am also becoming horribly aware that I have been rather inconsistent in my English version, lurching between modern-ish English and King James-esque. In one of the Palm Sunday pieces, I have just noticed that I use Blessed is he that cometh, but stick to you, rather than thou. I can see that much tidying up will be required.
I've taken a quick look at my Liber (which I brought home from Church after the Tridentine Mass on Saturday) and once through Holy Week, I will have a substantial part of Volume 2 done. The problem is that Tempus Paschale goes on rather a long time afterwards. I can see me missing my Autumn deadline for the completion of this Volume of Tempus per Annum. Ho-hum.
Its a disc for those who want explore beyond the Sonatas and is illuminated by Schnabels intention to treat all the music with great seriousness, even the smaller pieces.
Tuesday, 16 August 2005
Mind you, we have just submitted an Arts Council Grant Application for one of the concerts we're planning next year, so fingers crossed on that one.
Sunday, 14 August 2005
Unfortunately we'll miss the Festival itself. We're on holiday the week of the Festival (25th to 30th August) and will be at the Eddington Festival of Music and Liturgy, which takes place in the lovely 13th Century Priory Church at Eddington in Wiltshire. More on this festival anon.
Friday, 12 August 2005
The major difference between this older form and the modern mass is that the older form is more elaborate and the priest is by and large inaudible, standing with his back to the congregation. The result is that more emphasis is placed on the choir and we usually have a substantial amount of plainchant to sing in addition to the mass setting. This year, I think we are doing Palestrina's Aeterna Christi Munera mass, a regular in our repertoire but one of my favourites. I think it was the first Palestrina mass that I ever sang at St. Mary's, and probably my first Palestrina mass ever.
Thursday, 11 August 2005
Sunday morning we were singing at the Cathedral, at the 11.00am mass. There was a mass at 9.30am, a rather elaborate one with much incense and music sung by the Cathedral's Schola Gregoriana. Whilst this mass was going on, we rehearsed in a side chapel with rather variable results; frequently it was difficult for us due to the noise of the Grande Orgue and, according to friends in the congregation, at quiet moments in the service the congregation could hear us. Not an ideal situation.
There was confusion also about what we were to sing at the service. This was all resolved, with us singing a Gradual (Bruckner's Os Justi), a communion motet (Byrd's Ego sum panis vivus) and the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus/Benedictus and Agnus Dei of the Mass (Harant's Missa super Mater Dolorosi, quite substantial programme. Unfortunatly, due to time constraints we had to drop my motet, which was a shame.
We sang from the choir stall in the 19th century Chancel, raised high above the nave over the crypt. We had a good view of the altar (luckily) but not much of a view of the congregation, who in their turn could not see us very well. The service unfolded without mishap and we sang rather well. Though opinions from our friends in the congregation were varied as different people had differing attitudes to the sound quality in the nave; the choir were amplified and so the congregation heard a mixture of amplified sound and the natural sound of the choir - very odd.
Afterwards everyone went sightseeing and relaxing. We drove out to the European Parliament buildings. Finally on Sunday evening we had a group meal at the restaurant L'Alsace a Table.
Monday was a long day for us, a drive back all the way from Strasbourg to London. All we have to do now is plan next year's trip.
Wednesday, 10 August 2005
Tuesday, 9 August 2005
Being as the trip to Strasbourg was a choral trip (with my regular choir, London Concord Singers), there was much eating and drinking involved. We spent Friday evening in conviviality with the rest of the choir, sitting by the river under a huge tree, drinking local wine.
Saturday was spent exploring Strasbourg, I’d been before so we did things like visiting the flea market (none of the fleas appealed) and looking at the astrological clock.
Rehearsal was at 6pm, but seemed to clash with a rehearsal for a Christening (I didn’t know you had to rehearse christenings, we didn’t do so in my day). Still, St. Thomas’s Church (Protestant) is a lovely space and the resonant acoustic was very generous. Though slightly smaller than the group who gave the programme at our London concert, we managed a fine account of the programme (Harant, Rihards Dubra, Saint-Saens, Schicht, Vagn Holmboe, Kodaly, Gorecki, Bruckner, Marenzio). The church was full (we handed out over 150 programmes) and the audience very appreciative, particularly of the French pieces. Needless to say we all ended up sitting under a tree (a different one to Friday), by the river drinking local wine and eating croque monsieur.
Thursday, 4 August 2005
Tuesday, 2 August 2005
Monday, 1 August 2005
We caught up on a couple of BBC Proms on the BBC 3 television channel. We can't get it at home, but my Dad has a Freeview box. I enjoy watching the odd concert, but am I the only person for whom the TV presentation does little to enhance the aural experience. I can manage to live with the odd bit of hyperactive camera-work, but I found the spoken contributions and instant reviews of what we'd just heard profoundly annoying. And I certainly don't want to hear interval interviews with the performers hot (and sweaty) from their triumph. Or is this just me being an old grouch.