Tuesday 31 January 2006

Strasbourg diary

We were in Strasbourg for the weekend, mainly so that we could go to see Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini performed by L'Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg's lovely 19th century opera house. A full review of the performance will appear in the next few days.

Strasbourg's opera house is a lovely little traditional 19th century one. The only drawback of the charming interior is the insufficiently raked stalls, so the view from your seat was a little variable.

It never fails to amaze me, when wandering around smaller French towns, that you so often come across branches of French Harmonia Mundi shops. They all stock a lovely mix of world music, jazz and classical music featuring the record labels own highly distinctive recordings. They provide a classical music browsing experience which has no parallels in England, where the record shop seems in terminal decline. How do they do it! We took advantage of an offer on their Musique d'Abord series and bought Charpentier's David and Jonathan in William Christie's recording (with Veronique Gens and Charles Daniel in the choir, Marc Minkowski playing bassoon, Christoph Rousset on harpsichord and Gerard Lesne a prime soloist).

We visited the lovely Palais de Rohan, opposite the Cathedral; this is a heartwarming success story as, despite many vicissitudes, the 18th century state appartments have much of their original decor and many of their original furnishing. In the annexe, nestling amongst the bewildering array of local ceramics, we were surprised to come across a portait of Silberman the organ builder. Quite why he was here, I do not know?

On leaving the Palace we were drawn across to the front of the Cathedral by the distant count of a haunting voice. This turned out to be a counter-tenor called Luc Arbogast, busking outside the cathedral, singing to his own lute accompaniment. In the cold, cold, cold weather his performance was to be applauded, especially with a voice as hauntingly meliflous as this. The songs seemed to be mid-way between folk and medieval troubadour songs; Arbogast's appearance reflected this with his tattoos, silver jewellery, striking shaved head. We bought one of his CD's but have not had a chance to listen to it yet, I'll report back.

Friday 27 January 2006

This month's Opera magazine seems to be the beefcake issue. Not only do we have a full page colour picture of a shirtless Simon Keenlyside in ENO's new Billy Budd, but there is also shirtless Nathan Gunn in Tobias Picker's disappointing (I gather) new opera for the Met, American Tradgedy.

Whilst on the subject of Billy Budd, it was interesting to read in Rodney Milnes's review that ENO trashed the previous production by Tim Albery because it was prohibitively expensive both to stage and to store.

Max Loppert's obituary/appreciation of the late Ronal Crichton made a rather interesting point about the craft of reviewing, "He (Crichton) had few equals in the difficult art of finding the just reviewer's approach toward that tricky area of worthwhile concert-hall or opera-house event located in the middle ground - neither 'disastrous' nor 'great'". Something that I've not got quite sussed in my own reviews, I suspect.

This month's issue is also a rather fun on to play spot the significant other in interviews, profiles and obituaries. The lack of a mention of a significant other being an indication that there isn't one, the person likes to keep their personal life private or the significant other is a person of the same sex; its always rather fun to try and read between the lines even if you are completely wrong!

I was shocked to learn that Elizabeth Harwood was only 52 when she died 15 years ago. She was such a figure of my student-hood and later that I had always assumed that she was far older.

Thursday 26 January 2006

Opera that speaks your language?

Norman Lebrecht's recent article in the London Evening Standard was ostensibly about the Mozart Centenary, but referred to Chandos's folorn Opera in English series. This seems a rather an unfair description of a rather interesting project.

Granted the casting and the conducting of the operas in the set have sometimes had a rather one size fits all sort of feeling. This is particularly true, I'm afraid, of David Parry's conducting. But Parry is not the only conductor to be involved, Sir Charles Mackerras has contributed world class versions of The Magic Flute, The Bartered Bride, Jenufa and Osud plus his older recordings of La Traviata and Julius Caesar. These last 2 are part of a rather neat aspect of this series; besides the current phase of recording, a number of older operas have been included. This means that not only do we have Mackerras's contribution, but such delights as Janet Baker's Charlotte in Werther and the Goodall Ring.

The opera in English series has another interesting aspect, the ability to hear performances by a wide range of contemporary Anglophone singers. Recent recordings include such delights as Andrew Shore's Dulcanamara and Don Pasquale. Without these recordings, this fine singer would be woefully under recorded. The same goes for many of the other fine singers such as Anne Howells, Dennis O'Neill, Yvonne Kenny, Diana Montague.... These latter 3 have contributed not only fine opera recordings but recitals as well. This is one of the delights of the series, the ability to hear these singers in a wide variety of roles.

I come from a generation where the talented singers who performed with ENO were woefully underused by the recording industry. This means that we have precious few complete recordings from people like Valerie Masterson, Pauline Tinsley, Josephine Barstow, Kenneth Collins, the list is endless. So even if individual recordings are less than ideal, it is wonderful to think that so many talented people are being involved in the series.

So variable yes, but never less than interesting and certainly not forlorn

Salomon Concert Press Release

The press release for the Salomon Concert at St. James's Church, Piccadilly, has been published. It is here.

Recent CD Review

My review of the Hogwood/Hadyn and Handel Society recordings of Handel's concerti grossi is here, on MusicWeb.

I enjoyed these performances immensely ... they provide a nice contrast
to my existing favourites. It is enterprising of Avie to rescue them from
Decca’s vaults. ...

Wednesday 25 January 2006

In Search of Mozart

I had not planned to watch or listen to any of the plethora of programmes which have been engendered by the Mozart Centenary. Mozart is a composer that I admire, but I love only a small handful of his works. Over-exposure to his piano concertos as a student seems to have had a disastrous effect on my view of the composer.

But three weeks ago, we happened to catch the first episode of Channel 5's programme In search of Mozart. Broadcast at the slightly odd time of 7.15pm on a Tuesday, it was just at the right time for us to watch whilst eating our tea!

All too often, Classical music on television tends to talk down to its audience. Programme makers seems to be so frightened of alienating their target audience that they make programmes which seem alarmingly simplistic to anyone with a little knowledge of classical music.This offering was remarkably free from this failing. We were so taken with the first episode that we made sure that we watched the suceeding two. Cramming Mozart's life into three 45 minute episodes it quite tricky but Channel 5 made a very good stab at it.

It helped that they eschewed dramatic reconstructions. Instead we were given extracts of Mozart's letters (and those of his father) read by actors with useful images on the screen (portraits, footage of the places referred to etc.) These were intercut with selections from the music he was composing at the time, some apparently in specially filmed studio performances; plus various historians and musicians talking about Mozart and about the music. All this was imaginatively intercut into a seamless collage that managed to allow artists like Imogen Cooper to talk about the piano music in a way which related to Mozart's life at the time.

From a historical point of view, the latest information that we have about Mozart was included. Episode one did not shy from the scatalogical issues, but made the point that it was common to families other than the Mozarts. In the discussions about his final years, the programme made some very useful points about Mozart's income. He died in the midst of a cash-flow crisis brought on partly by the war that the Austrians were conducting at the time; he was by no means a pauper.

This was a satisfy set of programmes and I do hope that their success emboldens Channel 5 to go on to make more such programmes.

Tuesday 24 January 2006

Except for me

We we are now 2 weeks into the new term and London Concord Singers are busy rehearsing for their next concert. The programme is quite fund, Duarte Lobo's Requiem, Sven David Sandstrom's reworking of Purcell's Hear my Prayer in which the Purcell original is heard almost complete but evaporates just before the end, Sandstrom then re-works the material into new and magical forms; plus motets by the Roseingraves (a Father and Son who worked at both Cathedrals in Dublin in the 17th century) and Gabriel Jackson (a young English composer).

I am currently attending rehearsals, but will unfortunately have to fade out eventually as the concert (on Thursday April 6th at St. Michael's Church, Chester Square) clashes with the launch of the 2006 Chelsea Festival and I have some music being performed in the festival (on June 24th at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church). It is so frustrating when such events clash, but that's life I suppose.

We are busy trying to put together a summer trip for the choir. We hope to go to Tallinn and things are looking quite positive at the moment.

Monday 23 January 2006

Singing cowboys

We went to see Brokeback Mountain yesterday and when conversation afterwards turned to the subject of opera, we considered whether the film would make a good subject for an opera. The answer was no, I could not imagine making the cowboy's sing convincingly and the others pointed out that the film was so dependent on the stunning scenery that we could not see it being confined to the stage.

Opera is on my mind at the moment as Coni has sent me a bunch of ideas which I need to read through and comment on. I've also got some other irons in the fire, so you never know what might happen!

Recent CD Review

My review of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in the version conducted by Bychkov with Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role is here on MusicWeb.

Thursday 19 January 2006

The Curate's Egg

On Sunday we went to All Saints Church, Margaret Street for a concert by The Curate's Egg. They are an all female choral choral group directed by Adey Grummet. They sang a group of unaccompanied choral items including Gustav Holst's stunning Ave Maria and then, along with harpist Gabriella dall'Olio, they performed Britten's Ceremony of Carols. It was a stunning performance with some lovely solo contributions and fine harp playing from dall'Olio. It is many years since I have heard the work and it was good to make its acquaintance again. The concert was in aid of the All Saints restoration fund and I only wish that more people had been there.

Not the Mozart Festival

With emphasis switching to Mozart for his centenary this year, I thought it might be fun to organise a Not Mozart festival. You could include such work's as Gazzaniga's Don Giovanni, Gluck's La Clemenza di Tito and Rossini's Barber of Seville.

The Gazzaniga is a short 2 act opera, with a libretto by Da Ponte, which preceeded Mozart and Da Ponte's version. I saw it many years ago at Wexford in a double bill with Busoni's Turandot.

Gluck's opera is one of a few to set the same Metastasio libretto. Mozart's opera sets the same libretto, but it was extensively revised for Mozart. The revisions brought it closer to contemporary sensibilities about opera, but it is still recognisably an opera seria. Rossini's opera, of course, came after Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, a sort of later prequel, both being based on Beaumarchais plays.

Tuesday 17 January 2006

Press Release

The press release for the March 18th Cranmer in Oxford concert has now been released to an unsuspecting world. The full press release is on-line here and should be entirely self explanatory.

Recent CD Review

My review of John Mark Ainsley and Ian Burnside's disc of Tippett, Britten and Purcell (a must for all lovers of English song) is here on MusicWeb International.

Review of The Barber of Seville

My review of Saturday's performance of The Barber of Seville is now online here, at Music and Vision.

Monday 16 January 2006

Ring feedback

A reader of Music and Vision, provided some feedback about my review of Barenboim's complete Ring and sent a link to a rather good summary of the plot. Its difficult to produce a plot summary of the Ring without it sounding stupid (just think of Anna Russell!), but Jonathan Eaton of Long Beach Opera has managed it here.

The Barber of Seville

We went to see the new production of Rossini's The Barber of Seville at the Royal Opera House on Saturday. A review will appear shortly, but it set me thinking of past productions of the opera that I've seen (not many in fact). The new ROH production is not naturalistic, but very stylised, which is a first for me; all previous productions I've seen have been securely in the 18th century.

I first saw the opera at the Edinburgh Festival in 1976 in a production from Germany, Cologne opera I think (I really must dig out my old programmes!). It must have been by Michael Hampe because many years later when the Royal Opera acquired a 'new' production, it was virtually the same as this German one. I also saw the old ENO production at the Coliseum when I was down in London on a course in the early 1980's. This production was notable for being from their Sadlers Wells days and the sets were not really big enough for the Coliseum stage. But the performance marked the debut of Anne Marie Owens in the role of Rosina and she was certainly not a Rosina to mess with! I think this was the performance that had John Brecknock in the role of Almaviva; unfortunately he was not really capable of singing the fioriture in Almaviva's first aria.

I caught up with the current ENO production only relatively recently and rather enjoyed it, but Barber is not an opera I feel the need to see regularly. Somehow it always overstays its welcome; for my taste the opera is just a little bit too long for the comedy.

Sunday 15 January 2006

I've returned to writing motets for my Tempus per Annum cycle for the church's year. I am way behind with these, but I enjoy returning to them and find writing the motets rather therapeutic. Perhaps they are a little like writing string quartets. Anyway, you have to find endless variations on the same themes to keep variety and I enjoy being inventive. In quick succession I have done the Latin version of the Maundy Thursday motet and produced both the Latin and English versions of the Good Friday motet (quite speed record). I am now about to embark on the motet for the Easter Saturday evening mass (in fact the Easter Sunday vigil mass). The first motet in this sequence of Lent and Passiontide motets which is actually joyful (it starts with the words Jubilate Deo).

One of the reasons for choosing the 4 Advent motets for performance in the Cranmer concert in July 2005 (to be repeated in Oxford in March 2006) was that the 4 motets form a neat group and are quite varied in their texts.

I am now starting the publicity machine for the March concerts (the Eight:Fifteen Vocal Ensemble doing their Cranmer concert in Oxford and the Salomon Orchestra, under Adrian Brown, doing a concert in St. James's Church, Piccadilly). This means producing leaflets, posters, press releases etc. The press release for Oxford goes out next week and I am currently working on the leaflets so they can go to the ticket agency we're using in Oxford (Tickets Oxford). The London concert is just using an on-line ticket agency (TicketWeb) so all I have had to supply them with is electronic marketing information, the leaflets can wait until I need to put them in the venue, which is a relief.

Saturday 14 January 2006

Recent CD Review

My review of Elgar's sacred music performed by the choir of St. Paul's Church, Rock Creek, is here on MusicWeb.

Wednesday 11 January 2006

Groundhog Day goes to the opera

I am currently reviewing a recording of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (review will appear on MusicWeb in due course) and that set me to thinking about the productions of the opera that I had seen.

We recently went to see a revival of Julia Hollander's ENO production, this was created to replace a previous production by, I think, Graham Vick, which was not particularly old. The same thing is happening at The Royal Opera House where the old production (designed by Julia Trevelyan Oman, so it was gloriously realistic in its detail) was replaced by a striking, stylish new one directed by John Cox. Now this production is in the wastebasket and being replaced by a new one, or at least that is what has been announced. The list could go on; the recent ENO Billy Budd replaced an existing one that seem, to some critics, perfectly satisfactory.

It is a curious fact of life that opera companies seem to constantly visit the same operas, re-doing productions when there are so many other operas crying out to be produced.Some of this, I suppose, is the desire to get things right and the constant feeling that the key parts of the repertoire could be done better. Another factor, which is often hidden from the public, is that some productions are not designed to last. I believe that this was the case with the John Cox Onegin at the Royal Opera.

This latter reflects a style of developing a production which came rather to prominence when Elijah Moshinsky did his productions of Peter Grimes and Lohengrin. Moshinsky started as a staff producer at the Royal Opera and the stripped down style of these 2 iconic productions reflects his attempt to develop new productions for the ROH at little more than the cost of re-furbishing and re-producing the existing ones. This of course is something that us ordinary punters forget, that bringing back a production can cost nearly as much as starting again from scratch.

The other area where companies develop disposable productions is in the co-production and borrowed production. This latter is a particular case in point where the company might rent an existing production from elsewhere and might never use it again. The advantage is cost-based; the disadvantages are that the borrower has little control over the production style and content. So something that works in one place, might not work in another. When the Royal Opera borrowed John Dew's production of Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots there were howls from most of the critics, despite the fact that the production had been relatively well received in Germany. Some of this could be attributed to snobbery, but much can be related to differences in house style and the way opera is perceived in different countries.

The Royal Opera also came something of a cropper when it borrowed an Italian production of Rossini's Mose in Egitto. Though handsome and moderately well produced, it came in for some critical flack owing to the static handling of the chorus; a production style common in Italy but not in favour here where chorus are expected to be highly emotive and highly mobile.

So opera companies may have some excuse for their endless re-visiting of familiar opers, but I can't help wishing that they'd step off the tread-mill more often and give us some of the rarer items.

Monday 9 January 2006

Edward Scissorhands

Well, we finally got to see Matthew Bourne's new ballet/dance piece Edward Scissorhands on Sunday, at a matinee at Sadler's Wells Theatre. It is a handsome piece, in attractive imaginative sets by Les Brotherston and is a remarkably effective translation of the film into a stage work. Moving film onto the stage is not always an easy task and Bourne managed it beautifully. The only moments when you really needed to have seen the film was the closing, where the an old lady is being showered with snow and revels in it; Bourne gives you clues but I am not convinced that people who have not seen then film will make the connection with the showers of snow from Edward's ice sculptures.

As a dance work, I was a little less convinced. It does not help that the score still sounds very much like a film score rather than a dance drama; the music is, after all, based on the music for the film adapted and arranged by Terry Davis. It is very effective, as far as it goes, but does not provide the depth and coherence really necessary for a proper dance drama.

Bourne creates some wonderful 1950's style moves for the people who live on the 1950's suburban estate where Edward's adopted homes. These were some of the best parts of the show, unfortunately I think that Bourne became a little to in love with the 50's background at the expense of Edward himself. There were quite a few times when I longed for the exciting ensemble to stop and for Bourne to concentrate on Edward himself. An extra solo, or two, for Edward would help to deepen his character and help him come more into the foreground. As it is, the character had to rely on the pathos generated by his general demeanour and acting; though this was effective I wanted more.

A further problem came to a head in the final pas de deux, though it had been signalled at various points in the show; because of the scissors on his hands, Edward was unable to lift his partner properly. Bourne had removed this obstacle in their Act 1 pas de deux, by making it a dream sequence so Edward appeared sans scissors on his hands. But for the end of the show, Edward was hampered and though Bourne came up with some effective solutions the final result was clumsier, more lumpenm less cathartic and uplifting than I would have liked.

It reminded me of the problems that David Bintley had in his choreography for Edward II and Piers Gaveston in his Edward II; their pas de deux lacked any really lifts and consequently lacked uplift. To see how such things could be done, go and see Les Ballets Trockadero de Montecarlo, though technically a spoof of ballet moeurs they come up with some remarkably effective solutions to to men dancing a pas de deux together. Perhaps Bourne should have asked them how to arrange a dance for a man with scissors instead of hands?

Sunday 8 January 2006

The Bartered Bride

Friday night’s performance of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride at the Royal Opera House was the first night of this revival. It might only have been a revival, but with Sir Charles Mackerras in charge, we were guaranteed a sparkling evening. His opening speed for the overture sounded dangerously fast, but the orchestra responded well producing playing which was crisp and made the music sound new minted.

This was a good indicator for how the evening was going to go; no startling revelations, just a wonderful return to basics. Nothing was musically hackneyed and they played Smetana’s score without ever making it seem routine. Quite magical.

It helped that Mackerras was supported by a fine cast. Susan Gritton was returning to the role of Marenka and is as enchanting as ever. She has developed as an artist and this shows in the way she helps the character of Marenka to develop. From the opening, there is something dynamic and capable about her Marenka, she even wears trousers. Gritton’s voice has a lovely focussed quality to it and Smetana’s lyrical music responds to the shapely line of her voice. In Act 3, when things get problematical for Marenka, Gritton was profoundly touching. Because Gritton’s Marenka has been so capable and dynamic, she renders the rather unsatisfactory ending almost acceptable; you feel less annoyed than usual that Jenik has put her through so much pain for his schemes.

As Jenik Simon O’Neill was a large, lovably rogue rather than someone really duplicitous. Thoughtless and charming, he helped make relationship between the two work. O’Neill’s voice does not quite have the easy facility at the top that would be ideal in the role, he tended to go a little steely under pressure; but this was an impressive debut and I hope to hear more of him. It perhaps helps to understand O’Neill’s voice when you learn from his website (http://www.simononeill.com) that he is singing his first Parsifal in concert in New Zealand this year.

Both O’Neill and Gritton seem to have a gift for comedy and developed a believable relationship in Act 1, I especially liked their duet where which took place whilst they were supposedly painting a barn door. Much horseplay with (non existent) paint was mimed with a naturalness and convincingness that made it amusing and characterful rather than embarrassing.

The Royal Opera supported the 2 principals with a fine cast. Timothy Robinson repeated his amusing but touching Vasek; managing to be funny but making you feel sorry for him at the same time. This sense of comedy through believable characterisation rather than sending the character up was a feature of Peter Rose’s wonderful Kecal. Here was a singer who could really sing the role, not just make buffo noises, and developed Kecal’s overweening character with a degree of subtlety. I always love Peter Rose’s work and this was no exception.

Marenka’s parents were played by Donald Maxwell and Susan Bickley; luxury casting which paid of was the two singers made much of the little that Smetana gives them. The same can be said for the evening smaller roles of Jenik’s parents, played by Mark Richardson and Carole Wilson. The septet was a joy.

Though the musical side was entrancing throughout, I remain unconvinced by Francesca Zamballo’s production. Everything takes place in a pale wood barn, with a brightly lit yellow cyclorama as backdrop. The result looks very New England. There is much coming and going to little purpose, assembling and deconstructing ladders, tables etc. This purposeless action extends to the large choral dance numbers which are one of the joys of this opera. Rather than giving us something convincingly folk-like, helping to build the character of the chorus, we get a series of too clever, over choreographed movements where all sorts of harvest festival iconography is brought on. I just longed for Zamballo to have the courage to simply let the entire chorus dance a polka properly for any length of time. What you lose is the sense of the type of community that the opera takes place in, which weakens things when the going gets tough in Act 3.

The opera was sung in Kit Hesketh-Harvey’s rhyming translation. Diction was quite adequate but the opera house displayed sur-titles as well; though their usefulness was compromised as it was difficult to read them because of the glare from the bright yellow light of the cyclorama.

As ever the circus episode was highly entertaining and I must commend both the circus performers and the singers for their fine integration into a single ensemble. It can’t be easy mixing singers, even acrobatic ones, with real acrobats.

This was an immensely enjoyable evening and a wonderful way to help celebrate Sir Charles Mackerras’s 80th birthday.

Friday 6 January 2006

Christmas Presents

One of the things that my partner, David, bought me for Christmas was the LSO Live recording of Shostakovitch's 8th Symphony with Colin Davies. We'd got the idea after attending the Dream of Gerontius performancein December, when they had been giving out leaflets. I rather fancied both the 5th and 8th Symphonies. David attempted to get them from one of the big high street chains only to find them charging over £12 rather than the £4.99 indicated in the LSO leaflets. In fact it took a bit of finding for him to be able to get a copy of the 8th Symphony at a reasonable price. We're still lacking the 5th.

But, of course, this is much to be expected as neither of us buy records from shops very often, using the web instead. I have even found a lovely site Classical CD Exchange which sells 2nd hand CD's; I can highly recommend it. So we can't really complain when CD's are difficult to come by in the shops.

Last time we were wandering around the St. Martin's Lane/Strand area we were shocked to discover that the Music Discount Centre in the Strand had closed. This was where I bought all my CD's in the early days, but I can't really remember when I last used it.

Weekend Plans

Tonight we're off to Covent Garden to see their revival of The Bartered Bride; the main draw being Sir Charles Mackerras in the pit. The Bartered Bride is one of those curious character comedies which have a vein of cruelty running through them. Francesca Zamballo's production for the Royal Opera is one of those which take the work at its entertaining face value. I think the more interesting productions of the opera are the ones that manage to combine this entertaining quality with some feeling of quite how cruel Jenik is to Marenka; hiding the facts of his upbringing from her and forcing her to believe that she is going to be married almost against her will. The ending is apparently happy, but part of you should question whether Marenka will ever trust Jenik again. Zamballo is content to just give us sparkling entertainment, but besides Mackerras in the pit we have Susan Gritton as Marenka and Timothy Robinson returning to the role of Vasek hot on the heels of his debut as Captain Vere.

On Sunday we're off to a matinee of Edward Scissorhands at Sadlers Wells. Matthew Bourne's new dance work based on the eponymous film has not garnered completely uncritical reviews but we were curious. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with his work, finding the comic/jokey rather unsatisfactory; so the only parts of Swan Lake that I really enjoyed were the bits with the Swans (plus parts of the Act 3 ball scene); the first Act scenes sending up the Royal Family were almost too much for me, especially the bit in the disco. But the Swans somehow transcended this and made up for it all. Though I could not help wishing that his choreography was a bit more expressive and more interesting

Anyway, Sunday's performance should be interesting, at least. I'll report back.

Tuesday 3 January 2006

Endings and Beginnings

Well, in the days between Christmas and New Year I managed to finish the task of generating and checking all the orchestral parts for my 2 pieces (Elegy for Baritone and Orchestra and In the Barbarians' Camp) which will be premiered by The Salomon Orchestra and Adrian Brown, at St. James's Piccadilly in March. The task of checking the parts was particularly tedious as my proof-reading skills are pretty pitiful. Still, its all over now and the parts are with the conductor for marking up.

I have also nearly reached the end of the first draft of my piece Crossing, setting 2 Rabindranath Tagore poems for choir and organ, which will be premiered at this year's Chelsea Festival. The piece has been going slowly of late, partly because of the work on other projects, so I am relieved to see the end in sight; all I have to do now is actually finish it and then start the revisions.

Now that Christmas and New Year are over, I have also got to start thinking about other administrative tasks, such as publicising the concerts in March and ensuring sufficient singers for the FifteenB concert at the Chelsea Festival.

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