Well here we go again – 2nd Lockdown starting on Thursday, just in time to make sure Ruth Kerr and I can’t do the 1st (and 2nd) of our three recitals on Friday!
Ruth and I have put together three recitals: German song; French and English song; and Christmas song. We decided we would not advertise the specifics of our programme in advance, and definitely none of those contagious paper programmes handed out on the night! Instead, we were going to introduce pieces as we went along. But to give our disappointed punters a taster, here’s one song we recorded when we rehearsed a few days ago: Clara Schumann’s Ich stand in dunklen träumen
Ruth is a very fine pianist as well, so each programme will include a couple of piano duets, and we had Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor lined up to include in this opening German recital. Lockdown should be over in time for our Christmas recital on 11 December, and we will reschedule the other two as soon as we can.
Because we needed to restrict audience numbers, we are sold out for all three recitals, but there’s a waiting list if you want to register interest. And Ruth and I are really enjoying working together, so we hope there will be more recitals in the future.
Suspended Choir rehearsals and church services
In September and October I was delighted to be able to re-engage with some of my choirs. The East Sussex Community Choir has met 5 times at St Thomas a Becket church in Lewes. The choir has this term taken the decision to become independent – previously it had been run by the East Sussex Music Service (now Brighton and Hove Music & Arts). The choir is in a healthy state and we felt the pandemic made this the right time to take a step we had been considering for some years. Last night we rehearsed some Rossini and Bob Chilcott – there’s variety for you! We hope to meet again in December, but as yet, we don’t feel able to plan for a concert.
I’ve also met with the Lewes Chamber Choir a few times. About 10 days ago we sang Victoria: O quam gloriosum; Purcell: Thou knowest Lord; and Josquin: Kyrie from Missa Pange Lingua. Three lovely pieces. I can’t say we quite achieved the quality of these Youtube performances, but do click away if you fancy hearing them.
O quam gloriosum in particular is one of my favourite late Renaissance motets. Victoria’s setting of the opening phrase ‘O how glorious is the kingdom’ is very arresting. The key signature is D major, but he opens with an ‘open A major chord’ i.e. with no 3rd, the C sharp that is essential to D major. A simple chord sequence, A (open) – D – G on the word ‘O’ which some of you will recognise as a classic II-V-I cadence in G major rather than D. After a choir breath, the chords continue: Eminor – G on which the sopranos and tenors excitingly add the first C sharp of the piece, finally moving us towards a cadence in D major on the word ‘Gloriosum’ – certainly a glorious arrival in the home key. The link I’ve chosen for this motet is sung by the Monteverdi Choir. For me, they sing it on the fast side, but I’ve discovered a useful tool on Youtube. If you put your mouse over the video screen you will see four icons on the bottom RH of the screen. Click on the cogged wheel, then click on Playback speed, and choose 0.75. If you already knew that, feel free to groan. Also on this video, you can follow the score, but because they’ve cut off the key signature on the second slide, the lovely C sharps are not obvious. End of music lesson.
Another group I’ve been able to meet up with has been New Sussex Opera. We’ve had three very successful meetings singing choruses from Handel Acis and Galatea and Mozart Requiem. We aim to stage Acis and Galatea in 2021, but singers have really enjoyed going off-piste (they’re an Opera chorus!) with Mozart – what a fabulous piece.
Exciting work at St Michael’s Church, Lewes.
It may be lockdown for many, but two projects at St Michael’s are taking advantage of a quiet church. This week all the lightbulbs are being replaced. The church has excellent lighting that was installed about 10 years ago – but nearly half have stopped working and replacing bulbs is challenging. And next Monday, organ builder Andrew Cooper will be spending a couple of weeks putting back the newly re-leathered wind chests and installing a new stop action. They’re also adding a new Twelfth/Nazard……mmm……well I’m excited!!
So all being well, if we’re allowed to celebrate Christmas in late December, we shall have a wonderfully refurbished organ, and be able to see in St Michael’s.
Over the next month of lockdown, I will attempt to blog each week, so have a good one.