10 days ago, I was the MD for a concert of opera arias, duets and choruses at the Leconfield Hall in Petworth. New Sussex Opera were due to perform Handel’s Acis and Galatea there last year, but that was coronovirused (I’ve just invented a new word there), so a small chorus together with 7 soloists performed there on 24 September.
We thought that Love and Death covered most of the themes in opera. The chorus sang from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice; Wagner’s Bridal March; and the Chorus of Wedding Guests from Donizetti: Lucia di Lammamoor. And soloists sang arias from Dvorak: Rusalka (Song to the Moon), Puccini, Handel and Mozart. Andrew Robinson and Olivia Hemmings sung and acted a lovely rendition of ‘La ci darem la mano’ from Mozart’s Don Giovanni which was very well received.
To my great delight (and relief) the hall was blessed with a very fine Grand Piano, which meant that my Music Directing from the piano was a joy for me.
Rossini: Petite Messe Solennelle
Then a couple of days ago I was playing the Harmonium in this extraordinary piece by Rossini. He was born on 29 February 1792 – I was so nearly born myself on 29th February (I missed it by 10 hours). He is best known for writing operas, especially opera buffa, but he composed virtually nothing in his last 40 years – his last opera was William Tell written in 1829. 35 years later his composed this ‘little solemn mass’ as ‘the last of my sins of old age’. He must have had his tongue in his cheek, because this mass is far from little and certainly not solemn. Written for small chorus and 4 soloists who have BIG solos, it is accompanied by Piano (originally 2 pianos) and Harmonium. John Hancorn conducted the Baroque Collective Singers with the lovely Thalie Knights (mezzo) and Alex Kidgell (soprano), Nancy Cooley with the big piano part, and me on the squeeze-box.
Have a listen to this performance on Youtube of the final movement Agnus Dei from Petite Messe Solennelle
The new season begins
Last week saw the rest of my various choir restarting. The Eastbourne Choral Society (whom I accompany) and the Brighton Orpheus Choir had started the week before, but now I’ve had my first rehearsal with The East Sussex Community Choir, and on Thursday evening I met with the Brighton Singers for the first time in 18 months. It’s great to be back meeting all these lovely singers again, and I’m looking forward to the next few months together.
The weather has turned cold (and rainy), and this morning I put away my summer clothes and got out the winter ones. Soon we’ll all be thinking about Christmas (well, I already have done) and I’m soon going to have to start rehearsing……….Christmas carols!!