And what a year it was. I sang in the Three Choirs Festival Chorus. I sang lots of choral masterpieces (and Carmina Burana) for the first time. I made my débuts in several new venues, sang before a member of the Royal Family and discovered the benefits of the colour-coded post-it tab. On a sadder note, I have been saying a rather protracted farewell to a choir I’ve sung with for a long time. I’m going to write the year up as a set of awards, moving towards the less serious ones at the end of the list.
Performance of the Year. It’s not going to be possible to single out just one. For overall memorability and significance, I will nominate two. Firstly, the Berlioz Grande Messe des Morts in the Three Choirs Festival. Someone in the audience tweeted ‘Tonight, perhaps for the first time in my life, I heard utter perfection.’ Even if he was exaggerating, what a thing it is to be part of making someone say that. Secondly, my first performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in November.
Building of the Year. Step forward Gloucester Cathedral. The setting for all the Three Choirs concerts, but I wasn’t finished with it after that – I returned in the autumn for a weekend with the Erleigh Cantors and then for the Missa Solemnis. At one point I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the cloisters floating around, but there are worse things to see that way.
The Best New Venue Award. This is a tie between the Lord Mayor’s Chapel (one day I’ll get to dep in the choir there – I’ve been on the list as long as John Marsh has been organist!) and the Bath Assembly Rooms – a short walk from my home, but rarely performed in by amateurs. Other new venues include the Anvil Basingstoke, and St John’s Church Keynsham.
The ‘Poulenc Gloria’ Award. For the new (to me) piece which came round in unconnected performances in quick succession. Walton’s Coronation Te Deum, which I sang in the 3 Choirs Festival (and with Bristol Choral Society), and 3 months later with the Erleigh Cantors. A special bonus for the fact that the 3 Choirs and Erleigh Cantors performances were in the same place, which isn’t one of my most frequent performance venues.
The ‘Meet the Composer’ Award. This goes to Alexander L’Estrange, whose music I sang twice in as many weeks, with him being present with his band on both occasions.
The Best Rehearsal Moment Award. When rehearsing a notoriously hard piece of choral writing, we were asked to stand up, and then sit down if we realised we’d made a mistake, as a visual demonstration of where problems were occurring. After rehearsing one particular passage, an entire section of the choir was found to be seated. (I myself was still standing, but would have been sitting if we’d tried the same exercise in other parts of the rehearsal!)
The Obstructive Fellow Singer Award. There were several who inadvertently tried to prevent me from giving a good performance, including:
- the woman whose beehive hairdo was held in place by vast quantities of hairspray. Singing next to her I felt as if I was glue-sniffing
- the fellow singer who could not sing in 5/4 without beating time, but not in the same time as the conductor
- the singer in front of me who was usually on the back row of their choir, and who swayed around so much that I had to peer on first one side then the other in order to watch the conductor. This was relayed round the building on the big screens, to the entertainment of some in the audience
All the performing meant I didn’t actually attend as many performances as usual, but I did get to ENO’s staging of Lulu, the Proms performance of the Royal Opera Boris with Bryn Terfel, and a very local Das Lied von der Erde.
As for ambitions for 2017? There’s nothing very dramatic planned, but you never know what’s going to come up during the year. Maybe I’ll get to do a solo with a choir I’ve been singing with for a quarter of a century. I know there are several in it who would like to hear me do so and have told me it’s long overdue! At any rate I’m going to renew my acquaintance with the Peterborough Chamber Choir (Salisbury in February), go back to St David’s in July, and finally bring the Cathedral Chamber Choir to Wells in June.