Sunday, 19 June 2011

A priori at the Priory


Well, I thought it was disastrous. A whole year on and the sudden memory still shocks me into panic palpitations in the middle of the night and dagger-thrust consciousness that everything I've ever attempted in my life is doomed.

The measure of the hype gives the measure of the fall. A year ago we - my little choir Les Jeudistes and I - were in full preparation for the first-ever performance of L'Imitation de Notre Dame la Lune, The Imitation of Our Lady the Moon. It was a cantata I'd composed for choir and string quartet, based on the poems of one Jules Laforgue, a little-known French poet of the 1880s. It was the most ambitious score the choir had ever tackled. We rehearsed till the crotchets and quavers fell out of our trouser bottoms. Posters went up on every public notice board for kilometres around. Local radio featured it, so did the local press, local English language magazines enthused about it, local music websites buzzed about it. And the word went round. Sisters, cousins and aunts fought to get in.

The result was a packed church, standing room only in the Priory of St Julian, an idyllic place shown above. Enormously gratifying. We'd arranged for a live recording to be made.

It's a curious thing, but conductors - in this case myself - very often don't hear what's being performed. They're too preoccupied with hearing in their heads what's coming next, and preparing for it. Many conductors conduct in anticipation, several beats, even a bar, ahead of what's actually being played. At the end of the performance I was pleasantly satisfied, having heard throughout what I felt, a priori, it ought to sound like.

A week or two later the truth was told as the recording became available. It was disastrous, I couldn't listen to it. I was deeply ashamed. The choir seemed to have forgotten the most elementary disciplines. They sang out of tune, the words were indistinct. The strings sounded tired and slack. Of the twelve tracks only four showed the faintest spark of the fire and energy and laughter we'd known during rehearsal.

I've just discovered - or, much nearer the truth, my daughter Patroclus has discovered for me - how to put audio tracks on line via Audioboo. We put a test out the other evening, to see if it worked. It did, brilliantly. We deleted it almost immediately in anticipation of this post, but all the same one or two managed to pick it up. So here are two tracks from The Imitation of Our Lady the Moon, Je te vas dire ('I'll tell you') and O félines Ophélies en folie ('O crazy feline Ophelias': you see how Laforgue loved to play with words). In both the men sing something pretty condescending, stuffed-shirt-pompous even, as if womankind owed them something. The women reply appropriately, teasingly, mick-mockingly. As they do.

People have been kind enough to ask to hear some of my music. Here's some, in the raw. I have to say the best music comes right at the end, after the singing has stopped.

Je te vas dire (mp3)

O félines Ophélies en folie (mp3)

18 comments:

Charlene said...

The courage to perform in public is legendary, IMHO. I used to do that at the urging of my mother. The last time I did that was at my HS senior banquet when I sang "Dream the Impossible Dream". Thankfully no one recorded any of this!!

Z said...

The reason I will play the organ for funerals and not for weddings is that weddings are, so often, filmed.

I cannot get the second clip to play, I'm afraid. I immensely enjoyed the first one.

Z said...

Oh, I reloaded it and it is playing now.

Dave said...

I see what you mean. They are pretty dire, aren't they?

Not that I actually tried to play them, but given your write-up, I hardly need to, do I?

Christopher said...

Non sequiturs giving you gyp today, Dave?

Rosie said...

Crazy Cats! I'm impressed. You wrote all the parts?

Z said...

Exactly, Rosie - it's brilliant. It doesn't matter at all if the performances weren't 100% all the time, I reckon it's still very impressive. And I love the music.

Rog said...

Je te vas dire c'est magnifique mon ami!

First one is King Singers do Stravinsky,highly original and enjoyable. Second one is brilliant, I like the Can Can quotation and the interplay of the male & female parts (oo er missus!)

Give up you day job - this is professional stuff!

Christopher said...

Charlene: Hi. I don't suppose a hidden camera caught your DTID performance? Could it be on You Tube?

(back soon - got to help granddaughter pick cherries)

Christopher said...

Z: So glad you got there in the end. (And so am I, thanks to Patroclus.) Can't stop playing with Audioboo now. Thanks for your kind remarks - and Rog and Rosie, connoisseurs all - which is music indeed.

Rosie: Yes, all the parts. Glad you approved.

Rog: Merci, mon pote.

Tim said...

Splendid stuff!

Christopher said...

Thank you, Tim. Perhaps we blog composers should collaborate?

Liz said...

I can hardly claim to be a connoisseur but I very much liked the 2nd piece. Anyone who can play music always has my total respect.

Christopher said...

Good to see you, Liz. Thank you. Do you still dance the the can-can?

letouttoplay said...

Well that was terrific! Thank you (and Patroclus) for such a treat.
Jazzy, the first one and I love the second one particularly the bit where the men fade away and the women steal in and all those lovely modulations.
Really, really enjoyable and the music at the end completely appropriate.

Christopher said...

Wow! Thank you, Mig.

Mike and Ann said...

Enjoyed that Christopher, thank you. Mike and Ann.
Especially liked the Offenbach bit. Mike.

Christopher said...

M 'n' A: Good to see you. Thanks!