The Beskirted One's Maiden Voyage into Choral Directorship

Sunday, the 31st of October, 2004 - 19 past 4pm

Current Instrumental Music ~ The Doctor Who Theme.

I rejoin you on what many of you will be all too well aware is the eve of NaNoWriMo. Or, to couch that in real terms, some seven and a half hours before NaNo kick-off (going by Greenwich Mean Time): there will be many British fingers poised over keyboards waiting for the stroke of midnight tonight.

Currently, I'm feeling optimistic. I never did quite finish that plot structure, but I have an idea, a set of amusing characters, and numerous scenes planned.
Equally importantly, I have several types of tea - none of them decaff - and a large unopened bottle of Bailey's. (I don't have any benzedrine, but hell, we can't all be Kerouac.)
From this entry forth, I shall either temporarily drop out of existance again ('gah, sorry, will update eventually!' filler entries aside), or be here almost constantly - most likely complaining about hand strain caused by excessive typing (possibly the least sensible complaint to make in typed form, but a perennial favourite with the diary-writing community). Only time will tell...

But let us turn from thrilling computer-based activities to come to thrilling choir-based activities that happened last week, for I can now report back on the concert that I have very cunningly not mentioned thus far, despite it being a major consumer of my time and reserves of emotional restraint for some months.
It seemed best to avoid the possibility of having to eventually write an entry involving the lines 'concert? what concert? I know noooothing...' or 'whoo, did I fail dismally'. 'Cause that's just the kind of coward (and traitor to the 'keeping the readers informed of ones every exhalation' school of public diary-writing) I am...

Way back in (I think) April, I expressed the desire to arrange and direct a concert, and expressed it not in a pub after consuming a semi-lethal dose of alcohol (as is traditional with such ambitions), but in a choir vestry in a state of Sunday morning sobriety.
The choir did not run screaming (thereby proving that they are either slightly insane or simply aware that I know where they live), and so I set about deciding which choral delights to set before my choristers.

I ended up putting together a programme of works by British composers from circa 1150 onward, ending with Purcell's Come, ye sons of art (somewhat abridged and arranged for upper voices).
The shorter works were overwhelmingly 20th century (partly because many of Britain's most brilliantly talented composers were born after 1850, and partly because my search for works by Byrd and Gibbons that could be performed by a choir of limited resources was sadly in vain), but I reckon it still managed to reflect a fair bit of the glorious variety of this fair isle's contribution to vocal music, as well as giving time to lesser-known composers (notably Rebecca Clarke, who to my eternal shame I managed to leave off the printed programme - gah).

Predictably, the project was from beginning to end fraught with any number of difficulties, ranging from the complexity of the music (some of which really was quite challenging) to the unavoidable dropping out of several choristers due to family commitments and flu.
The Choir was so augmented with people drafted in from other choirs (including my friend Mary, who came all the way from York - now that is the kind of choral dedication we need to see more of!) that I wasn't sure whether I could honestly claim that we were the same choir, but eventually did so because it would have taken us months to think of another name.

To add to the terror excitement, it was my conducting debut in the most literal of senses.
The rehearsals prior to the day had been, beyond bringing everyone in and off, pretty much unconducted, but on the day it became obvious that the unaccompanied works needed proper conducting (for peace of mind, if nothing else).
So it was that my debut in conducting a full piece rather than just indicating the beginning and end preceded the concert by some two and a half hours. The word 'eep' applied quite strongly to the situation, as you can perhaps imagine.
To my profound relief I made it through quite successfully; I was somewhat erratic in places, but on the whole, it seemed to work.
Even though I was at the beginning obliged to simultaneously conduct and sing a solo with insanely long lines in Medieval English, which would be a memorable occasion in anyone's career.

More relief came in the form of my friend Jenni and I managing to pull off our two harder-than-anticipated duets in Come, ye sons of art: Sound the Trumpet, which is spiffy fun once it comes right, and Bid the Virtues (with oboe part replaced by soprano voice), which is positively fiendish.

Indeed, all of the programme items (both solo and choral) went far better than I'd dared to hope. The choir did a spiffy job in general, and in particular blended and balanced astonishingly well (especially considering that the tenors had to fill in for the lack of basses during the more exposed bass lines, which never bodes well for balance).

I must also put in a good word for my family, who sorted out the interval refreshments far better than I could have done and also arranged bunches of freesias for the soloists, and the member of the clergy who made a very flattering thank-you speech at the end that, as well as warming the cockles of my heart, had the major bonus of sparing me the joy of thinking of something to say myself.
Speaking in public reduces me to an incoherent quivering wreck within about three sentences. This is somewhat trying, but I like to assume that such things get easier with time and practise...

Post-concert I went home with Mary and the leftover white wine, and spent an entertaining evening chatting and feeling peculiarly as though the concert had happened a long time ago - or longer than a couple of hours ago, at least.

There endeth the things that I can think to say about my glorious debut in the world of choral direction; which is, I need hardly say, the most exciting thing to happen since the last entry.
Now I must away, for midnight approaches fast and I have already subjected my hands to far more strain than is really sensible before a night of heavy fiction-writing. (Common sense, me? Surely you mistake me for someone else...)

Au revoir, dear readership, and to those who are joining me in the joyous insanity that is NaNoWriMo, good luck!


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