All of those who studied the 50 Set Works on the London board for A-Level music came across Berio's Sinfonia. The
A-Level Music course was, for me, a bit of a crash course in music history; I knew very little. I could find requested chords in scores within seconds, I could knock out a fancy chorale. My understanding of harmony and theory was there but I lacked the background knowledge of the repertoire, the canon.
The piece therefore was a bit lost on me. I liked what I was told about it, I liked what I saw and I was attracted to the fact that it seemed a challenge to understand, but I certainly didn't 'get it'. I don't fully now, but I've been privileged to sit within it 12 times now so I'm getting there. It's like Mary Poppin's handbag with its endless fruits -- it just keeps giving you things to understand and to discover.
John Axelrod (Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, Turin x 2)
Ingo Metzmacher (La Scala, Milan x 3)
Edo de Waart (Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra x 2)
Marin Alsop (Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra - Brazil x 3, Royal Festival Hall London x 1)
Nicola Marasco (La Fenice, Venice x 1)
The piece was written for the Swingle Singers in 1967 and the knowledge of the typos in the scores, what Berio meant, how it should be performed, what the markings mean, the best way to be conducted for different passages, has been passed down through the group as individuals have left and others joined. Jo Goldsmith Eteson, who has done it 35 times or more, must have the most knowledge in her head at present (I don't think the others will mind me saying that!) and effortlessly does the scarily exposed aria-introduction to movement five. Legend.
Here's a list of strange things that churches do which should be unpacked a little more.
I'm not saying they are always wrong in all circumstances, and I'm not going into why things are weird. And I am certainly not saying I've never done any of them. But with an older, more grown-up lens, they look so odd that the reasons behind them should be thought through a little more. Why? Since when? Who did it first? Was it a good idea then? What are the arguments against it? What would Rachel's mum think? (An excellent lens which doesn't always go the way you expect, annoyingly...)
In no particular order...
1. Prefer venues with no natural light.
2. Play background music behind liturgy, prayers, sermons.
3. Name one of the organisers the 'producer'.
4. Time services to the minute.
5. Think anyone 'on stage' needs to have their life in order.
6. Make any comments, publicly or privately, on any congregation member's sex life, in any way.
7. Have 'industry' awards.
8. Deflect all compliments to the Lord.
9. Think everyone speaking publicly in the church needs to have the same views.
10. Avoid Halloween completely.
I went to Hillsong in New York last autumn. I enjoyed parts of it, and found others difficult. I debate whether to unpack things I don't like online, fearing that I join the squad of the moaners, criticising from afar, forgetting that real people read things online and can be hurt. But in fear of being impolite and disrespectful, we can condone through our silence, people can read that as support, and there can be a lack of a rational voice amongst the challengers. So I'm not going to moan, but I'm going to raise things we do, and ask 'why?'
One aspect of Hillsong, which on Easter morning I realised my home church had adopted, was the underscoring of the spoken word. At Hillsong it was under the prayers and re-entered during the beginning-of-the-end of the sermon. At home it went under the communion liturgy. A bare fifth chord, perhaps a D, that never moved, on one of a Nord's less inspiring synths, under the communion liturgy which has been so carefully crafted and uses phrases like 'the memorial of our redemption'.
Why would anyone do this?
To hold people's attention?
To help people focus on words?
To make it feel it holds greater meaning?
To give it greater meaning?
Because God likes sustained fifths on synth keyboards?
Because people can't cope with silence?
I wonder why you think this is becoming a tradition?
Really interesting talk by @lindzeiy at work today. Digital transformation. What does it even mean? What it doesn't mean is that you should get preoccupied by 'digital', i.e. the medium. A builder shouldn't be preoccupied by his hammer. It's not ultimately about the hammer, and never will be.
I often use the carpenter analogy for my musical life. I want to have an instrument that is useful -- that is functional. Where I can make a chair or a table. Where it can be ornate or not. Where I can sing Howells or Hip Hop. I guess this means I'm not an artist.
Where does 'medium' stop and 'voice' start? Aren't they intertwined? What do you think?
When I was about 11, I crashed a quad bike. I was looking behind me to see how far ahead I was and, when I turned back around, there was a tree approaching. So I shut my eyes and put my arm out. The arm broke. It turned out the brakes would have worked better.
I remember adopting this most excellent strategy at various times when I got divorced; I shut my eyes. My amygdala didn't have a more suitable approach to adopt in its library. (Or however the brain works.)
I wouldn't read things that came to me -- letters of advice from vicars I had met once, or letters of empathy. I put legal documents quickly in a black envelope folder, reading as little as possible. When asked questions, I agreed to things I probably should have challenged. I was maxed out on confrontation. I froze at a party, with tears running down my face, as a friend questioned me how I could have done that; he had thought we were cut from the same cloth.
There are so many feelings at play with any break up, and they combine to make something that often feels too big. The feelings that have come to mind as I write this don't sit alongside each other well, and I think therein lies the problem. They combine to create a massive version of 'I want the hide under the duvet'.
Pain -- you part from someone you love(/d) and with whom you have entwined your life.
Excitement -- at new paths ahead.
Confidence -- in a decision you think is right.
Guilt -- at having confidence in a decision others think is wrong.
Liberation -- as you step away from something weighing you down.
Frustration -- at the weight of baggage that remains, and that it's not a blank canvas straight away.
Surprise -- at the level of public interest in parts of your life that are deeply private.
Urge to explain -- the situation to people whose business it isn't.
Confusion at the collision of these.
I haven't got a magic strategy for negotiating this time, and your amygdala may do something different, but equally useless. Friends can be rubbish, faith doesn't always help, and Gods sometimes don't fix things. But, with time, we contemplate coming out from under the duvet, having a shower, a cup of tea, and going for a walk. Trust me, we really do.
The lovely Kate Biddlestone, did #50thankfuldays recently and here are my #50thankfuldays.
I am thankful for my balcony.
I often wish I had a garden but I'VE GOT A BALCONY! I have mint, tomatoes, potatoes. I have a seat. I can see Kings Place from it. It looks out over a quiet dead end and some parking and not a road! It is hardly overlooked and most of what you see from it is sky and leaves. People on London canal walks pass by regularly, reminding me that I live in a place people go to for a special treat or day's activity.
It may be about three square metres, but I have a balcony and I am thankful for it.
A mundane job may bear fruit when you least expect it.
Music / publishing / education / singing / business
It's been a funny old 15 years navigating the world of work, and one that has sometimes made little sense at the time. If you zoom out, however, the big picture makes a decent narrative, so I trust that next time it makes no sense it will be because I can't see it from the right angle yet. At the Bloomsbury office, there were some lunchtime talks a year or so ago called 10 things I've Learned. They were an opportunity for senior staff to share about their personal career journey with colleagues. I really enjoyed it and I've been out of university now for 15 years, so I reckon I can start to share some things I've learned, so here goes one for a starter.
#1: Maintain good relationships (learnt in 2002)
In 2002 I finished university, went home to York and took a job on the CD stand at Banks Music. I was in a cafe one day and bumped into my old A-level music teacher. We got chatting and this led her to offer me the opportunity to return to my old secondary school and teach classroom music.
In the same music shop, a couple of years later, I met Mark Mumford. I was organising a piano event and Mark was representing publishers as a freelancer. Fast forward eight years and Mark's career has moved on and he is beginning to run Hal Leonard's operations in Europe. He contacts me about a role with them and I interview and get the job.
In both cases, if I hadn't had good relationships with people at the point of there being no visible 'value' in doing so, there would have been no job offers years later. So I conclude that a mundane job may bear fruit when you least expect it.