– also sacred, with varying admixtures of the, if not profane, certainly secular. Last night: Mendelssohn’s Elijah, an oratorio, performed as a music event with no religious pretensions in a deconsecrated church. My chief impressions: a powerful piece, cramming in a surprising amount of the memorable plot elements from the relevant chunks of Scripture and with some genuinely powerful dramatic moments. However, a long slog for the strings, with some impossibly squiggly figures at breakneck speed even in the viola part and very little time off. Holding the instrument up and against my neck / shoulder was actually painful by a few numbers before the end. From the back of the violas (so far back in the odd layout chosen that I was between the tuba and the timpani!), there was something odd and hard to follow about a convention which seemed to leave the strings unanimously working a breath behind the conductor in recitatives on down-beats, and sometimes elsewhere. Since the point of recitative is that it is almost completely rhythmically flexible, this is bewildering on one rehearsal! Also St John’s Smith Square, despite being a Georgian (I would guess) cavern of a building with a huge amount of empty space, managed to be a positive sauna for the entire performance – I was so glad to be in shirtsleeves as it was an all-black dress code, black or white tie would have been insufferable!
This afternoon (I need to leave for it rather shortly), harvest festival service of my church in the back room of a pub by the river. Few impressions yet as, er, the event is still in the future, but it will undoubtedly involve beer, prayers, small children, and singing mostly well-worn harvest hymns. I may or may not be playing, due to a collection of available musicians that is a bit hard to form into a workable group (without someone going off and writing string arrangements anyway. Maybe another time.).
Yesterday’s programme included a note of every orchestral player’s conservatoire provenance, since the orchestra had been billed as consisting of Philharmonia principals and conservatoire students. They appeared to have managed to fulfill that with the inclusion of some fairly recent alumni – except for the violas. My name the one blank in the whole list for a conservatoire acronym.