I’ve Left London Town

It’s been a while since I checked in, but here I am.  I finished my study abroad in London and had a great time.  I highly recommend visiting London to anyone and everyone.  It’s quite the city.  A couple of things I did before leaving:

– Watched Macbeth at the Globe.  Super intense and well done; I was a groundling on the floor and right up in the action.  A word of warning if you plan on seeing it: there’s lots of blood and gore.

– Saw The Swan Lake performed by the English National Ballet in Royal Albert Hall.

– Watched Tenebrae (famous for performing exclusively by candle light) rehearse Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil (Vespers).  Quite a rush.

– Saw Esa-Pekka Salonen conduct the London Philharmonia performing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.  Brilliant conductor!  Why did he ever leave the LA Phil?

– Went to Cambridge to meet John Rutter (hilarious!) and caught Evensong with Kings College and St. John College choir.

Now I’m in Germany visiting my sister, her husband, and their two sons.  We went to Munich to visit one of my sister’s friends and spent the day downtown exploring and sight-seeing.  Most of our sight-seeing though was of really expensive cars.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a high concentration of Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Bentleys, and Aston Martins.  I mean, London had a lot of great cars, but not with such a high concentration as this.  In fact, instead of playing “Slug-Bug,” we started playing “Slug-Porsche,” and quickly got bruises on our shoulders and arms.

I haven’t had a lot of time to compose much of anything, but I have done a bit.  I’ve been working on a few pieces here and there, namely “Gloria,” “Prelude in 5ths,” and “Water Lilies.” Now I’m also working on a new setting of “In Paradisum.”  I found just the plainchant a while a go (and serendipitously found out that it’s the same chant that Duruflé used in his Requiem), and was struck again by how much I love this text:

Munich (München)

In paradisum deducant te angeli,
in tuo adventu
suscipiant te martyres,
et perducant te
in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus angelorum te suscipiat,
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.

May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs receive you
in your coming,
and may they guide you
into the holy city, Jerusalem.
May the chorus of angels receive you
and with Lazarus once poor
may you have eternal rest.

When we met with John Rutter I had the opportunity to ask him a question: “When you don’t have the pressure of a commission and you have the freedom to write for yourself, what inspires you to write?”  His answer was quite enlightening:  He said that he couldn’t compose “in a vacuum,” or writing a piece for the sake of writing it, but that he had to have some sort of purpose or direction.  He usually writes a piece for a friend or loved one, or an ensemble that has some sort of hole in their programming.  He might have a friend call and say, “we have a ten minute gap in this album and we’d like you to fill it.  Our resources are these…”  That’s how many of his pieces are written.

I’ve thought about this a good deal, because even though I agree with Mr. Rutter for the most part, this is how the majority of my pieces are written.  I write for the sake of writing quite a lot.  I have no idea if I’ll hear the pieces I write, let alone when.  When I wrote “Midnight Clear,” I had no idea at that time that Dr. Staheli would like it enough to put it on his Christmas program.  I got lucky there I guess, and yet, I feel that having a direction would aid me quite a bit in getting things done.

I know I’m working on a bunch of projects right now that I should really focus on finishing first, but when I find a great text, sometimes I just can’t help myself.  I’ve got some good ideas and the whole piece mapped out in my mind pretty well, it’s just a matter of scrounging up some piano time wherever I can.  I’d like to write without piano, but for some of this music, it’s just too much for my poor-atrophying-vacation-focused-mind.  Maybe when I’m older.

St. Paul's Cathedral after the London blitz

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