Sunday, May 23, 2010

new music

Friday was exciting and good, but not as I entirely expected it would be. The early morning did not equal fun. The group departing for a day off in Brighton, we had almost two days free, made every noise possible as they departed. We heard discussions of The Fantastic Mr. Fox and why people weren’t ready to depart in very loud tones, all before 7 AM.

The actual morning brought joy as I (with Emilie Gardner and Heather Faerber) met Ceri Benson (now in England on her world tour) and her sisters, Aubrey and Rachel, to have breakfast. We met up at the base of the Albert Memorial and then wandered towards the South Kensington tube stop to find a place to eat. I had a Belgian waffle with fruit on top that was really good; there was a sweet, grainy flavor about it that I’ve not had before. It was fun to see Ceri in London and to talk with Aubrey about school opportunities in the UK.

Afterwards, I headed home to regroup with Jake. We left for the Victoria and Albert Museum. The discoveries were good, but nothing earth-shattering. When it was about time, I headed back to the Hyde Park Chapel (it is right next door) to practice on the organ. But when I got there, it looked suspiciously like a wedding in the works. So, I found Sister Field and learned that was the case. I got rescheduled for Saturday. I can do that, but it wasn’t my plan; oh well.

I returned to the museum and eventually met back with Jake. He told me there was an incredible room that I had to see. We headed there on our way out. Boy, was he right; I walked into a room that had both Davids, Moses, two Captives, and Trajan’s Column! AMAZING! During the 19th century, the museum sent out crews and worked with foreign governments to obtain various casts of famous statues. These allowed artists to study from all the masters, while staying in London. It was an incredible sight. Another important and interesting bit of knowledge: since the casts were made, some of the original works have been destroyed, so the only copy is in the V&A.

Jake and I headed over to the West End for dinner and a show when we tired of walking around. We had fish and chips at a fun little cafe; nothing incredible, but a decent price and taste. I’d go back. We got to the box office, only to find out that we couldn’t get student concessions on the 8:30 PM performance. Obviously, by that time, we were too late to try for any other shows (most start at 7:30 PM). We wandered through a few movie theatres, thinking a movie might be a good alternative. We were mistaken. Well, perhaps not, but the prices chased us away. I do not feel that movies are worth £14. (And that is just in standard seats. Yes, there are different grades of movie theatre seats here.) After looking around Leicester Square, the decision was made to go home. Funny to be home before 9 PM on a Friday night, yes. But it was nice to be at home when it was quiet.

Yesterday morning I took my time. Nothing was scheduled until my organ practice, so I relaxed. It felt amazing to be almost free of a schedule. When I got to the church, I got the key and practiced for just over an hour. My hands were stiff, but it was very good to practice. I remembered the Brahms really well, so I’m guessing that my “tried and true” pieces will come back quickly. The Mendelssohn 4th movement was more of a challenge, since I’ve not finished learning, let alone polishing, it. In other words, it will likely be a struggle to finish learning it and the last bit of the Bach 3rd movement. It will all work out, though, it always does when I am willing to work hard.

Afterwards, Jake and I headed to the British Library. Everyone else discovered new plans, so we were the only ones. The exhibits were nice, but small. It felt good to have seen most everything the place had to offer in about 2 hours. Seeing the Magna Charta, Beatles manuscripts, Beethoven’s tuning fork, and Handel’s Messiah manuscript within the same room was incredible. We saw lots of people working on homework there, so we imagined that lots of London university students use the extensive national library to do big research projects. Not a bad idea.

We then dashed over to the British Museum for a bit before dinner. On the way we passed through King’s Cross Station and saw Platform 9 ¾. Touristy, yes, but essential. We mainly saw the Egyptian rooms once we got to the Museum. Of course, that meant we saw the Rosetta stone. It angered me to see everyone and their brother touching the artifacts, however. Apparently “No Touching” means something different here… Anyway, the worst part was getting kicked out of the rooms within 30 minutes of being there. Granted, we were still a few minutes late to dinner with Phil, but the map gave us museum hours that didn’t include which rooms close early. We found out the hard way that the Egyptian rooms are among them! I don’t know why they bother to stay open later if you can’t see any of the ancient civilization rooms. (And who knows how many others they close early…) Well, I’ll go back, that’s for sure. “Always leave them wanting more.”

We did get over to Sloane Square a bit late, but Phil was just arriving himself, due to all the weekend Tube delays. Dinner at the Trafalgar was wonderful, as usual. We then caught the bus back to Cadogen Hall for the evening’s concert. I don’t know where to begin with that concert of the Ealing Choral Society. The way they talked about themselves in the program, you would think they were the rising stars in community choral music. Far from the truth.

Their program was too much for them. They were singing difficult literature, very muddily. When the conductor tried to change tempi, the choir refused to move. That was likely due to all eyes being glued to scores. While that is not necessarily the key indicator of too difficult of a program, the fact that intonation was all over the place certainly indicates this.

Another difficulty arose from the number of singers. There were less 1st and 2nd tenors than 2nd altos. The tenors knew this, at least subconsciously, and sang with (too much) gusto; so much pushed sound. Also a major factor, vocalist age; a lot of the choir was old and had difficulty singing with the agility necessary to sing the pieces we heard.

As a funny side not from the concert, Jake pointed out a man seated below that looked like he wasn’t wearing any pants. It turns out that he was wearing shorts, but they were pretty short...

Today was wonderful in many ways. We heard some great music and saw amazing sights. I made it to the family ward meetings at 9 AM. The difficulty was the temperature in the chapel; they don’t believe in air conditioning here. Oh, the room was warm and I can’t imagine how warm it was by the afternoon meetings!

After sacrament meeting, I dashed by the flat and on to the tube to get to the St. Paul’s Cathedral service. I thought it was at 11 AM, and was unhappy that so much of the tube was shut down, making me late. It turns out that the service started at 11:30, so I made it with a few minutes to spare and found a seat up front next to other BYU folks that made it earlier. The room was incredible, and the way the sun shone through the windows was impressive. However, the music composed for the service was not good. It was a premiere of a new mass by a current British composer. I remember the discussion we had in Organ Pedagogy this past semester about what makes music “good.” We were very careful to not be narrow-minded and to set up general principles. One of those principles that I feel is 100% necessary is: does the piece fulfill its purpose? The mass did not fulfill its purpose. This mass was commissioned to be sung in a service, not a concert hall. Therefore, the audience will be standing for much of the singing due to Anglican service tradition. This means that a movement should not last forever, otherwise the audience is only thinking about how tired their feet are.

It didn’t help that the music sounded strange. That was not (specifically) a principle we discussed this past semester. (Though the good melody rule we established was probably broken…) However, I went into the service aware that it was a modern music premiere. With that knowledge and my “music world” background, I still felt confused and awkward. How did the audience member feel that walked in off of the street to experience a service at the cathedral as part of their touristy London experience? I’ll answer that for you. They thought it was rubbish.

I won’t go so far as to call it rubbish. There were forms and patterns. However, I do stand by my original stance that it was not good music. At least I got to participate in a service there.

After that, I headed home and enjoyed lunch and a nap. After the nap, I did some journaling until it was time to go to the 6:30 evensong service at St. Bartholomew-the-Great. The building was very old and they used incense for the service. It had a much older feel than any other services we’ve attended. At times, some of the men sang with a swallowed sound, but the choir sounded whole and unified. I loved their sound. It would be fun to go back sometime.

Emily and I rode back to the flats after the service ended and grabbed a bite to eat on the way. She took me to her favorite pancake place here — wow. WOW! I’ve never really had savoury pancakes, but I can’t wait to go back. A pancake with ham, bacon, peppers, mushrooms...delicious! And the dessert pancake with pears and cinnamon was divine. I’ve never seen such things in the US, but we should figure it out.

It looks like a few of us will be taking a temple trip this Friday. I hope it is able to go through. I really need to go, I miss it so much. There is no denying that returning to work at the temple in the fall will be a blessing. But in the meantime, a visit to the temple here when I can will have to suffice. All in all, life is good. Life is great.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you are taking every advantage to see what you can in London, I would love to see the sculptures you talked about. And enjoy the London temple, I know it's the same everywhere, but a little international flair adds some reality to us all being 'brothers and sisters'. So good to keep up with you at least a little through this blog, thanks Jonathan.