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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

All change at CEFC

I spent a pleasant couple of hours last night at Sosta's in Crouch End with Liz Sich (outgoing chair of Crouch End Festival Chorus) and Pinky Millward (incoming Deputy Chair). We pretty much completed the handover of jobs from Liz, and also discussed responsibilities on the chorus's Management Committee in some detail. The idea is to tighten up our procedures this year and make every activity performed in support of the chorus the responsibility of one (and only one) member of the committee. There have always been one or two things that seem to have fallen down the cracks, so hopefully the changes should help us to appear even more streamlined and professional to our members and external partners.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Elijah

On Saturday night I joined Hertfordshire Chorus to sing one of my favourite 19th century oratorios - Mendelssohn's Elijah at St Alban's abbey. Mendelssohn was a great admirer of Bach, and applied the structural and stylistic example of the Bach Passions to this Old Testament story. Unlike much of the turgid large-scale choral music of the period, Mendelssohn's work is alive with vibrancy and passion, and the sheer inventiveness of the music is sometimes simply unbelievable. The chorus was fortunate to have an excellent line-up of soloists, led by Graeme Danby in the title role, along with Nick Turner's London Orchestra da Camera. The concert was conducted by David Temple, who also directs Crouch End Festival Chorus.

I had a great time, and the chorus made me feel very welcome - I had a wonderful lunch with a dozen or so of them in Zizzi's in St Alban's between the rehearsal and the concert. The evening itself went very well, Hertfordshire Chorus rising to the occasion and the stunning venue with some truly breath-taking singing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A new patron

I'm very pleased to report than Ennio Morricone has agreed to become Crouch End Festival Chorus's newest patron.

Tension of Opposites

I've blogged a couple of times here about a major commission project which Crouch End Festival Chorus is planning for 2008. The piece is Tension of Opposites by Matthew Ferraro, a film composer whose credits include Tom Cruise's Minority Report and Futurama. 'Tension of Opposites' is a phrase coined by Karl Jung, and refers to the inherent conflict between opposing forces within the human psyche, which can lead either to development and growth or to self-destruction. The work deals with oppositions such as those between faith and belief, old and young, man and the environment, and is scored for large chorus, orchestra and a collection of pre-recorded tracks which include readings from more than 30 texts of the world's major religions, and interviews with eye witnesses and fire-fighters on 9/11.

CEFC is planning to give the world premiere of the work sometime in 2008. As well as the concert itself, the intention is to work with an educational organisation to develop a multimedia tool (to include a recording of the first performance) that can be used to engage with young people and communities in the UK and America. We are also pursuing the possibility of the chorus giving the American premiere, possibly in New York.

On Thursday last week, David Temple, Matthew Ferraro, Andy Beer (a sound engineer who sings in the chorus) and I met up at a sound studio in London's West End to listen to some of the pre-recorded material. We are priveledged to be working with a couple of the world's leading film and TV sound engineers, one of whom designed the sound installation for Bruce Nauman's Raw Materials installation in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. It was very exciting to get our first impressions of what just one component of the finished work might sound like. The material was still very 'raw': over the next couple of weeks Matthew will be working with his engineers to remix and 'sweeten' the recordings so that they will blend seamlessly with the chorus and orchestra.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Saeta

Yesterday I finally completed setting movements II and III of Saeta, a Crouch End Festival Chorus commission from 1990. I've sent a PDF of the score to the composer, Howard Haigh, and it will be interesting to get his comments back.

Meanwhile, a member of the chorus tells me that a friend of hers is working on a book about 20th century musical notation systems. She's recommended that I look at Berio's Sequenza and Ligeti's Aventure and Nouvelle aventure, as they use some interesting notations for vocal techniques. A trip to the library is called for, I think.