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Friday, July 31, 2009

England Study Tour 1975 - 12

Sunday, June 29
High (and I mean high) Mass at Westminster Cathedral -- amazing pageantry , vestments, etc. -- music not outstanding (choir was also very far away) -- very bright boy's sound -- rather ugly building inside and out -- awful organ (tubbiest of the tubs) playing Widor Toccata as postlude

Monday, June 30
To Covent Garden for Death in Venice -- once again, due to being in the upper slips (where you could not see easily) it took me a while to get "into" the opera -- once I did, however, I thought it was fantastic -- I like the opera (and enjoyed the production) very much -- Pears is really incredible -- he's on stage practically the whole time at age 65 (we heard he turned 65 the day we were in Aldeburgh) -- he's still marvelous -- Steuart Bedford (conductor) not terribly impressive -- things occasionally got a bit away from him -- overall this was another "occasion" -- Pears will retire soon, so this may have been the last times in that role (which he fills so well) [orchestra in the pit was the English Chamber Orchestra--also in the cast were Thomas Helmsley as The Traveler, James Bowman as the Voice of Apollo]

Tuesday, July 1
In the morning we met with composer John Gardner, composer of A Latter-Day Athenian Speaks -- [Gardner is probably best-known in the US for his Christmas carol, Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day or perhaps his Five Hymns in Popular Style -- A Latter-Day Athenian Speaks is a stunning large, a cappella setting that I first heard Bob Scandrett do with his choir at Western, then got to know through the John Alldis recording (no longer available) -- I then did it with my Choir of the West at PLU in 1986 -- I'd love to do it again!] -- Gardner's still alive and (apparently) composing at age 92
The New Philharmonia Orchestra with Barenboim -- unfortunately we were very far back, so we couldn't see Barenboim too well -- Berlioz Romeo & Juliet not overly impressive -- didn't seem to hang together too well -- Overture to Coriolan -- but then Janet Baker singing Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer was outstanding -- gorgeous voice and a personality that really projects -- too bad we couldn't see her in opera or recital! [another "occasion" to hear her live]

Wednesday, July 2
We went to Winchester to hear Britten's War Requiem -- this is in part a student performance, as well as members of the Bournmouth Sinfonietta (pro) and various teachers -- combined orchestras of Bedales and Winchester College, the Bedales School Choral Society and Winchester College Glee Club, with the Winchester Cathedral Choristers (Martin Neary preparing), conducted by William Agnew and Angus Watson -- Soprano Alison Hargan, Tenor Neil Jenkins (again!), and baritone Julian Smith -- the performance overall was disappointing, largely due to our placement on the side: balances were not good (too much percussion, soloists couldn't be heard as well as they should have) -- also, the acoustic really muddled things up: in the "quam olim Abrahae" the second time around (when it was soft) you could hardly hear the individual lines -- neither of the conductors was outstanding and things did not always hang together well (ensemble problems) -- the orchestra played pretty well, with the exception of the brass, who were very disappointing -- I thought the chorus sang very well: a generally good sound, very well prepared -- even though overall disappointing, much better than a comparable student group would do here [although with the perspective of hindsight, I think our PLU production in 1987 was far better -- our University Orchestra was strong that year, with particularly good brass (and faculty additions), the professional NW Chamber Orchestra provided the chamber orchestra that accompanies the tenor and baritone soloists--I conducted the big orchestra and choir and Jerry Kracht (PLU Symphony conductor) conducted the chamber group--our soloists (Felicia Dobbs, Aelred Woodard, Robert Peterson) were superb--and the choir (my Choir of the West and Choral Union plus the University Chorale) did beautifully, as did the Northwest Boychoir under Joe Crnko -- particularly the performance at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle was outstanding, with the boys up in the gallery]

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