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Saturday, July 18, 2009

England Study Tour 1975 - 2

June 10, 1975
Sightseeing most of this day (Piccadilly, Soho, Oxford Square, Hyde Park), along with looking for music at Schott's and Boosey and Hawkes. I noted that I couldn't find much of what I wanted at Schott's (Hindemith and Tippett).

That evening I heard a concert by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with the London Symphony Orchestra Choir: Beethoven Egmont, Surinach Piano Concerto (with Alicia de Larrocha), and Carmina Burana, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos conducting. I noted that jet-lag made it hard to concentrate during the Surinach (kept nodding off), but that Carmina was a very exciting reading and that I liked de Burgos' conducting. I only noted the soprano's name, April Cantelo, and that she was fine except for the "Dulcissime," where she didn't have the top notes. Cantelo had a varied career, sang with Alfred Deller a lot, and was married for a period of time to conductor Colin Davis.

June 11
More sightseeing in the morning and the group had an interview with Roger Norrington at his home (amazing that Bob arranged this!). My notes don't say much, since I said I made a tape--I have NO idea where that went, unfortunately!--but I noted that he didn't seem to have any idea what we wanted, that he wanted to make it clear that he was not primarily a choral conductor (he was already conducting Kent Opera at this time), was very confident, and really feels he has the best choir in London. With that, I looked forward to hearing him in rehearsal with his choir the next day! I also remember him talking about the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers, which he was preparing--that he'd done what he called the "circus" version with all sorts of extra instrumental doubling, larger choir, etc., but that he'd done a tour with it in Italy with a small group of singers and instrumentalists and felt that was the way it should be done.

That evening heard a program of Spanish music from 1300 and Italian music from 1600 at the Purcell Room at the Royal Festival Hall (players not noted, but lute, recorder, flute, cello, rebec, violin, drum, and two sopranos). I said the lutenist and recorder player were excellent, but that one of the sopranos had incredible pitch problems. I thought it was in line with a very good university performance at home.

June 12
Went to two Norrington rehearsals with his Heinrich Schütz Choir (from 10 AM-1 PM and 7-10 PM). They were rehearsing the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers for a performance at the Aldeburgh Festival--these were the first and second rehearsals and the other two would be at Aldeburgh with the instrumentalists. Norrington had already mentioned that most of his singers were coming from a group of recording sessions of an opera--and that variety and flexibility were very much a part of a London free-lance singer's life. He'd also said his booker got him the top singers in London and I don't doubt that! I noted, "The singers (all pros) are incredible. Norrington likes a very aggressive sound, hard attacks. He is extremely energetic with a conducting technique that's wild, but expressive. I'd like to see him with an orchestra to see if he changes working with the instruments. The professional singers really are amazing--their ability to sight read, mark a score and then do what they have marked, and concentration ability are outstanding."

I then said that I had perhaps only two singers in my choir who could do this--but that after a month or so of the kind of schedule and demands put on these singers they'd have no problem. I then wrote more about what the possibilities might be to move my choir more in this direction--even though none of my singers would be able to sing full-time as the London singers could.

This is one of the perennial problems for a professional ensemble singer in this country: how do you make a living? How can our ensembles develop in this direction when they can't spend the amount of time singing that European professional ensembles can? It hasn't been answered yet!

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