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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

England Study Tour 1975 - 9

Monday, June 23
I'd introduced Bob to Roy Wales, so the tour included some things at the University of Warwick, where Roy was teaching at the time.
Sightseeing in Ely and Coventry -- Ely's Cathedral is fascinating, especially the "octagon" suspended up in the center of the Cathedral -- I would have liked to see them do that! -- we just went to the hotel in Coventry before going out to Warwick to meet with Roy Wales -- Roy showed us all the campus, we had a very nice dinner -- afterwards we went to the piano teacher's house (very modern, but nice with a swimming pool) for a soiree/party -- the evening was extremely enjoyable, but the real highlight was the Fitzwilliam String Quartet -- they are the resident quartet at Warwick, having held a similar position at York the year before -- the quartet has a close connection with Shostakovich and has done the premieres of his last three quartets -- they talked about Shostakovich and then played the 15th for us, which was really marvelous -- they are all very young and very good -- the first and second violinists have been with the quartet only this year -- they will all be going to Russia next fall to meet and work with Shostakovitch for about a week -- this was just another of the marvelous, unexpected, un-duplicatable experiences we have had on the trip.

Tuesday, June 24
We looked over Coventry Cathedral today before going on to Stratford -- this cathedral has more emotional impact for me than all the others we have seen thus far -- the bombed out cathedral and the new building together create quite an effect -- the new building is by far the most impressive contemporary church I have ever seen -- it is extremely beautiful, with much beautiful and striking contemporary art -- see it has intensified my feelings about Britten's War Requiem [which was written for and premiered at the Cathdral] -- it must have been tremendously moving in that building -- I hope the Winchester performance, if we get to go, is good [I was able to conduct the War Requiem at PLU in 1987--a great experience--and my choir then toured England in 1988, including a concert at Coventry--for those students who performed the War Requiem the year before, it was an extraordinary emotional experience]

Stratford is a nice city (or town--whatever) -- pretty, looks like it really appeals to the tourists -- the play (Henry IV, part II) was good -- Falstaff, particularly, was excellent -- I don't know if I'm really crazy about the play itself, however -- I was also much more impressed by the Ashland [Shakespeare Festival] productions I saw than this one -- for one thing, I really enjoy watching the plays in an Elizabethan theatre -- the other part may simply have been the initial problem of getting used to/understanding the English accents -- an enjoyable evening, however.

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