This week we should have been in the final preparations for a concert on Saturday. It would have been the B minor Mass by Bach. We will be listening to this recorded performance sometime on Saturday. (I would love to have the confidence to conduct from memory!)
At this time of year our thoughts turn to remembering departed loved ones (All Saints, All Souls, Remembrance etc.) so this week we are looking at a movement of the Requiem by Fauré. Hold in your thoughts Christine Franks (wife of Terry Franks, one time chairman of the Society) who died this week.
Last Saturday we watched on BBC a broadcast from The Coliseum, London of the Mozart Requiem. You can catch it on iPlayer, it is well worth watching to see how professionals cope with social distancing and encouraging that one day we can get back to performing.
In this week’s technical work we are focussing on Breathing. Experienced singing teachers tell me that most vocal problems are solved by correcting posture or breathing so it is very important. Here is the video, please watch.
Fauré is my favourite setting of the Requiem. It is the first major work that I remember singing at the age of 9 with the school choir; conducted by Kenneth Beard with Don Fox playing the organ and my father singing the solos. I have sung the Pie Jesu as a treble, all four parts of the chorus, conducted it several times and played the accompaniment on the piano. I particularly remember the “come and sing” performance that we hosted to raise money for the victims of the Boxing Day Tsunami several years ago.
It was quite an early work of Fauré’s. The composer said of the work, “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.” He told an interviewer, “It has been said that my Requiem does not express the fear of death and someone has called it a lullaby of death. But it is thus that I see death: as a happy deliverance, an aspiration towards happiness above, rather than as a painful experience. The music of Gounod has been criticised for its inclination towards human tenderness. But his nature predisposed him to feel this way: religious emotion took this form inside him. Is it not necessary to accept the artist’s nature? As to my Requiem, perhaps I have also instinctively sought to escape from what is thought right and proper, after all the years of accompanying burial services on the organ! I know it all by heart. I wanted to write something different.”
I have selected a performance with French performers for you to listen to. Please listen carefully to the Latin pronunciation; the French have a slightly differing approach to the “e” and “u” vowels and some of the voiced consonants. The Agnus Dei is at 22′ 36″. It is, however, worth listening to the whole performance – it is very good.
Here is my rehearsal video