Friday, 19 September 2008
Not the Last Night of the Proms
Having been asked - weeks ago - to compile a list of films for the Gadjo Dilo film festival (Dilo, CB1 - one 'd') and failed miserably, I've jumped on the favourite music bandwagon. Here's an eclectic list of choral masterworks, if ever there was one.
First, Dream of Gerontius. I know, I know - it 'stinks of incense'. And nobody believes in God any more. But nobody believes in Wotan, Loki, Thor and all the other inhabitants of Valhalla; nor did they when Wagner set them all to music, and that doesn't make the Ring any less impressive. Anyway, Elgar, and the Dream. Elgar had a habit of setting bad words, so I'm not allowing that to count against him, either. And besides, he wasn't the only one - Walt Whitman, for goodness sake? What were you thinking of Vaughan-Williams et al? But the real reason Elgar's masterpiece is number one is this: I've sung it, many times. Why, I even find I have recorded it! Of course, what I mean is, if you're lucky and your hi-fi is absolutely bloody brilliant, you'll hear me singing slightly flat in amongst the other thousands of basses. We (the Liverpool Phil) joined forces with the Huddersfield Choral Soc for God's sake!
I always fancied being a classical musician; I played the double-bass once, but gave that up at the same time as I gave up going to school. So sitting behind a real, live professional orchestra, watching them make an enormous din in something like the Elgar, then making an even bigger din yourself and getting the applause (and record contracts) on the back of the hard work of the real musicians, people paid to play, people who practised when they should have been out playing football or cricket and are now so good they can sit and flick through car mags in their 125-bar rests before picking up their trumpet (it was always the brass) and nonchalantly playing a solo phrase to musical perfection, or people who use the interval bell as their cue to order one more round of drinks (brass, again) well... it was a huge thrill. And never more so than when singing this.