Entering Holy Trinity Church to the strains of Vaughan Williams’ Tallis Fantasia has to be the most wonderful start to the day (reminding me, coincidentally, of walking through the chapel of St John’s College, Cambridge, many, many years ago, surrounded on all sides by a hidden rehearsal of the latter’s awe-inspiring Spem in Alium…) – haunting moments, both: which saturate the soul in blessedness. That this was soon followed by Tamsin’s plangent rendering of the opening of the former’s The Lark Ascending – reverberating gently around these hallowed walls, before climbing heavenwards – heaped perfection upon glorious perfection. It is a privilege to witness such wonderments being practised so perfectly… – being the Orchestra of the Swan’s Writer in Residence has so many rewards.
The largest of these, by far, has been observing the progress of Dobrinka’s Immortal Shakespeare ‘from page to stage’ – and this is the day it all comes together. As always, additional members of the orchestra appear (including a plethora of percussion) during the first break – as Tamsin runs through a few key phrases with David (looking unusually tense); and the Radio 3 engineers perform similar feats of fine-tuning. [I am inspired by those practising throughout this informal interval to compose a quartet for harp, temple blocks, vibraphone and trumpet!] Others take advantage of the on-tap tea, coffee and Paolo-provided sandwiches.
Because of the presence of the BBC, everything feels a little more pressured than the previous rehearsal – but there are still smiles, hugs and friendly chats aplenty (one of the many happy trademarks of this extended family). But then, the orchestra re-forms; and magic commences: as they run through the first four movements (and Prelude) sans choir.
The sun breaks through. The music is wonderful – no more needs be said… – and by the end of Never doubt I love the Orchestra of the Swan’s Writer in Residence is weeping into his score. [When this is repeated, shortly afterwards, with the voices added, its power is tumultuous and unquenchable. (I know I have stated several times that I do not want a funeral – but can I at least have this played, please, as my ashes are scattered on the Avon? Thank you.)]
At the lunch-break, I talk to Dobrinka (above, with trumpeter Hugh) about how wondrous the day is becoming (whilst David chats with Suzzie, who has rehearsed the chorus to startling effect) – and she admits that she is slightly removed from the reality of it all: overwhelmed that her composition is coming to life before her eyes and ears – and so marvellously. (As she said, when we talked before: “It takes such effort to bring a piece into the world: it is therefore very important that it is performed.”)
Of course she is nervous – as I am for her. But there is a glow of achievement and love – for her creation; for those bringing it so beautifully into the world. We all crave perfection; and it is already rapidly emerging – these are the forces any composer would trust to deliver something so precious; render it so positive and tangible.
That her music seems so at home, here, in this historic place, attests to her sensibilities; her innate understanding of the moment; her recognition of its significance. This is (going to be) a great day!