The atmosphere in and around St Davids Cathedral is truly special and for this, my fourth visit to the town, it was no exception. Walking around all the beautiful houses in the Cathedral Close and looking at the ruins of the old Bishop’s Palace one can’t stop one’s imagination from running wild, picturing what it must have been like when, hundreds of years ago, it was full of people and activity from dawn to dusk. The gardens of the ruins would make an ideal space for an open air concert late on a summer evening… Using Path of Miracles to wander about the Cathedral gave us more chance than ever to explore different sound perspectives for the audience and a huge and enthusiastic crowd gave us a wonderfully warm reception. We were joined by the Cathedral Choir who sang beautifully and had been prepared brilliantly by their extremely talented Director of Music Oliver Waterer.
Our day of travel getting to Dortmund, with delays and, courtesy of Eurowings, dealing with lost luggage, was not one filled with glamour….Whilst it’s always lovely to travel to Germany this particular flying experience left us slightly befuddled and worried about rehearsal time being cut. However, once we arrived at the church and had sang about two chords of music, our worries quickly evaporated. The church has a stunning acoustic and the welcome from the KlangVokal Music Festival was as warm as the weather. A huge thank you to all who embraced us there. We look forward to our next visit as soon as possible!
Then over to Oxford for a concert in the church of St. John the Evangelist as part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts. I have to say that I’d never been to this church before in all the times I’ve been to Oxford over the last 35 years. It is very near to Magdalene College, but once you enter the church it has the feeling of being removed from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. The beautifully clear acoustic was ideal for the dramatic and edgy tones needed for Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories, but it also somehow managed to support the full sustained sounds required in his setting of the Requiem. It was great to catch up with two old friends whilst there. Firstly the Festival’s Director James Whitbourn, who, many years ago when I was a Lay Vicar in the choir of Westminster Abbey, used to come and deputise as a bass. And secondly, Mark Williams, now the Director of Music at Magdalen College, Oxford. His real title is typically academic and in Latin, as befits such an old and estimable establishment… It was fun to do the pre-concert talk with Mark, who himself, has such an insight into directing choirs at the very highest level. If you’re ever in Oxford, make sure you go to hear him direct the Magdalen College Choir.
And so we burst forth into July, another busy month for us with much to look forward to. A quick trip down to the beautiful countryside of Sussex for a few of us to sing a really fun programme of music put together by the finest arrangers Britain has produced over the last 50 years, including Bob Chilcott and Alexander L’Estrange, two very fine composers in their own right too of course! The concert will take place in the converted Barn of Champs Hill Folly, a magical setting that has been dedicated to music making for decades by the kind Patrons Mary and David Bowman. I’ve spent many a happy few days there working as a producer for recordings as lots of solo recital discs are made there by virtue of the clear acoustic, lovely piano and wonderfully quiet surroundings. It’ll be great to go back and see friends there. Then back to the studios of Maida Vale to complete our disc of Symphonic Psalms and Prayers with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Can’t wait. Also looking forward to going back to Tewkesbury Abbey for a performance of Path of Miracles for the Cheltenham Music Festival. This Abbey is one of the most beautiful in all of England and has one the finest acoustics to match. I sang the high C’s in a rendition of Allegri’s Miserere there once, about 40 years ago…