It's Canada Day across the country today, and Moving Day here in Quebec: chaos that has to be seen to be believed. On the bike ride up to the studio this morning we passed every size and shape of moving vans and trucks, plus people loading their stuff onto bike trailers, or simply walking down the street carrying as many clothes on hangers as they could manage, presumably for a move to a new apartment around the corner.
As for me, I feel pretty much like I've been run over by one of those trucks -- well, not really, but I'm still beat from yesterday, which was our last full choir Sunday of the year. It began at 9:00 am with rehearsal for the 10:00 mass, and wasn't over until 7:30 pm, the end of our annual post-Evensong choir party.
In the morning we sang the Brief Mass by Dan Locklair, a not-so-brief mass setting for double choir by talented contemporary composer who writes pieces that are very interesting and demanding rhythmically, and also vocally challenging, especially if you happen to be a soprano. We sang the Sanctus split into two choirs on either side of the chancel, with the priests in the center at the altar; this the most ancient part of the mass; the words of the Sanctus, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts..." which may go back as far as 200 A.D.; it's said or sung just before the consecration of the bread and wine. Yesterday they were sung on a series of sustained high As, by both soprano sections, but at different times, so the sounds need not only to be in perfect unison, but to match. It's one thing if you're a 1st soprano, but our half of the double choir is made up of three 2nd sopranos -- and that's asking a lot! But afterward the clergy told us that the Sanctus was an amazing moment for them.
At the party, the Dean described this particular afternoon service of Evensong as "completely over the top" and I think we'd all agree; Patrick had chosen a number of "big" English pieces to end the year, including How Beauteous Are the Feet by Charles Villiers Stanford, the Magnificat and NuncDimittis by Francis Jackson, and the lush and grandiose Evening Hymn of Balfour Gardiner. We ended with our traditional last-day hymn, "How Can I Keep from Singing," an early American tune. If you'd like to listen, I've included links here to a recording of the Evening Hymn sung by the Worcester Cathedral choir, and the magnificant organ postlude, "Play skillfully with a loud noise" (Psalm 33), by one of my favorite composers, Herbert Howells, played here by Hayo Boerema.
We also said goodbye to three of our pros who are moving on to other parts of their careers, including my close friend Cynthia, who's been the 2nd soprano soloist sung with the choir for at least 20 years. It's bittersweet: I'm happy for her that she'll have more time with her family now and be able to sing in other venues; this job requires a huge commitment of time and preparation; it's nerve-wracking and demanding, for not a great deal of remuneration -- so all of us, including the pros, do it for love of music and the challenge of the repertoire. When you sing next to someone every week for years, it's a pretty intimate relationship, and if they are a terrific singer and musician, as she is, you also learn a lot. So I'm extremely grateful to her, and will miss her very much, but she promises to come back as a sub from time to tie, and I'm sure we'll keep in touch.
So, in a way, I guess that's my "moving day" story for 2013 -- not a physical move involving refrigerators and wardrobes, but a definite change from a familiar and comfortable place into something that will be new and different. It makes me think about those two quite different, but related, meanings of the word "moving." When I look back on my musical life, there've been quite a few of those, sometimes involving me moving on to someplace new, sometimes involving the move or loss of a teacher or close friend. I really cherish those relationships with both people and groups, and am so grateful for them; they've had a lot to do with who I am and contain some of my happiest memories.
- My life flows on in endless song;
- Above earth's lamentation,
- I hear the sweet, tho' far-off hymn
- That hails a new creation;
- Thro' all the tumult and the strife
- I hear the music ringing;
- It finds an echo in my soul—
- How can I keep from singing?
- My life flows on in endless song;