Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rhythms, Bells, St Gallus and the Bear

After four years hanging over my head, the Mass finally premiered last night, and hanging over my head was the above: St Gallus in the company of the bear with whom he traded sandwiches for firewood, and, to continue this trope past the point of enjoyment, I woke up hung over after the free-flowing alcohol-laced VIP reception, where, just like Scrappy and his friend, we decided in our stupor to ring the doorbells and wake up the bishop but succeeded in waking only his sister as he was out "on assignment." Thank God for Europe where they still seem to sell out houses - and a mighty big House o' God in this case - for brand spanking new music and where they seem to applaud and applaud and applaud to the point of embarrassment (although this discomfort is one with which my vanitas can well live). Kim Brockman was the soloist and stole the show with her effortless navigation of the 23rd Psalm which, I have to say, is really just more or less in a simple 3/4, but the accompaniment tends to confuse. 

Speaking of confusion, even though over in Kyle Gann's heaven of stratospheric beauty, present concerns are partial tuplets and non-power-of-two-denominator time signatures, down here wallowing in the mud of the temporal world, I would be just a little bit happier in my insignificant existence if I could be assured of accurate non-partial tuplets and power-of-two-denominator time signatures and reliable groupings of 8ths and 16ths at moderate tempi that don't quite hit the downbeats. But the performance was lovely, and the circle of communication from composer to performer to audience and back again was closed very nicely, and I was overjoyed just to experience it all in such an over-the-top goopy-rococo environment. 

The performance was in the choir - which you can see here - using one of the two mechanically connected baroque organs. The stiff action necessitated a simplification of the faster parts of the Credo. I wrote a quick Postlude as a bit of espresso or maybe dolce to wake up the audience after a long period of contemplation of our insignificance and the certain oncoming freight train of death, etc, but it turned out that even my delightful insouciance was a bit beyond the very limited rehearsal time for Willibald, so we had to cut the (as I call it) Terry Riley section, that with one meter for each limb (although really two are in the right hand and one is split between the feet), but as to the remainder, as Duncan put it, Willibald hit it.

The best part of performing in the Dom Kathedral is that, every fifteen minutes, there is a small but very clear bell part added to the piece, almost always in just the perfect place, so much better than the added ambulance sirens of my mostly urban performances, and in fact I herewith formally add the instruction to the score: play a clock chime or two or maybe even a few more every fifteen minutes starting at a random time offset (well, actually at five minutes before the quarter hour marks as we need to give the brothers time to dust off the knees of their robes and get themselves to tend the radish garden or whatever) and please don't be stopped by the fact that the soprano is just now putting herself in the proper mood for her emotive solo or the fact that the music is really really really quiet, OK?

(photo by Lynne)
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