On Saturday, I went down to Lancing in West Sussex to play my double bass again. This time, I was playing for the Worthing Choral Society, under the direction of the wonderful Aedan Kearney. I have played for Aedan before, several times whilst he was still teaching at Boundstone College, but now he has been retired for two years, he has been pulling me in for other groups. I don’t think I’ve played for WCS before, but I very much enjoyed it.
However, the venue was familiar to me: St Michael & All Angels is a cute little church, with a public car park across the road: a nightmare to get the car in, because the entrance is dangerously narrow (many streaks of car paint on either wall, but my mum has amazing spatial awareness). What we also remembered from our last visit to St Michael’s is the fantastic pizza shop within spitting distance of the church, so dinner was sorted (I had a kebab, but that’s not the point).
The bass parts were a bit more challenging than last week: I find this with classical music from the Classical period (you’ll have to look that up if you’re not musicky), because composers tend to just lump the bass with the ‘cello, not realising that the two instruments simply do not function in the same way. Last week’s Baroque programme had more suitable parts for the bass, but that’s the luck of the draw. I made a few boo-boos, but nothing terribly noticeable, especially as the choir made a couple of boo-boos themselves. That sounds cruel, and don’t get me wrong: WSC are a great choir, but not the most professional I’ve ever played for. Notably, the sopranos were not quite reaching their top notes, their was a gradual flattening of pitch through quite a few passages, and there was the “heads in copies” phenomenon, which meant that the tempo of the choir didn’t always match the tempo of the conductor.
Non-music related gripes: one choir member fumble with a packet of tissues during the soprano soloist’s incredibly quiet Laudete Dominum. Also, all the ladies in the choir brought their handbags on stage with them, which looked really messy. And finally, during the rehearsal, when my bass was lying on the floor and I was sitting down nearby, one lady thought it’d be ok to step over the bass’ neck, rather than going around it: any bass player will tell you this is a CARDINAL SIN. She would be crying all the way to the bank if she’d kicked it over, because she would be paying for the repairs. And the worst thing was that she ignored me when I asked her NOT to do it. Hmm.
OK, let’s put that aside for the time being, and turn to the programme: Mozart’s “Vesperae solennes de confessore” and Haydn’s “Nelson Mass”. Neither works I’ve played before, but both challenged me and I enjoyed them. There was a particular passage in the Haydn that the viola, ‘cello and bass get to play in unison, which is very twee but good fun, and I could see Russ (the viola player, who I keep bumping in to all over Sussex) grinning at this musical joke.
The concert itself was very enjoyable – not moving like the concert last week, but a fun romp through some strong tunes. It is always a pleasure to play under Aedan, and the assembled orchestra were fantastic, so it was an honour to play with them. I hope to be down in Lancing again, because there is a lovely sense of community amongst this group. There was a great audience turn out, and they all seemed to enjoy the performance. So my thanks and congratulations to Aedan and the WCS!
N.B. my mum’s doggy really enjoyed her walk on the beach. Bonus.
Wow, someone’s had a busy week. Came to a lovely end with the above concert in Hastings. I was really looking forward to this: I love the intimacy of Baroque music (an orchestra of around a dozen players) and it’s been ages since I actually played the bass. Unfortunately, what I didn’t realise is that it takes about 2.5 hours to get from my door to Hastings by train. Annoying on the way there, but exhausting on the way back: I had arranged for Ben to pick me up from Clapham Junction at 11:40pm, but unfortunately I fell asleep and had to phone him sheepishly from Victoria. But worry not: I got home, had a cup of tea and then slept in until 10am.
But back to the concert. I have played for Hastings Philharmonic Choir once before (in the White Rock theatre), so I knew that they were of a high standard, and that their conductor (the delightful and talented Hilary Davan Wetton) takes no prisoners. What I didn’t know was that St. Mary in the Castle is such an unusual and suitable venue to play in.
The entrance to the place is set on the roadside there at the bottom, between a chip shop and a gift shop. When we arrived, I wasn’t even sure it was the right place. But you go in, towards the back (and into the cliff face, I suspect) and up a spiral staircase (tricky with a double bass) and suddenly you are in a generously sized concert auditorium.
We played quite a short concert (starting at 7:30 and finishing just after 9, with a 20 minute interval) but it was beautifully put together, finishing with a clean performance of Vivaldi’s “Gloria”. With the choir, we also did a few Handel anthems and some Pergolesi. The orchestra got their chance to shine on their own as well, starting the concert with a beautiful Purcell piece and later, Bach’s famous “Air on a G String”.
As always, there were a few familiar faces (wherever I play in Sussex, I always seem to bump into a few people I know) and it was a pleasure to play with such talented musicians. Whilst it’s a long way to go, it’s always very much worth it. Plus, it keeps my musical mind working hard – the bass continuos of Baroque music are perfect for technical practice!
Image credits: Concert flyer from HPC, exterior of St Mary in the Castle from Wikipedia, the rest are mine
November 14, 2010 | Categories: jobs, music, Sussex | Tags: art, Bach, baroque, classical, double bass, excitement, fish and chips, Handel, Hastings, mum, music, Pergolesi, Purcell, sociable, Sussex, Vivaldi | 5 Comments »