Thursday, 23 September 2010


I’m really buzzing. I feel incredibly excited. I’ve just had my first rehearsal with the early music choir and it sounded incredible! I was astonished to see how well-prepared they all seemed and it was a joy to be able to work with a group who not only understood my language, but “got” what I’d written and seemed genuinely excited to be bringing it to life! We managed to sing our way through 3 of the 6 movements, and actually ended early!

Yesterday’s rehearsal with the folkers also went well. I suppose in an ideal world we’d have got through slightly more material, but what we did note-bash was well-retained by everyone at the end of the rehearsal. The five singers in that choir are all great characters who I feel are likely to get on really well. Most of them have friends from the folk circuit in common, although only two of them regularly perform together. We drank herbal tea and sat on floor cushions whilst rehearsing, and half way through, a bottle of red wine appeared and was consumed. It was a very different world to the rehearsal with the early music choir, who gathered around a piano in St Olave’s Church and went at things with a sort of intellectual vigour, thereby illustrating the joys of working with such disparate groups of people, who come at music from such wonderfully different angles. I’m looking forward to finding out what rehearsals with the opera choir with bring; cucumber sandwiches, maybe, or a room full of bowls filled with hot water for them to inhale periodically. Obviously I’m expecting the musical theatre performers to arrive on roller skates with Arlene Philipps-esque armography already mapped out...

This morning I went to the funeral of my dear friend, Raily’s Grandmother. She was called Naona; which I think is a deeply charming name and by all accounts she was a rather extraordinary woman, who once listed Noel Coward and Marilyn Monroe as close friends. The service took place at Temple Church, which is a beautiful building, best known for its appearance in the Da Vinci Code. Raily made an honest and moving speech, and my Godson, Will was well-behaved throughout. I gave him and pen and paper half way through and he drew fantastical and highly detailed pictures with a look of great concentration on his face. He calls me Uncle Ben and our friend Hilary (female) is known as Uncle Bill. The highlight was almost certainly a rendition of the slow movement from the Rodrigues Concerto de Aranjuez played by a magnificent guitarist accompanied by the church organ, which created a fascinating sound world.

The wake was in the middle temple; an area well-known to Pepys, but completely unknown to me. It’s hidden between Embankment and the Strand, and to be honest, I didn’t really know it existed. Afterwards, Uncle Bill and I took the circle line to Sloane Square and wandered around the shops. Hilary wanted to buy a jumper and we were trying to work out which palette of colours suited her best. It turns out she looks washed-out in avocado green (oddly the colour of her eyes) and brilliant in vile shades of orange. Who’d’ve thought?!

Sunday 23rd November 1660, and Elizabeth was up early to dress herself for mourning. Pepys took delivery of a “black cloth cloak to walk up and down in” fashioned by his father from a previous garment. Mourning for the Duke of Gloucester had now taken on an almost ludicrous fanaticism. Pepys went with his wife and Sir William Batten to church and they heard a good sermon made by Mr Mills. Later in the day, he met up with Mr Pierce the surgeon in Whitehall. Pierce was with his wife, “newly come forth after childbirth” and both, like the whole of London, were in mourning for the Duke.

Pepys went to Westminster Abbey in the afternoon and reported that the congregation were hugely shocked when a piece of plaster fell from the roof. Pepys left church, no doubt feeling shaken but with a renewed sense of self-righteousness in time for his planned rendezvous with Dirty Diana, who didn’t show. No doubt feeling rather disappointed he went home to find Elizabeth. Perhaps he asked her to dress up as a school girl to compensate!

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