Monday, 15 November 2010

Raising the blinkin' roof

I ache all over. I spent this evening at St Olave's Church, conducting the first full rehearsal for the Pepys motet. The constant waving of arms can be murder for the muscles, particularly when one cannot conduct! It was a thrilling rehearsal, however. It's so inspiring to be in the church where Pepys is buried, with the statue of Elizabeth peering down. I’d say only about half of the 40 singers were there. Various people were ill and others had previously booked NA’s. But we raised the blinkin' roof! We got through the two movements we’d decided to definitely perform, and for “fun” (although it was anything but fun) staggered our way through a third, which I've now decided we'll also perform live. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet too hard, there is something about the Great Fire movement which seems to whip people up into a bit of a frenzy. Perhaps it’s the driving rhythms, or more likely, it's the glorious text. It’s a hugely complicated piece of writing, but I think it definitely falls into the type of writing that becomes fun because of its complexity. If you're prepared to put the work in, which everybody there had, it becomes rewarding. I now find myself actively looking forward to the next rehearsal, which is something I never thought I’d find myself writing! When we left the church today, I could have sworn Elizabeth's statue looked a great deal more jovial than she had done when we went in!

November 15th 1660 was a cold, cold day. Pepys took a boat to Westminster, but it was so cold on the water that after disembarking, he immediately went to a pub and treated himself to a glass of mulled wine. He went to visit Sandwich, and found Mr Child there, playing the organ that had recently been installed in the dining room. We know from a previous entry that Pepys didn't think it was an attractive organ, but we're not told how it sounded.

Elizabeth tipped up, just in time for dinner, and Pepys seemed extremely pleased that Sandwich even knew who she was, and for the first time, was treating her with respect. Small things. It's my view that you can always tell how much your friends value you by how kind they are to your family and partners, and Pepys' star was obviously still in the Sandwich ascendant. Elizabeth, who was French, proved extremely useful for Sandwich’s wife, Jemima, who’d just hired a French maid. French maids were all the rage at the time, and no upwardly mobile house was complete without one. Unfortunately, Jemima spoke no French, and her maid, not a word of English, so Elizabeth became the official translator.

In the afternoon, Pepys went to Sir William Batten’s to discover that two of his staff had got married, and, in line with the custom, Pepys threw 10s into the newlyweds' hat, writing; “I believe most of the rest did give more, and did believe that I did so too.” Tight fisted so and so...

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