Monday, 9 July 2012

Poets, princes, press, processions and pride.

Well that was a day! I've had a work premiered by 600 singers, climbed to the top of York Minster for a TV interview and met a Prince! It's not often you get a chance to do any one of those things, let alone all three. 

The day started bright and early at the mysteriously named Eye of York, the final destination of the Ebor Vox composition, where scores of people wearing long shorts and tool belts were rigging stacks of speakers and finding ingenious ways of displaying pieces of art which all said York 800. 

Edward and Sascha swung by, and with Nathan, we climbed up to the top of Clifford's Tower. It was the first time I'd been up there since I was a student and I'd forgotten quite how good the views are. You can see all the way to the moors and across the city towards the two chocolate factories. You can also see how big triangular darts of countryside stretch almost all the way into the city centre in two or three places. It's a wonderfully green place. 

I went from Clifford's Tower to the Guildhall where I took my Mum to a fancy reception in honour of York 800, attended by Prince Andrew, Duke of York. It was a fairly surreal experience, not entirely helped by my phone ringing incredibly loudly just as the Duke started to deliver his speech, which itself was fairly odd because he delivered it holding a great big kitchen knife and went on to chop a pork pie in half to rapturous applause. 

From the Guildhall, I went to the Minster, where I met the legendary Harry Gration, presenter of BBC's Look North, who decided it would be fun to do an interview on the minster roof, before literally sprinting up the 300 steps without even breaking into a sweat. I've just googled him. He's 62 years old! What a legend! I was very touched that he remembered the Symphony for Yorkshire well enough to sing a sequence from the work mid-way through the interview! 

We came down from the minster roof and walked into a sea of people milling around, waiting for the start of the Ebor Vox experience. The crowd included Rachel, a dear friend from university, who'd brought her family. It was so lovely to see her again. 

The smooth-running of our piece was hampered rather spectacularly by the local catholic church, who decided to ring their bells just as we were about to begin. Under any other circumstance, it would have added to the atmosphere, but unfortunately, Ebor Vox was due to start with the sound of the minster's carillon, which was utterly inaudible against the churning bells. It took twenty minutes to find someone to get the ringers to take a little pause, and the piece started dangerously late as a result; dangerous, because we were due to be broadcast live on Look North. 

The carillon played and one by one members of the choir appeared from the audience, humming along to the music. A marching band of drummers kicked in and then the parade began; through the streets of York, choirs joining in at various points along the route, each new choir bringing another counter-melody to the  chant. First 100 singers, then 200, then 300, then four. 

By the time we'd reached Clifford's Tower, there were probably 500 of us, and three times that amount waking along beside us. 

At 6.52pm, we started the anthem, This York. The extraordinary Shepherd's brass band struck up, and then the amassed choirs began to sing. 500 people not taking their eyes off me, in front of them, groups of Morris dancers, and street dancers, and a group of dancers in wheel chairs, 20 foot high papier mâché puppets, and then, finally 150 school children, whose very arrival, half way through the composition, brought a round of applause. 

I conducted. We created a little piece of magic. Actually, I think we created a rather large piece of magic. 

I have been proud a great deal this summer. This has been a good year and it's felt like my life has suddenly come into colour, but today was special. I was in York, my favourite city, surrounded by friends and family. Old friends, new friends. The weather held. Everyone did their bit. Once again, I feel blessed.  350 years ago, Pepys got up at 4am to practice his multiplication tables, before retiring to his chamber with his wife to carve more holes in the wall behind his desk chair to spy on the navy office next door. 

1 comment:

  1. Benj, Monday evening was really something. Only just now reading your blog for the very first time, but it's fab! I'd love to keep in touch. Many, many congrats once again on Eborvox - what an event. Much love, Berry xxx P.S. my little girl Naomi was there, and she said "the conducting man was very happy".