Monday, 2 July 2012

The Rebel Chorus

It's very rare for me to forget to write this blog. I suppose my only excuse is that yesterday went by at lightning speed and didn't offer up a single opportunity to take stock. I was like a machine from start to finish!

We spent the day at The Pool studios in Bermondsey, a fabulous rabbit warren of a place, filled with intriguing musical instruments. It was the turn of the Rebel Chorus to lay down half of their tracks on the Requiem recording.  The day, however, started with my mother, whom I've asked to sing a little cameo vocal in the Gradual, which is the third movement of the piece. The requiem features gravestone inscriptions from Londoners of every conceivable religious and cultural background. Some of the messages are deeply heartfelt, and hugely personal and it's important for me that they're represented by a large variety of singing voices. I asked my mother to sing some of the words written on the grave of a first world war solider. The words are obviously written from the perspective of the lad's mother and so my own mother felt like the perfect choice to perform them.

I was incredibly proud of her. She sang beautifully. It struck me that she sounds a little bit like a cross between Lana Del Ray and Marlene Dietrich, which is pretty cool all things considered. 

The choir arrived at noon, many of them bringing cakes and things to share. We've become a little family. We hit the ground running, but took an obscenely long time to record the first movement, The Introit. I suspect there were many reasons for this. It's one of the longest movements, and the choir know it well, but we've always rehearsed the 7/8 sections at a slightly faster tempo. The choir were also getting used to the hugely alien environment of a recording studio; trying to lock in with each others' sounds, whilst wearing headphones and hearing click tracks in their ears. 

From then on it became relatively plain-sailing and the mysteries and joys of five of the movements were slowly unlocked. Sometimes, particularly when listening to the Gradual, I found myself overcome with emotion. We finished the day with everyone listening to that particular movement, which ends with the dignified and deeply affecting vocal of Sir Arnold Wesker. Nathan tells me there were tears from the choir. I tried to be brave! 

The immediate aftermath of the  rehearsal became phone-gate, with first Nathan losing his and then Abbie leaving her's in our car on the way home. Julie eventually found Nathan's in her bag. It was close to midnight before we got home. 

Pepys spent the day 350 years (and one day) ago paying off the sailors from the ships of the flotilla who'd brought Queen Catherine de Breganza from Portugal to the UK. There was some dispute as to the class of vessel each of the ships belonged to, which apparently had a bearing on how much money various officers could expect to be paid. A compromise was reached until Lord Sandwich could get the answers they needed from the king.   Pepys met up with an old friend from his sea voyage to Holland in early 1660. The two men discussed mathematics, which Pepys knew very little about. In true Pepysian style, he immediately booked himself a series of lessons with the man to start the following week.

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