I have spent an enjoyable year as associate composer with the Addison Singers, who are in fact three, sometimes, intersecting, choirs based in West London. David Wordsworth has conducted them for over twenty years. He’s one of the great polymaths of our music scene, at one moment sorting out some knotty contemporary music issue as a presenter, writer, publisher, agent; and then there he is (as on this evening) conducting a large, cheery multitude in Carmina Burana.
On this occasion David did me the particular favour of resurrecting Stars, Night, Music and Light, my largest ever work (in terms of performer numbers – though there’s only four minutes of it.) I wrote this for the opening of the 2011 Proms. Roger Wright, then the Proms director, simply instructed me to “write something loud” and I did my best with a huge orchestra, grand organ and several choruses who happened to be in the Albert Hall that evening.
I wasn’t able to attend that world premiere, being out in Bregenz for an opera world premiere at the same time. But my impression in the end was that 'Stars,Night...' didn’t sound loud enough, despite being marked ff, fff, and other dynamics I rarely use. David however, rewrote the accompaniment for two pianos and three timpani, an ensemble which (as I learned for the first time on this evening) Carl Orff had himself used for a now popular rewrite of Carmina Burana. Incredibly, with these ‘minimal’ forces, my score at last seemed to gain true loudness, especially in the Abbey-sized vault of St Peter’s Acton Green. How did that happen? Perhaps the instruments in the full-sized version were all masking each other acoustically? Perhaps it was the Albert Hall’s fault? I of course was simply glad that a forward path for this short work seemed to be opening up.
Concert interval photo by Suzanne Jansen.