I have been visiting New Haven, Connecticut for the American premiere of In the Land of Uz, performed by Yale Schola Cantorum under our own David Hill, who has a part time appointment at the University’s Institute of Sacred Music. I’m not surprised that David makes the time to travel regularly to work with this generous institution and excellent choral ensemble.
The singers are all current students, but of many subjects. A number are studying choral conducting, which the Institute thoroughly covers alongside academic learning. Likewise, it sponsors the work of student organists. As so often mentioned on this blog, it’s organists doubling as choral directors who keep music going in our western world, especially in non-urban areas. But in the UK there’s little specific training for these disciplines; they’re pretty marginal in the music colleges, and the universities who so much rely on this form of expert student labour mostly have a ‘sink or swim’ attitude. And why do we automatically expect a brilliant organist to feel easy in a people-person type role organising choirs? So, it was rather great to spend just one week in an institution which has this subject thoroughly in hand.
In another sign of being unusually joined up, Yale University organised a symposium about the Book of Job prior to the performance, which I wish I could have gone to before I started to set big chunks of this text to music in 'Uz'. A biblical scholar argued that the Book is a piece of wisdom literature, an art historian pointed out that the few representations of Job show him scantily clad (making his famous boils more visible) and an English prof suggested that Satan eventually wins his bet with God (Job 1:6-12). A sizeable audience turned up to hear us in Yale’s University Library, thanks to some heroic handbill posting all over town. I loved seeing the handbill soup on many noticeboards (pictured): “Yale Student Salsa Society”, “Mardi Gras”, “Hands off Venezuela!”