I'm not one of those people who thinks we can 'just move on' from the pandemic years, whose major effects on the musical community seem clearer as time progresses. It happens that a wonderful premiere I've just had - my cantata 'O sweet spontaneous earth' commissioned by West London's Addison Singers - has thoroughly reawakened my thoughts about the last three years, and formed a kind of diary about them.
I can see in my 'Addison Singers' email that in spring 2019 conductor David Wordsworth and I were already discussing the idea of a new work. By the beginning of 2020, together with publishers Wise Music, we'd signed a contract. At the beginning of April 2020, David told me "you won't be surprised to hear that all Addison rehearsals have been cancelled until September". I was actually surprised at that very early stage when, like everyone, all my concerts had been cancelled on one morning in March. A whole six months of no live music seemed like quite an over-reaction at the time, little did we know.
And so it went on. Saturday's much postponed premiere in the end represents three-and-a-half years' discussion, planning, writing, postponing and rehearsing of a twenty-minute work. What's more, it was David's last concert with the Addisons; somewhere during that long age, he had decided to "move on"after 26 years as their conductor. Their new director, Matthew Thomas Morgan has inherited a splendid amateur choir, several actually, thoroughly attuned to both classic and new reperoire, which they have regularly commissioned.
Since the events of 2020-21 we have lost choirs, especially in schools, and some singers found it hard to continue. So, on top of the pleasure of hearing my own new work after so much time, it was also extra fortunate to hear it on such a happy occasion. As a leaving present, the Singers presented David with a substantial garden bench, which was hauled onstage for him to try out. I somehow think though that he won't be relaxing on that bench for long, and it will be very interesting to follow his next choral moves.