After Pax Christi Chorale’s mammoth performances of Handel’s SOLOMON, final juries and exams at York University, I thought I needed a little break. I stepped back from the routine of rehearsal, teaching, writing and performing to recharge my musical batteries.
I spent four days with the Elgar Society, North American branch, at our annual conference in New Haven, Connecticut. That might seem like a potentially somber gathering, but it was an absolutely fabulous event. One of the best things about attending a musical conference is that you get to meet a whole lot of great people from far flung places you may never visit yourself, hear about their experiences, share ideas and learn something new about a subject you all cherish.
We had some very smart and entertaining people speak to us about their adventures in Elgarian musicology. Scholars like Daniel Grimley from Oxford and Tim Barringer of Yale, spoke in such an imaginative and eloquent manner, they have inspired me to deliver my classes this summer in a more confident way. One CAN make music history engaging if you find the right way to tell the story.
The society meeting offered a wonderful opportunity to explore an exhibit called “Edwardian Opulence” at the Yale Centre for British Art. This marvelous display brought together paintings, photographs, diamond jewelry, embroidered gowns, feathered fans, film, sound recordings and extraordinary everyday objects in a stunning feast for the eyes and ears. Topping all this off were excellent performances by the New Haven Symphony, the Hartford Chorale and Mendelssohn choir of Elgar’s best know work, “The Dream of Gerontius,” as well as the organ sonata, expressively performed by Thomas Murray, and the string quartet energetically played by a student group from Yale. We also heard a choral concert of more intimate works by Elgar and his American contemporary, Charles Ives, beautifully sung by the Yale Camarata and the Yale School of Divinity Glee Club. Our branch chair, Arthur Reynolds, added an imaginative field trip to small towns along the coast to retrace Elgar’s own summer tour of 1906 to places like Old Lyme and New London.
Considering the weather was deliriously beautiful and the Yale campus was bursting with springtime colour, the quick trip to New Haven proved to be just the necessary boost to kick-start the projects I’m working on back home. My big job now is preparing Exultate Chamber Singers for their final concert of the season on May 25, at St. Thomas’ Church in Toronto. Of course there is Elgar on the programme!