Travel library

Travel library

This summer in Britain offered up many profound delights: walking the ancient pilgrim road to Canterbury with my sister; hearing Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius performed magnificently in Gloucester cathedral; listening to Arvo Part in the dark at the tomb of Edward II; standing in the yard for Shakespeare at The Globe Theatre; standing in the gallery in the Royal Albert Hall for Wagner’s Die Walkure; meeting up with choir friends from Ottawa and Toronto; travelling to  Tewkesbury for the Jongen Mass; seeing Vermeer at the National Gallery; hiking the Malverns with Shawn and Dave; experiencing Billy Budd at Glyndebourne with Trevor; enjoying a home away from home in Southwark with Hanno and Cori.
The Three Choirs Festival in Gloucester was, as always, superb. Roderick Williams included my Yeats piece as an encore, and people kindly stopped to thank me for the song, which warmed my heart. An unexpected experience that I will treasure was being embraced by a special bunch of people who like to sing traditional songs – just singing, telling terrible jokes and reciting poems in a pub – without TV or radio or news or sports. I felt very privileged to be part of that. (You may know that I can’t get enough of campfire songs, and will sing all night if not prevented.) It was particularly special to share this year’s Festival with my dear friends Shawn and Dave, and our hike up the Malvern hills on the hottest day of the year was a memorable highlight.
The wonderful Trevor Bowes kindly secured seats for me and Cori for the Glyndebourne dress rehearsal of Benjamin Britten’s “Billy Budd.” It was an incredibly powerful production, which will tour to New York this February. I was so proud of my friend, and it was so lovely to spend the day with Trevor on the train, on the bus, and picnicking at the theatre. I’m very happy that he will be coming to Toronto to sing Finzi and Willan this December with Pax Christi Chorale.
Returning home after a long time away makes me appreciate familiar things: that distinctive Ontario sound of cicadas singing in the late afternoon; dogs barking in backyards; plants growing like crazy in the tropical Toronto heat; thoughtful friends; my own familiar jumble of books, piano, bathtub, bed, bills to pay, laundry to wash, music to write.
There is a large void in that familiar world, of course. After summer holidays past, Bruce Hill and I performed the returning home rituals which need to be re-invented now. Finding a new normal is tricky, but I’m working on it.

P.S. You are on my site already, so please check out my calendar of events. Ontario Youth Choir is singing my piece on their August concert. Also, the Toronto Diocesan Girls’ Choir commissioned a new work and will sing it in Toronto this month.

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11 Responses to No place like home

  1. Stephanie Martin says:

    For those wondering about that BBC 4 interview I blogged about last month, the programme will air on Sunday 11 August at 1330, and is available online:

    In the end the producer decided not to use my interview, but there are many other wonderful stories told, and it’s well worth a listen.

    • Nevin Brown says:

      Renee led me to your Website and blog, and I’m very glad I was able to read your reflections of your recent trip to the U.K. It was a great pleasure to see you again during the Three Choirs Festival and particularly to hear your song at the Roderick Williams recital. Renee has shared with me your “Alleluia” CD, and I look forward to hearing more of your music soon.

      I wish you a happy and forward-looking autumn season as you work on establishing a “new normal”. If your travels ever bring you to or close to Tuscany in Italy, please let me know.

      • Stephanie Martin says:

        Lovely to see you too Nevin, and so glad you could meet my Toronto friends. I’m happy that Renee gave you my CD & I hope you enjoy listening to it. Friends of mine are visiting Italy this Fall so you may very well meet up with them at church in FLorence! All the best,

  2. Leonard Ratzlaff says:

    Stephanie, I read your post this evening with the usual interest and no small amount of envy! I think back to the late 1980s when I heard the War Requiem at Three Choirs (I forget which city) and it is always very special to hear The Dream there I’m sure! Best wishes for the coming season.

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      Leonard, you may be interested to know that next year at Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, War Requiem is on the programme, as well as Elgar’s The Apostles, RVW Mass in G minor and The Lark Ascending, Bach Mass in B minor, Dvorak Stabat Mater AND Mahler 2. Can you stand it? There’s also a new commission by Torsten Rasch commemorating the beginning of WW I one hundred years ago – incredible to think it will be 2014.
      P.S. Here’s the link

      • Leonard Ratzlaff says:

        Thanks for the link; a tempting array of works! The Dvorak is on our list for 2014-15 and we are doing the B Minor this year.

        • Stephanie Martin says:

          Seems logical for you to make a research trip to 3 Choirs. I did not mention the delightful local produce on hand in the festival tent in Worcester, between the cathedral cloisters and the old Worcester porcelain factory – we’re talking local cider and cask conditioned ale. You can also take in the cathedral library which has many fabulous books over 1000 years old, visit King John’s tomb and the Magna Carta. And you are a short train ride away from hiking the beautiful Malvern Hills. Ready to go?

  3. Rosemary Barlow says:

    Thanks for a great post Steph!! Sounds like you had a wonderful trip. I’m interested to know more about your travel library (of course!). I can’t quite see who the author is of the book you have at the front of your photo? Any other recommendations?

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      The book out front is “The Pilgrims’ Way: Fact and fiction of an ancient trackway” by Derek Bright. It’s a fairly academic approach to the old routes and what has happened to them over the centuries. Derek (the author) was our guide on our Canterbury pilgrimage. He booked all our accommodation, lugged our bags to each B & B as we walked, packed our lunch of fresh, local Kentish produce, and provided this wonderful library. It contained Derek’s book or course, three ordinance survey maps that were our life line as we hacked through the countryside, and other books about the North Downs Way, Canterbury and the history of the pilgrims who made the trek etc.etc. Derek himself was the most complete reference book though. He took us on several side trips to places of interest on the way. He knows the trails like the back of his hand, and was a wonderful guide.

  4. J. Janossy says:

    What a thrill it was to experience so much great music at the Three Choirs Festival and Tewkesbury Abbey. I am grateful for the experience and recommend it for anyone with the interest and the resources to make the trip. Very pleased to meet you Stephanie and best wishes!

    • Stephanie Martin says:

      Hey James! It was great to meet you and I wish you all the best with all of your musical plans this year.

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