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.