I had an email from a colleague today. It was from Marta McCarthy, the amazing powerhouse behind choral activities at the University of Guelph. Our e-encounter was sort of arbitrary. I had sought out her advice about something far in the future. Well, I might as well tell you. She had just performed Healey Willan’s “Mystery of Bethlehem” this past December with her university choir, and I was seeking her advice about the piece, since I am planning to perform it with my own choir, Pax Christi Chorale next season.
Willan’s “Mystery of Bethlehem” is a fairly large-scale Christmas cantata with choir, orchestra and baritone and soprano soloists. I’ve been looking at it for years, and I think December 2013 is the time to do it. Marta gave me all the nitty-gritty details that I really needed to go ahead with my own plans in December 2013.
Out of this very practical conversation something else came up – the tidbit that Marta will be performing one of my compositions on her upcoming programme on April 6. She probably has no idea that she completely made my day, since I admire her work so much, and I am so glad she is singing something I wrote. So, I’ve just added her concert in Guelph to my own events calendar here on the website. Her university choir will sing my Kontakion – a modern musical setting of a much older text that resonates on a deep level for both Marta and me, and I suppose for anyone else who has recently experienced loss.
I do love Guelph U because of my memories and happy experiences in that place. My big brother went to school there a long time ago. More recently, I cut my teeth there as a sessional instructor in the music department in the ’90s. I taught music history and coached ensembles, and was privileged to direct a student production of “Dido and Aeneas” which involved some incredibly talented young people who have gone on to international careers in music. But what I really love about U of Guelph is this – you can always get a whiff of the animals in their cozy straw pens at the Veterinary school. When I walked around the campus it always made me feel like being back on the farm!
Other things happened today. I went to The Church of Saint Mary Magdalene for the first time since November 2012 for the funeral of Frances Nahabedian (1920-2013.) It was a wonderful service incorporating the lovely traditions of the Anglican service one always hears at SMM, with beautiful, strong and mystic Armenian sacred music sung by Lena Beylerian. (You might wonder how I felt going back to SMM? It felt exactly the same as ever. It was good to be there, to hear the choir sing so well under Andrew Adair’s leadership, and to support my dear friends, Harold and Janet.)
Finally, I went back to work at York where we are planning a very special inter-disciplinary production for next year. Stay tuned for details of The Beggar’s Opera, York University, 2014.