War Requiem feedback
Here are Nick’s remarks on the concert, given at the score rubbing out party on November 23rd:
Text from Nick Salwey – “that was seriously impressive”. He could equally have written “that was impressively serious”, because that was the spirit of the performance. I don’t know any other work which you have to undertake with such a sense of responsibility. We always feel a sense of responsibility about getting the dots right, and of doing justice to the music. But the War Requiem carries the additional responsibility of conveying a powerful sense of the value of human life, and there isn’t really anything more important than that.
This sense of dedication was the most important and the most striking thing about how you approached the work. It requires a great leap of faith. We only prepare a certain portion of it, and even if you have heard all the chamber orchestra sections with the male soloists nothing can prepare you for its cumulative impact in performance. It is an overwhelming work. Of course things went wrong, and now is not the time to point out that the confutatis didn’t start together, or that we didn’t pick up Claire Rutter’s clear G on dum discusio venerit, or that….No – the piece is designed to be a struggle – I’m quite sure Britten intended the learning of the notes to be a bit of a battle – not Ypres or the Somme, but the choral society equivalent.
The single most eloquent tribute was the silence at the end – very rare indeed, and it spoke all that needs to be said.
But one last thing – in a card from one of the college gardeners, Tim the gardener said that his father had lived through the bombing of Coventry cathedral, and that showing his father the new building on his 80th birthday was a very special moment. The concert had made his father’s WW2 experience vivid to him.
We have received many letters of appreciation from audience members including ones the Lord Lieutenant and the Dean. Here are two particularly interesting extracts:
- Brilliant, wonderful, excellent, marvellous, fantastico, splendido! I have seen it twice before but never got right into it as I did this time. I was fully involved from the outset. Much probably relates to my excellent seat for which I am profoundly grateful. For me it was worth every penny of your money! Splendid soloists. Claire Rutter and husband Stephen Gadd often perform together in high level opera, and they are well known to the BSO for their performances with us. Justin Lavender was of an equal standard. The orchestras were first class and the whole performance was at a professional level that could be put on anywhere with pride. They did full justice to the subtleties of Britten’s evocative music. I am a Britten fan. He wrote sixteen operas and I have seen eleven of them and counting. I spotted the BSO’s Community Musician Andy Baker happily moonlighting at double bass. He spends most of his time promoting and leading music in schools. He tells me he was enjoying himself. Another big pleasure was the high quality of the printed programme. It was fully worth its fiver and enabled me to follow every word, with a lot of good stuff to read later. It is model for music programmes everywhere.
The Winchester Music Club is such an unassuming and modest title. It could well be just a few blokes in the back of a pub. In fact you are right at the top of the tree in the area in which you operate. So you will have gathered that I enjoyed myself.
- Now…I know it wasn’t just you……
However, it was a performance of rare distinction. Soloists were superb I thought and even made the difficult to listen bits a bit easier than they usually are. Chorus sections had fantastic sensitivity and a really good balance from where I was sitting. I found the day of anger a little under-syncopated and a little under-percussioned. That aside it was engaging, moving and draining, as it always is.
The ending was quite sublime.I can’t remember whether that was how it was finished in Coventry Cathedral all those years ago; we were sitting in what passes there for the south transept and it was late and we were tired; but just hearing the silence tonight and watching the stillness was amazing…..a true tribute, and perhaps an affirmation of life, of what people together can do. It is not all ‘slow dusks and a drawing down of blinds’.
Thanks for letting me know it was happening, and thanks for the quality of the experience.