Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Things are hectic at the moment and I am pie-eyed with tiredness after a very late night last night. Overslept horribly and wasn't in to work until nearly ten. I'm too sleepy to function properly and too sleepy to work or write coherently.
A pity, as the last week has been good in many respects. I went to a wonderful performance of "The Messiah" at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday - period instruments and a smallish choir, very clear bright sound (though they did still manage to sing "Oh we like sheep" instead of "ALL we like sheep" - enunciating l into w clearly, and on a rising note as well, seems to defeat pretty much everyone). I didn't like the soprano soloist, a plump blonde with a very wobbly, vibrato-heavy voice; but the tenor was good, and the mezzo and bass both were excellent. The bass was built like the proverbial brick outbuilding, but with a lovely, rich, dark, 80% cocoa solids kind of a voice. The mezzo was the New Zealander Wendy Dawn Thompson, with whom I once briefly corresponded (in before-she-was-famous days). I remember her performance of "Musik ist eine Heilige Kunst" at the Cardiff Singers competition a few years back as one of those moments when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. She hasn't a huge voice, but it is plangeant and expressive and has a wonderful tone - I'm thinking Highland Park and roasted hazelnuts. Her "He was despised" was heart-rending.
Saturday I met up with my stepmum Jane, had a meal out and a good old talk about everything under the sun, and then came down to Kew for a brisk walk in the rain and a spot of open-air carol singing, also in the rain. According to Jane, who listened with interest to the peculiar sound I produce, my singing voice should be classified as "contra-contralto", whatever that is. Dad was a very deep bass, basso profundo, so maybe it's genetic.
A lot of singing lately - I sing in the Kew Staff choir christmas carol service, and we have been rehearsing quite frequently and then yesterday afternoon were doing our thing in St Anne's church. Our immensely hard-working and supportive choirmaster Nigel turns out annually and with ineradicable good cheer and patience encourages us into giving a performance worth hearing. Every year at the first rehearsal I think "Oh god, we're going to be hopeless!" - every year Nigel calls forth gold from straw, and behold, our nervous pipings and creakings become music. I know he does something involving nuclear magnetic spectroscopy in the Jodrell Laboratory, but I suspect he may also be a bit of an alchemist on the side...
The carol service was followed by the famous (?infamous?) "Pies and Punch", and then full of mulled wine and goodwill to all men I hurtled across Town to meet Helena at Edgeware Road, got out at the wrong exit and stood flabberghasted by the Marylebone Flyover at rush-hour. Hell on earth would look something like this, I think. Managed to connect with Hel and had a lovely meal and a great deal to drink, and again talked our heads off. Got home at about 2 a.m. I am so knackered I am not for real! And in theory tonight I am going to Jill Preston's Christmas drinks and then the Visitor Services Christmas bash at the Kew Inn. I'd hate to miss the latter as it was so pleasing to be invited when I left VS nearly six months ago. But I don't think I'll last very long. It's also Hernàn's leaving do, and I really want to bid him buen viaje y buen suerte.

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