Not many of my predictions come true. But my prediction last week that a performance at the Conservatorium of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius would take over my musical subconscious has indeed come about.
Indeed, despite that feast of music on ABC Classic FM over the weekend (Music of Love, Passion and Heartbreak – mind you, some of the connections to the theme were tenuous to say the least, and some of the presenters’ patter was decidedly facile at times); despite working hard last night with Carlos on the quirky rhythms of the Credo in Missa Criolla and the even more quirky rhythms of El Gavilan; and despite my other choir, Cantiamo, preparing for one of our occasional performances this morning, it is moments from Gerontius which keep surfacing in my mind even now, a week later.
The performance was excellent. The three soloists managed to satisfy Elgar’s extreme demands with fluency and sensitivity. Choir and orchestra were well drilled; always accurate, always expressive, following the clear direction of the conductor, Neil McEwan. Their competence and musicality showed a maturity which belied the fact that they are still students. It is staggering to think that these students mounted a performance worthy of much more experienced musicians. The future of music in Sydney is in good hands.
Many memories from the performance recur from time to time. Some are glorious sweeping melodies. Some are fleeting moments. The one above all is the moment where Gerontius catches, at last and after much travail, the long promised glimpse of the Almighty. There is a longish orchestral build up, made up a wave-like phrase which is repeated several times, slightly varied, louder and higher each time to increase its intensity. Then there is a pause. Complete silence. And then a huge crash of orchestral sound – every instrument playing, all the percussion from crashing cymbal to tinkling triangle. The hairs on the back of my neck tingle as I write about it.
It has taken ten years for me to truly appreciate what the Conservatorium does. What is more, I have discovered that there are loads of concerts put on by the students, at very accessible prices, throughout the year. Click here to find a concert you might like to go to!.