New York New York
You might imagine that someone who has worked professionally as a musician for over sixty years would have nothing daunting or new to experience ---wrong! wrong! wrong!
I have just returned from New York, where I experienced the most exhilarating, enjoyable, rewarding, but formidable and terrifying pair of engagements of my career! I was accompanist to the world famous Donaghadee Male Voice Choir, who with their charismatic conductor, Mr. Robert Wilson M.B.E. performed in St. Patrick's Cathedral and Carnegie Hall.
The frightening bit was the Cathedral. This is the biggest cathedral in the U.S.A. - it is always open, and follows a very strict 24 hour timetable. This meant that no time was allocated for me to "get to know" the organ, let alone to practise. This mighty beast has five manuals, five swell pedals, full pedal board, countless couplers (on both sides), innumerable knobs, levers and rods whose functions are still a mystery to me - it was a good football pitch away from the choir and the conductor, so that I had to follow Robert's beat via a television monitor - you can imagine the time delay, and the problem of synchronising the choir sound with the organ sound. To say thet I was apprehensive would be to state the case mildly!
We were to sing at 1.30p.m. There was a mass at one o'clock and the cathedral organist, Daniel Brondel, kindly (or mercifully) let me observe him at close quarters for the full half hour. The first notes I actually played were the first notes of the choir's first number! We sang for an hour and the choir was magnificent, relishing the unique acoustic of a hugh cathedral - I coped, I don't think I let the team down, and when the last chord of "The Lost Chord" was played, I was "on cloud nine!"
After that, the Steinway grand piano in Carnegie Hall was a breeze! What a magnificent instrument it is - full of power and yet, could be made to whisper. The concert was a great success - 450 voices, which, with the exception of us, were Welsh (or of American/Canadian Welsh descent) and what a glorious sound the massed voices made. Each choir contributed a solo section. The Donaghadee boys sang a medley of songs of Northern Irish origin - "In The Gloaming, The Star Of The County Down and Danny Boy".
have played for the choir for many years - I have never heard them sing better. Listening to the unison passages was like listening to one voice - the control, phrasing, tone quality and dynamic contrasts were exceptional and never, ever, have I heard such beautiful pianissimo singing. If audience reaction is an accurate guide, they were the stars of the night.
Well, how do I follow that? I've always had a yearning to visit China - is anyone out there listening?
click to stop music ~ "The Donaghadee Male Voice Choir, live in Truro Cathedral, with accompaniment arranged and played by Ivan"