Friday, 15 July 2011
The Dream of Gerontius and past dreams and memories
The next leg of the journey.......................
I have some very old friends from Austria staying with me for the next week, at the moment, and we have spent so much time reminiscing, their daughter M who also came for a few days must be bored rigid with stories of when we girls were 13 and spent summers together in glorious North Yorkshire, and in an around the Vienna Woods!
We became known to each other because my father joined the Anglo Austrian Society shortly after the end of WW11, when both countries were trying to encourage friendly relations between the two countries. My father spent a good deal of the end of the war as a Signals 'man' in Graz, Austria and grew to love the people and the country.
So S and I were thrown together by parents with similar beliefs and who had strong feelings of the need for reconciliation, and we have been close ever since, and been through the various stages of life together.
S was the person who quietly and efficiently arranged for concert tours in Vienna for my Convent School Ensemble over 25 years ago, and for the two enjoyable tours made to Vienna by Paradise's own Inner Sound in 2006 and 2008.
We visited the beautiful village of Plockton today. When S and M were last here in 2002 we had a few short hours on the mainland and at Plockton, so she was so keen to return and show her husband this gem of a location. Well, we did the Plockton Shores Restaurant for a quick lunch, and had the inevitable and unspeakably divine Cullen Skink soup, over which I have verbally drooled in past posts so will leave it at that. Suffice to say - they loved it !
We met my past pupil and now possessor of a First Class Degree, F, as she lives next door to the restaurant.
I was so glad she was there, as on the off chance of a meeting I had taken over a gift for her.
It is tricky to find a suitable present on such an occasion, but having thought about it, I knew I had the perfect thing. As a mezzo in my professional days I sang much Elgar, my absolute favourite work being The Dream of Gerontius, a sacred piece telling the story of a soul travelling to meet his Lord after death. Sounds morbid - but utterly glorious !
For my 21st birthday I was bought a score of this work by some close family friends. They had it leather bound and my name imprinted in gold on the front. I used it many times, so it was already well loved, then I lent it to another of the finest voices I have ever taught, a dark and velvety mezzo, for her to use. She was at the time having lessons with Dame Janet Baker (lucky girl!) and so to my markings on the score were added many from Dame Janet. That young lady returned the score to me when her voice dropped so far that the Angel was no longer an option !
There is always a reason for life's happenings, and I felt in my heart that this score was now bound, for the last time to become the property of F. She will make a wonderful Angel, and I had no hesitation in passing it on to the next part of it's journey.
The score needed to be used once more for the purpose for which it was designed.
F needs to make it 'sing' again. One day I will travel to a performance of The Dream... and see the green leather and F join together to make wonderful music, just as I watched the green leather and E in the magnificent surrounds of Chichester Cathedral 10 years ago.
The 'book' deserves F, and she deserves the 'book', and it made me a happy woman to put it once again, into the hands of the 3rd generation.
Sing it F, and think of where it has been, and rejoice in the history. Elgar wrote a postscript at the end of the original copy which says 'This is the best of me'. It had the best of me, and the best of E, now it is yours, I know you will make it the best of you.
Legendary British mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker (b. 1933) sings 'The Angel's Farewell' from Edward Elgar's 'The Dream of Gerontius' (with text by Catholic Cardinal John Henry Newman). SEE BELOW FOR LYRICS.
An anecdote involving this particular piece, about the strong bond between conductor Sir John Barbirolli and Dame Janet Baker:
'[...] Dame Janet was not immune to this [ i.e., the painful areas of human experience - mariandelochs ]; when Barbirolli died in 1971 he was a conductor so strongly associated with her in the first part of her career - there was a memorial service at Manchester Cathedral, at which the Angels Farewell from Gerontius was featured. The Hallé played the introduction, Dame Janet sang a couple of phrases, and then the emotion overcame her. She was unable to continue, and sat down while the orchestra played on to the end. She was a truly great artist, who gave everything she had to her public