09 May 2021

Sharing the Queen's altar

I once drove by St Paul's in Manuka and saw the Queen with a retinue of a hundred-or-so people.  It's indicative of the relative disinterest in royalty these days that the normal activity of Canberra Ave and Manuka was proceeding as the Queen was visiting and it's as it should be, I reckon.  Nonetheless, it amuses me given I attend concerts and now perform at St Paul's.  Lofty connections, indeed.  Gillian Bailey-Graham's Forrest National Chamber Orchestra played St Paul's last night and I was sitting in as the only bass and it was demanding and satisfying and impressive despite a few foibles, not unexpected given some of the program.  First up was Bach Prelude and fugue in Dmin.  We all know it as a magnificent and overwhelming organ piece with an attendant fugue.  We played an arrangement for string orchestra with occasional features from the impressive organ at St Paul's.  Fabulous piece.  Then Faure with soloist Gordon McIntyre, Lalo with soloist Ben Aquilina, Achron and an end with the biggest challenge of the night, Tchaikovsky Souvenir of Florence, mvt.1.  To me, the difficulty was in varying placements of phases.  The whole was structured in 4-bar groups, but phrases moved all over, so the feel was not obvious.  Dangerous unless you count and read well or know the piece intimately, especially with a minimal bass chart.  I discussed this with several others.  Bach had similar trickiness, but not to the extent of the romantic phrasings of Tchaiks.  Bach mostly just  placed phrases on the three, so more constant and less intricate.  The secret is counting, of course, but counting can slip as we feel more comfortable, then...  Conscious counting is powerful.  But it all went well and the occasional foibles are nowhere near as bad on the recording so we can all look back with pride.  Well done crew.

Forrest National Chamber Orchestra performed Bach, Faure, Lalo, Achron and Tchaikovsky at St Paul's Anglican Church, Manuka, under Gillian Bailey-Graham (conductor) with soloists Gordon McIntyre (cello) and Ben Aquilina (violin).

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