15 September 2016

Letting the dross be dross

Tonight is our second church choir rehearsal, and Sunday will be our first service "on duty." An idea had been buzzing around the back of my mind, and when I acted on it last night, I made an enlightening discovery.

With our reduced musicality in the bass clef, I've thought about reviving an old, simple 3-part choir piece from First Congo days, setting five verses from Psalm 31; one of the very first pieces I wrote for Bill Goodwin's choir in '98.

Last night, at last, I rooted among the electronic folders and found the Finale file. (At such an early date, I did not yet adopt the sensible routine of saving scores as PDF files.)  Partly because a new Sibelius engraving would look worlds better, partly because I needed to allow higher notes for my tenors, now, than the bass part of back then provides, I set to creating a new score in Sibelius.

After about 15 measures, I found myself concluding this is rubbish.

At the time at First Congo, the piece was graciously received ... the centenarian mother of a correspondingly old parishioner had died, and this was a piece I wrote, probably quickly, for the choir to sing in her honor. But looking at the piece now with cool impartiality, whether the blame falls on the rapidity of writing, or on its being an early effort, or both, the pacing of the phrases is poor, some of the rhythms are rather stiff, and the harmonic traversals are uncomfortably arbitrary.

I'm sure I must have tried to emulate the simplicity and solemn gait of Russian liturgical choral music, but this attempt stinks.

So, I have discovered an early piece of mine which I am perfectly happy to leave in the dustbin! (Quite a few of my early pieces, on the contrary, I continue to own entirely.) Of course, I went on to write a great deal better for choir, so in the larger context the fact that an early attempt was a flop, is hardly either a surprise nor any disgrace. So the ancillary discovery is, how at peace I am with finding a failure in my files.

And another good thing is, I was not counting on having this piece in my choir's folders tonight.

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