08 June 2018

My Lord, What an Evening

Does earth plug a hole in heaven,
Or heaven plug a hole in earth?
— Peter Gabriel, just a shade goofier than usual

Firstly, it was a very good and productive rehearsal – I would not, under any circs, have this blog post's borderline-clickbait subject header mislead you as to that fundamental point.

And it was the next-to-last rehearsal of this choir season, so duties were light, spirits were at ease.

I have approached the present arrangement of My Lord, What a Morning as a workshopping endeavor, essentially.  Yes, I was tentatively proposing it as the anthem for this Sunday, but I was not going to try to fit a St Bernard onto a tablespoon.

Not to claim any surprise here, but all my characteristic rhythmic suppleness – not to say slipperiness – makes the new setting of My Lord, What a Morning unsuitable for hurried preparation. We worked with it for perhaps half an hour last night, in peace—and together we reached the decision that a no-fault Plan B was called for.

(Separately—and with no snarky musical application—some of our pre-sleeve-rolling-up banter concentrated on skunks, several creatures in various States of the Union, some of them – the skunks – quite ancient. I, for one, never knew that when skunks grow very old, their stripe yellows. For my part, I shared my Bergen County Skunk Whisperer story.)

Plan B took the ready form of refreshing the Cherwien arrangement of Let All Things Now Living (on the tune "The Ash Grove") for which our Marissa Bell will play flute again.

Now, this week before, we put How Can I Keep From Singing? together in short order. Why did Expedited Delivery work in that case, but not for my arrangement?

  1. Reliably literal repetition in How Can. Its use in this arrangement suits, it does not grow tiresome;  where in my arrangement, the rhythm is subject to continuous variation.
  2. In general, the reliably "square" (in a perfectly neutral, merely descriptive sense) rhythmic layout in How Can. My arrangement of What a Morning is peppered with syncopation, with ties across the bar, with suddenly diminuted rhythms, with the occasional surprise rest on the downbeat. My doughty choir simply need more time to digest it—though it is worth pointing out that most choirs I know, even those with seasoned musicians, might wish for more digestion time with this score, than three days.
  3. Fairly continual variation in texture through my arrangement.
  4. We did, in fact, spend time in more than one rehearsal with How Can I Keep From Singing?  Its preparation was easy, but not instantaneous.
  5. There is also the not-at-all-inconsiderable fact that, as we were singing three anthems last Sunday, we enjoyed Jaya's musical assistance.

It is my hope, Gentle Reader, that none of this should come across as in any way denigrating Russell Robinson's sweetly modulated, well-made, perfectly songful, and gratifying arrangement of How Can I Keep From Singing?  It is a gem, and excellently serviceable.  Indeed, we shall make use of it as a trio for one of the summer Sundays.

Nor do I suffer any disappointment in the delay of the My Lord, What a Morning rollout.  The choir, and our organist Barbara, find that it will be fun to sing;  only that we need more time with it.

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