Wednesday, December 02, 2015

11.7.69 Chelmsford, trains, shifting

Dear Mum, Great, great ˗ I’m glad to see you’re back on the road to recovery; though I must admit I didn’t expect anything else ˗ you’ve had so many nurses to look after you that you couldn’t help but get better. And I’ve had two more reports since I last wrote which has pleased me very much. All you have to do now is not work toooo hard and stop going out so much so late at nights ˗ I’m sure it’s all these late nights that’s caused the trouble! (Heh, heh, heh!) Give old Fred a special pat (all right, she’s already got one...!) for me and tell her she’s a marvellous wee soul to have around when you’re sick. It’s her constant attention that gives me the sneaking suspicion that perhaps cats aren’t quite the little snobs they pretend they are. Anyway, keep getting better. Please.
We had our concert last night, and generally speaking it was quite successful, though as I said last time I’d have loved to have been working on the stuff for a lot, lot longer. Anyway, Keith Kent, the conductor, seemed fairly pleased though I think he felt his choir let him down a little. At one place, it was partly my fault, I think, in the Polovtsian Dances, I went gaily on only to find that the chorus hadn’t sung anything when they should have come in with the biggest noise of the evening! They came in two bars late but with the stuff they should have sung two bars earlier. I spent so many bars wondering if perhaps I should stop and start the bit again that I forgot I could save the day by merely doubling back on myself by two bars, and fortunately did this just before we reached another change of speed, where it would have been disastrous if I’d gone into a new tempo while they were still in the old. [I presume this was one of the fast passages. Such jumping around eventually becomes ‘normal’ for experienced accompanists!] Actually another reason for my delay in acting was that I wasn’t sure exactly what bit they’d come in on, and it wasn’t till I heard some rather grating un-Polovtsian type chords that I guessed entirely what had happened. There were some other moments of adjustment too, but mainly because the choir, who haven’t been used to having Keith out front, don’t always watch, and consequently tend to lag behind somewhat. He’s been playing for rehearsals up until this week. (I think if I wanted it, there’d be a job there for me ˗ though apart from the fact that Chelmsford is about 40 miles from the centre of London [not twenty, as I wrote in the previous letter] ˗ the trains do it in just over half an hour though ˗ and perhaps I’ll get in touch with them again next term ˗ it may be worth my while. He seemed keen enough to have me back.)
Neil Jenkins
The tenor and soprano (hereafter called Neil Jenkins and Anne Collins) were supposed to arrive about 5 pm so that we could do some more rehearsal, but got caught up in the traffic jams caused by the signalmen’s strike which of course was affecting the very trains I had to get to Chelmsford!
On Wednesday, I got up there but couldn’t get back the same way, and one of the choir who lives near Upminster (which is the furthest point on the line that I used to get to Plaistow) gave me a lift down there and I got a tube to Charing Cross and just caught my Blackheath train with two minutes to spare. And last night I missed a train at Liverpool St and had to wait for another three-quarters of an hour till four, and then when that train left it got about ten minutes up the line and ran into a points failure and we sat there for nearly half an hour. I suspect actually it was more likely something to do with the strike, as other trains going in the same direction passed us every few minutes. And each night that I got into Chelmsford I finished up getting a taxi to the School Hall because the buses only run every half hour or less, and I just never saw one going my way! What a week.
Anyway last night I got a lift back to town with Neil and Anne in his car, and only then discovered just how far it was. It seems very roundabout by car, in spite of the motorways. Neil is the brother of Terry Jenkins who did Albert Herring in the first term, and has just been married ˗ four weeks ago. Anne is the ex-flatmate of Neil’s wife! Complicated, isn’t it? Neil seems to have led an interesting life career-wise ˗ he has somehow got himself connected with Menotti, and sings the role in The Consul of the magician Magadoff everywhere that Menotti does it now. He’s sung it in Israel (in Hebrew!) and in Spain - in Spanish. He now wants to sing it in English, but no one (except the Opera Centre) seems to be doing it! He thinks also that they’re going to Japan to do it soon. He’s also part of the present Deller Consort, which just at the beginning of the week made a full recording of Acis and Galatea, as it should be done.
After the concert last night we went and had a Chinese meal, one for three ˗ so that we had about five different dishes to mix together. And they showed me how to eat with chopsticks, which isn’t quite as difficult as I’d thought, but not really suited to the English way of eating; if you could hold your plate up to your mouth the way the Chinese do it would be much easier.
[Handwritten] When I leave the flat on the 28th (I have told you, haven’t I?) I think what I’ll do is this: go and stay with David Syrus in Hastings ˗ I’ve been invited by his parents ˗ David says they like having the house full ˗ but leave most of my stuff in London with Alistair (who has recently rented a house because he gets married in early August ˗ I’m going to the wedding). And then perhaps when Kevin goes to Belgium on his way home I’ll go too ˗ it only costs about £4 (!) and stay the couple of days that he’s there, as it’s the last time I’ll see him for a while probably. And then I’ll come back and look for a flat for David and self ˗ I’ve got several places in London where I can stay! So! That’s the present plan. I might get you to address letters to the Crowls after the 28th if they don’t mind.

Love, Mike