Friday, July 9, 2010

AGO Convention--The Grand Conclusion

I was too tired to blog on this last night, so I'm summing up the last day of the AGO 2010 Convention a day later.

I had an early morning... catching an early bus to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where James David Christie was going to play a recital in the Crypt Church. We did experience a bit of bus!FAIL (and it's not such a surprise anymore, unfortunately...) since we were the second bus to leave, yet one of the last to arrive. The bus driver went on for about 15-20 minutes. I wasn't paying attention to where we were going because my face was buried in the newspaper, but much to my surprise, when I looked up, we were driving past the hotel. I frowned at that, and my fellow passengers were mumbling, hoping we weren't going to be late for this recital that started at 9.30 am.

Luckily, we got there in plenty of time, so we went down to the Crypt Church. The 8.30 am Mass was still on-going, so we waited in the Narthex. It was really beautiful down there. So nice and peaceful... when people weren't talking loudly, that is.

Finally, the Mass was over, and the Blessed Sacrament was brought out in a monstrance. Then the organists filed in.

I was off in one of the transepts, but facing the organ directly. (I also tripped and fell over a step... people were concerned, but I said I was fine. David Arcus was there and ensured I was fine... I told him about my former jiu-jitsu training and how we were taught to fall correctly so as not to hurt ourselves...)

We then settled in to Christie's program. I'll post it later when I get home. But it was a good one, and he played some really nice pieces.

Right after, I caught a bus to the Church of Mount St. Sepulchre and Franciscan Monastery. It's a beautiful place, and that was where Matthew Glandof and The Six collaborated in an improvisatory concert. This was beautiful... improvs on Te Deum laudamus, Kyrie, Gott Vater, the Magnificat chanted in Tonus Peregrinus, O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, and Salve Regina. I wondered if the improvs were planned or done on the spot. I was with Tim Baker and Mark Gourley, and they said it had to have been planned, and they probably rehearsed beforehand. However, chatting later with Van Quinn proved that was not the case. He knew some of the singers because they sing with his daughter, Molly, and will be going on a tour of France later in the summer. He said the singers were scared stiff because it was all to be completely improvised. They even improvised the harmonies in Salve Regina!

That just made what was an amazing performance even more amazing, in my opinion. It was truly glorious, and the space was just amazing. Unfortunately, when I saw the 'hymnal' in the pews, my enthusiasm diminished a bit... OCP's Breaking Bread. :P

Yeah, I'm showing my biases.

We took a bus back to the hotel, but we didn't have time for lunch before the afternoon workshops, so I just got some snacks and went off to a really good choral reading session with ECS Publishing and Oxford University Press. There were way more people present than they expected, so not everyone was able to get a packet of music. But it's given me some great ideas for my group. :)

I will admit that I skived off on my second meeting (Region IV meeting) so I could chat with my cousin to make plans for the rest of my weekend. Plus, it was nice to just rest and relax before the final event.

I ran into Joe Sco and we chatted for a while before I met Tim Baker and Mila Karamushka for dinner. Mila wasn't going to stay for the final concert and was planning to drive back home to Durham. So we had Japanese for dinner... Mila had a dragon sushi (really nice presentation), Tim had pad thai and a spicy salmon roll, and I had a dish called katsudon, which is a fried pork cutlet and scrambled egg on top of rice. It also came with a nice bowl of miso soup.

It was a nice filling meal before we headed back to the Basilica to watch the Closing Concert. It started with a prelude of Carillon music, but I was very disappointed that people were talking over that, so I wasn't able to appreciate it very much. Whatever I did hear of it sounded great, and Basilica Carillonneur, Robert Grogan, did a great performance... what I could hear of it, anyway...

The concert was wonderful, but went on for a long time... I think it went on for a little over two hours. There were a couple of pieces performed that were commissioned by the basilica [Tota pulchra es (J. MacMillan) and Salve Regina (O. Latry)] as well as a piece that was commissioned for this convention (Three Psalms by David Hurd). It concluded with an improvisation on four themes by David Briggs.

The Choir of the Basilica and the Washington Chorus sang in this concert, and they were wonderful. I'll have to admit though, during the third Psalm in the Hurd piece, I had a difficult time following the choir, and the only thing I was able to hear clearly was "for his mercy endures for ever" from Ps. 136.

There was an interesting problem at the beginning of that Psalm... it's supposed to use both the gallery and chancel organs. I'm not sure what the problem is... there was a lot of speculation as to what may have happened. The opening chords to introduce the first Psalm was played on the gallery organ... and then nothing. The conductor, Julian Wachner, threw up his hands, wondering what was going on. I was sitting towards the middle in the nave, so I couldn't hear what he was saying, but there was nervous laughter in response to whatever it was he was saying. I'd noticed some movement up near the chancel organ, so I even wonder if the chancel organist (in this case, David Briggs) was even up there when the gallery organist (Renée Anne Louprette) started playing.

After a while, whatever was the problem was solved, and the piece began again.

Latry's setting of Salve Regina was just spectacular, listening to the choir chant individual lines whilst the organ would play alternately. The end, O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria, the women were chanting it, and the organ was softly accompanying them. It was a wonderful finish to a wonderful piece.

The closing improvisation was wonderful, too. David Briggs improvised on four themes:
  • America
  • a Spiritual called "Wade in the Water"
  • Simple Gifts
  • Lasst uns erfreuen
And it was a fantastic improv and a marvellous way to end the recital and the convention.

It was nice sitting at the recital with Van and Peggy Quinn and Tim Baker. It was interesting hearing Van's recollections of a concert 30 years ago when Olivier Messiaen played the world premiere of his Méditations sur le Mystére de la Sainte Trinité.

We took the bus back to the hotel, but by the time we got back, I was so tired, I didn't feel like doing anymore socialising, so I went straight back to my room and fell into the bed.

It was a wonderful convention, and I'm very glad I went. Hopefully, I'll be able to attend other conventions. Regional conventions will happen next year, and I believe the one for Region IV will be in Greensboro, NC. The next AGO National Convention will be in Nashville, Tennessee in 2012.

So that's it for now. Until next time...


John C. Fowler said...

You've been typing a lot, so I wanted to make sure you got at least one positive comment! I enjoyed reading your descriptions of the AGO convention, though I had to check Google to find out what the AGO was. After all, with Darth Vader there, it could have been Long AGO, in a Galaxy FAR FAR away. It sounds like you had a good time, bus failures and hotel runarounds and all!

Lyn F. said...

LOL, John!!! :D Since I have friends who are huge Star Wars fans, I *had* to put in the Vader reference! :D Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you're going well.