Bring us, O Lord God, at our last awakening, into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise nor silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but one equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity; in the habitation of thy glory and dominion, world without end, Amen.”
Words by John Donne, set as an unaccompanied motet for double choir by William H. Harris.
Harlequin suffered a major blow just a week before our first competition with the sudden death of David Wilson. David was the husband of our top soprano Ruth. He was also a fabulous tenor with the most gloriously romantic operatic voice that was well-known to many of our friends in Godalming Operatic Society. Many of you will remember his superb solo in Vaughan Williams’ ‘The turtle dove’ in our first concert. The couple had only just sorted out the logistics of selling two homes and making a new life together when David suffered a catastrophic stroke.
The final rehearsal before our first competition was a very sad affair. We were all very touched that Jen, Ruth’s daughter and our other top soprano, managed to make the last rehearsal, despite needing to leave the auditorium occasionally during our rehearsal of Harris’s ‘Bring us, O Lord God’, which I have printed above as a prayer from us all for David.
We didn’t come home from the Manchester competition with any prizes. What we did come home with was a huge sense of team spirit, which was a far better gift for a choir that is still in its early years. Haec Dies, our opening polyphonic piece, was somewhat tentative without Ruth leading the way in the opening statement. The Harris, as a double choir piece, was always going to be a challenge for such a small ensemble as we are, and Angela Jones stepped into the role of singing her part alone with some considerable anxiety in that final rehearsal. By the time we arrived in Manchester she had taken the task to heart and managed it very well, holding the incredibly long phrases with a huge muster of extra breath control. These were followed by our fun set—Windy Nights from Rutter’s Childhood Lyrics went galloping along very well indeed; Blue Moon is a well-bedded in favourite; Frog went a-courtin’ arranged by Daryl Runswick was superb even if I do say so myself. The endless verses came off without a hitch and with great enthusiasm.
Jen sang faultlessly throughout; how, we will never know.
We look forward to Ruth’s return as soon as she feels able.