OK, I freely admit to being an uncultured Philistine with cloth ears – but this week I have struggled a little to fully appreciate the music of Benjamin Britten. It is his centenary next year, and this year marks 70 years since he wrote his Ceremony of Carols.
He wrote this on board ship, crossing the Atlantic, during WW2. As a Conscientious Objector, he’d hopped off to the USA in the 1930s, but returned 3 years later.
Now maybe the sea crossing was difficult, maybe he was anxious about what would await his return to Blighty – but I am afraid I just did not get on with this Carolling. I should make it quite clear that the musicians who performed the piece on Sunday were excellent – it is no reflection on their talents- but the medieval english words set to 20th century music just did not do it for me.
“Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves” said the Duchess to Alice. But this felt in places as if BB had made so much fuss of the sounds, that the words made no sense at all at some points.
There was one section where I was convinced the choir kept repeating “His moustache is fixed, his - must – ash- is - fixed!”
I am sure that cannot be right, because Movember was last month! Ah well, each to his own. I trust that the people who parked their cars blocking our car in enjoyed the concert.
[We had to leave promptly because Bob was preaching in the evening – he made it to church with 3 minutes to spare]
Expecting a load of comments now, from all of you who think BB is the best composer on the planet. I shall hide behind Stravinsky, who who was annoyed that BB’s music wasn't really allowed to be criticized, because, in criticizing it, he felt one would "be made to feel if one had failed to stand up for 'God Save the Queen.'"
[I do still stand for the Anthem when I am in a place where it is being sung – but since 1995 have stayed seated when it is played on TV or radio]