A jolly week in the dungeon that is the lower pit at Bromley’s Churchill Theatre: Puccini proved to be almost as irritating as Sullivan for going round incessantly in one’s head between shows. On the whole, things went reasonably well, although as usual I let myself down with some missed entries whilst dreaming about something or other! A near disaster on Thursday, when our trombonist was knocked off his bike on the way to the theatre for the matinée performance, was saved by his arranging a dep to play whilst waiting for the ambulance to take him to casualty. Amazingly, the dep arrived in time for Act 2; he ended up playing for the rest of the week as Don suffered a broken leg in the accident – get well soon!
I can’t comment much on the production, as what I could see of the stage gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘restricted view’ (see below), but musically it was fine, with an occasional tendency to scrappiness – Puccini is so difficult to keep together, with all those traditional, unwritten rubatos. Sadly, audience numbers were not brilliant, and I guess the company made a not insignificant loss: if only the theatre was two-thirds the size. Still, we survived (unlike Mimi, of course; at the end of the Saturday matinée, a string player loudly exclaimed in a rather surprised fashion, as the applause died away, ‘she died again!’)
Fortunately, I’ve managed to banish Puccini from my mind by doing a ‘come-and-sing’ Creation on Sunday, the precise 200th anniversary of the death of Josef Haydn. I think a good time was had by all, singers and audience alike, and the virtue of actually rehearsing the piece for some weeks beforehand was very obvious – any less-confident singers who joined us for the evening could be carried along by the rest. Our conductor, Robyn Sevastos, certainly seemed to enjoy herself, keeping things going at an exemplary pace. The organist, Richard Jenkinson, made a wonderful sound (despite having to contend with a cipher during the afternoon rehearsal), and the soloists – Felicity Hayward (soprano), Joseph Timmons (tenor) and Peter Grevatt (bass) – all took their chance to shine. Felicity has not sung with us before, and she made an immediate impression: one choir member remarked how lovely it was to have a singer who could smile as they sang. But then that’s the effect Haydn’s music has, no matter how often you perform it: his optimism is infectious.