It’s hard to get a handle on Johannes Brahms the man. Variously described by his contemporaries as shy, prickly, loyal, shabby, generous, stingy, kind or distant, the only point of agreement seems to be that his was a very guarded personality, whose passions found expression in his music alone.
So what would it have been like to have Herr Brahms himself rehearsing us? He’d be curt, gruff and impatient I imagine. Himself a relentless perfectionist, I guess he’d be unsparing of us performers. You’d get scant praise for doing it right; at best a grunt into the thicket of that commodious beard. The forty-odd of us would no doubt have slunk home feeling disconsolate and inadequate. And even fuller, such is the way of comfort eating, of the criminally delicious cakes.
Abi, one might justly say, is unlike Brahms. Have we ever known anyone who so vividly enacted or embodied the music? (One can safely assume that Brahms did not trill, pirouette, bestride the stage or pluck extravagant analogies from the air). To watch her in action is entertainment of a high order. We are lucky to have Abi. Brahms is lucky to have Abi.
Requiem-wise, we’re not there yet. It’s a work replete with opportunities for disaster and we were certainly a bit ragged here and there on Saturday. The lead changed hands quite a few times. Sometimes we crossed the line together. Some of us – I can speak only for the tenors – were often as not thrown at the first ditch. Everyone must have been exhausted at the finish, not least the indomitable Joy. No danger then that the nine or ten visitors would be inhibited by our perfection. (It speaks well of our approachability and the happy atmosphere that some will be joining us in the concert).
We’ll get there; Abi has charmed and chivvied us into believing that we can be the equal of any choir going. The concert is going to be epic. We’ll shine as never before. She won’t permit anything less. Mike Waters
The Singing Day was excellent. It helped to put more meaning into the music. I really think we have been blessed to have acquired Abi’s expertise. As others have done before her, I think she will lead us to new skills and musical adventures.
A big, big thank-you to Joy, Abi, kitchen staff, cake makers and all who made this a great singing day. I personally find the intense rehearsal a tremendous help in seeing the work as a whole after weeks of “note bashing”. I am wiped out- but happy ! Madeleine Whitton