Tomorrow marks an important and emotive milestone for me. After 16 years I will contribute once again to a performance of a marvellous choral creation, namely Gabriel Faure’s Cantique de Jean Racine. That score is imprinted within my memory, and I recently discovered with great joy that I can recall every note that I once, and indeed will, sing. I love everything about it, from the metronomic, rolling triptichs of piano notes to the rolling, wombing layers of four- part harmonies. This music lit the flames of my soul at 13 tender years, when I was first taught it, and I know that tomorrow evening the somewhat frayed but ever-primed wick of my senses will ignite once again.
My adolescent recollections of singing these notes are so, so vivid. As a novice member of Senior choir at High School I stood wedged between sixth formers and a French teacher, a gawky Year 9 feeling lucky to be admitted to this lunchtime haven of voice musicians. We were led by a passionate and mercurial conductor who never failed to stir in me the urgent vibrancy of words and notes of whatever we sang. At the keys of the piano sat a serene and soulful lady, who played and replayed gossamer notes until we perfected pitch, volume and tempo. Whilst my fellow scholars spent their midday repasts listening to Gallagher and Gallagher or Albarn and Co, I was tuned in to Helliker and Dudley. I will never forget those times, neither rehearsal nor performance. I am forever grateful for the time, energy and spirit that was granted me.
A decade and a half later I find myself a teacher-member of a staff choir, and we are led by another duo of wonders. Our conductor infuses us with her skill, and we have a true artist of the piano who evokes not only notes, but pure sentiment and feeling with every key she caresses. Staff choir is a sheltered cove in the madness of my teaching week, and I both crave and relish the escape and freedom that it brings me. I feel immensely proud to sing with my colleagues, and to invoke such powerful reminiscences with my voice is a gift. Ironically, it is only now that I fully appreciate the translated words of this masterpiece. Perhaps it has taken this long for my brain to process and mature in to a conduit that really appreciates what the words actually mean. Of them all, it is the final phrase that I relish most keenly. Be it in a spiritual or secular sense, I love singing this music, and be it granted by God or some other being, I await with anticipation the joy of singing, to ‘come away fulfilled’ by the experience.