THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS, EDWARD ELGAR
ROYAL HOSPITAL SCHOOL
SATURDAY 17TH JUNE 2017
I like to listen to music in the bath. Really listen to it. That’s the one place where I don’t have a phone, laptop, TV or any other distracting device (including husband’s minute-by-minute commentary of his every move). It’s a very special bit of me-time that I look forward to especially if I have a new piece of music to devour which requires my full concentration and a relaxed state of mind. In fact, I get so much pleasure from this activity that I occasionally forget the difference between that and listening to the piece live. Well, I had a massive wake up call on Saturday when we went to hear, nope that’s wrong, listen to, nope that’s not enough either, emotionally experience, yes, that’s it, The Dream of Gerontius at the Royal Hospital School on Saturday.
The conductor William Saunders had gathered an auditory feast of 260 musicians to perform Elgar’s luscious and heavenly work – as the ‘Angel’, fresh and fruity mezzo soprano Felicity Buckland, later tweeted, ‘One amazing noise…bravi tutti!’ The four choirs, excellent Reade Orchestra and Gerontius, so expertly and musically interpreted by Richard Edgar-Wilson, were blessed with an enormous, boomy acoustic that no high-tech, home sound system could ever emulate and the tempi were perfectly manicured to deliver a wash of glorious Elgarian romanticism. At several poignant points during the evening when the musicians gave us their entire power, you could see members of the audience turn to their partners mouthing ‘Wow!’ Me included.
Having listened to Gerontius many times now in the bath, lovely and safe place though it is, there is simply no substitute for attending the live performance where you collectively connect on a much deeper level with the music and start to ‘get it’. Whilst re-living the evening on the drive home with my husband, I was reminded of a proverb: Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I’ll understand.