Went to a performance of St John’s Passion in a lovely big church in Kensington recently. The choir was very good, well worth listening to, with a lovely rich sound. I wasn’t that impressed with the tenor though; I thought his diction wasn’t clear enough, and also there was no engagement with the audience. It’s such a central role, ‘The Evangelist’, such a focal point for the piece, I would have thought it was an opportunity to really make your presence felt, and deliver it in a way that keeps the audience’s attention on you and on the story. Basically, I don’t think the Evangelist was Evangelical enough.
I enjoyed it all though. The penultimate chorus is a piece that, rather morbidly, I sometimes have to stop myself singing because I’ve always thought I’d have it played at my funeral. I sung it years ago at school and it’s got itself deep in my soul. I’ve always known it as ‘Lie still… (oh sacred limbs lie sleeping, and I will lay aside my weeping…)’. But in this translation it was ‘Sleep well’. Oh dear. I don’t think ‘Sleep well’ has anything like the power of ‘Lie still’ in that context.
I went on my own and of course it was impossible not to think about my partner (and his absence) the whole time. When I go to things like this I’m experiencing what they say about how people can be lonely in a crowd. There were loads of people there who were all obviously interested enough to listen to a serious classical piece like that, and I felt like I had something in common with them, and I belonged. At yet of course everyone is in couples or family groups, and though you sort of look at people with a smile on your face in the hope of striking up a conversation, no-one spoke to me at all.
In fact the whole of that day, my only attempt at interacting with someone was to make a comment to a guy walking a little white dog just like the one that’s recently won Crufts. I said something like, ‘Oh look, it’s the Crufts winner! Any relation?’ He didn’t really respond and the dog just pooed right in front of me.