Don's Diary: Lent quintet

April 12, 2001

Lent 1997

At the main gate of Lincoln College, Oxford, discuss focus of the next "Turl Street Arts Festival", an annual venture run by the undergraduates of Lincoln, Jesus, and Exeter colleges every February. Robin Griffith-Jones, the chaplain, suggests a certain modern musical work based on the Easter theme. It sounds too ambitious, so propose to write a Passiontide opera in which the action would move from one college chapel to another. To my surprise, he thinks this is a good idea. Like most people, he has never heard a note of my music.

Lent 1998

Main gate again. This time nervously awaiting the first performance of Good Friday . Nervous because the work has proved more challenging than anticipated and has involved imposing St John's narrative in Latin over a dramatisation sung in English. Opening scenes come off without a hitch; then, without a break in the music, performers and audience move through Turl Street to Jesus College before moving across to Exeter. The scoring has been devised to increase in line with the increasing size of the respective chapels, so a fitting climax is achieved. The weather and the police are cooperative on all three nights of the production. Later, my wife and I take part in a real Good Friday procession in Bergamo, Italy.

Lent 1999

Good Friday is revived in the very different surroundings of the Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy, and a week later recorded in Exeter Chapel. There is a wild cast party. Robin accepts the dedication and score, although he is the only one of the company who cannot read music. Nic "the fixer" Chalmers, also assistant conductor, books the last trombonist minutes before the recording sessions begin. Somehow manage not to lose sight of my teaching and research; the composition of a divertimento for the University Chamber Orchestra and the final corrections to the proofs of my Oxford History of English Music .

Lent 2000

The CD is released by Guild Music in time for the seasonal market and generates excellent reviews. The Catholic chaplain, Father Peter Newby, calls for a "prequel" dealing with the Last Supper. Contemplate making the project into a trilogy embracing the Resurrection and calling the whole thing Paschale Mysterium . Try not to forget the four conference papers I am due to present.

Lent 2001

Composed prequel called The Word ("The Last Supper" having been preempted by another modern composer), which is performed at the Chaplaincy and in Tewkesbury Abbey, where former undergraduate conductor Ben is director of music. A new generation of talent ensures success. We enjoy another splendid party and a committee is formed to secure funding for the completion and performance of the entire trilogy. Touched by people's faith in my ability to write the final work and rejoice in new and cemented friendships. Look forward to composing the final work Pascha Nostrum .

John Caldwell is a professor of music, Oxford University, and fellow of Jesus College. Good Friday is produced by Guild Music , GMCD 7178.

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