Considered Christopher Smart’s cat Jeffrey for about five hours yesterday afternoon and evening; him, Benjamin Britten, The Little Organ Mass by Haydn and Rutter’s Magnifi …cat. That’s two cats, then; three if you count a cat…echism.
The occasion was the Spring concert for the Harrow Choral at our local Arts Centre. A final rehearsal with the orchestra is always an exhausting business – but absorbing. Getting to hear the pieces we’ve been rehearsing for so long slotting in with orchestra and soloists: that’s always a treat.
Have to admit that for months during rehearsals I hated Britten’s treatment of the Christopher Smart fragment from Jubilate Agno. However, having got to grips with Britten’s mad syncopations and rushing phrases – and thrilled to the celebration of the soprano soloist’s interpretation of how a cat can worship in his own way – turning seven times or simply being still – I have come to love it.
I confess to having been stuck with the stubborn thought that the music simply got in the way of the poetry. I’ve never met a poem before that hasn’t suffered at the hands of a composer. I also sensed wrongly that Britten was patronising Smart, even taking the mickey out of a poor, mad inmate of an asylum. But as the piece unfolded and revealed itself in its full orchestral glory; and with a beautiful, soaring palpable sense of the individuals in the choir coming together at last to feel the music, we discovered, I think, how Britten’s music does illuminate the poetry of Smart, runs with it, laughs with it, reveals the composer’s wonder at the unexpected truth and beauty of mad thoughts and perceptions.
From now on, I shall be considerin’ a few more things a bit more closely.
But today, I are mostly considerin hooverin.