Last week I went to Hexham in Northumberland to sing in a pair of concerts during the week-long Hexham Abbey Festival. In this, the centenary year of the beginning of the First World War, the Festival had taken as its theme War & Remembrance. The first Saturday’s concert marked this with performances of Mozart’s Vespers and the ever-popular Requiem.
On the following Thursday I returned with the pianist Paul Turner to perform my narrated recital Haydn’s London Ladies.
We have now performed this show a number of times and it’s great to feel it gel, and the delivery settle into a rhythm. Musicians of all sorts frequently remark that it is only in a run of performances of the same work that one really starts to enjoy the detail and the relationship with the audience – I have always found this to be absolutely the case. In particular, solo recital programmes benefit from a dry-run followed by a couple of performances, not only because the first performance is full of so many practical concerns, but the comfort of having already successfully delivered that sequence of music before gives all involved a license to explore the music differently.
I was talking to a colleague recently about this, who is in the middle of a run of a dozen or so performances of Messiah. He confirmed that even in a work he has performed so many times, his performance only becomes more enjoyable as his understanding of it deepens.