The Beauty of Performance

Beauty comes in so many forms and is so utterly transformative wherever it is encountered.   Most recently I have been struck by the serene beauty of the skillful elegance and nonchalant, seemingly effortless performance of a music scholar who plays the piano for a choir in which I sing.

The pianist studied at King’s College, Cambridge, where he was organ scholar and graduated with a starred first class degree in Music. Previously he was a chorister at King’s and music scholar at Eton College.

I sang in a choir as a young treble for some years but foolishly never studied music formally.  I gave up aged 14 when music seemed to an arrogant young kid to belong to a pseudo intellectual realm to which he did not belong .

For the past eight years I have been trying to re-capture what skills I may once have possessed but in my case nothing has ever been effortless.

I have spent endless hours in practice and study, learning a choral piece inside out until it is indelibly etched on my mind and performance becomes if not automatic, then at least to some extent fluid.

Each week I am struck anew by the performance of our accompanist.  Sometimes when I arrive he will be playing some complex piece entirely from his imagination. His hands will move but his eyes remain fixed somewhere in the middle distance, pondering who knows what as his fingers automatically translate into sound whatever glorious harmonies are in his mind.

In choral pieces there are usually introductions for the orchestra or piano before the voice parts start and usually the accompanying instrumental music will continue for a while when the voice parts have finished.

And it is at the end that I most often notice the ethereal skill of our accompanist.  We have struggled, to the best of our ability, through the complex vocal bars of a section of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater.

Our eyes turn to the young scholar who plays the remaining bars. With a twinkle on his face and scarcely looking at the score, he dazzles us with his skill.  With a gentle flourish the piece ends as he quietly plays the final chord and the sound slowly ebbs away.

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