Monday, June 13, 2011

This weekend the choir I sing with performed the Verdi Requiem in Edinburgh's magnificent Usher Hall. It's a fine building in the Beaux Arts style with a splendid domed roof, built in 1911, and the acoustics make you feel as if your voice is even better than you thought it was when you were singing in the bath before you changed into formal evening dress for the concert.

It was the first time I'd sung the work, and wow! It was fun. Terrific, dramatic fortissimos, dropping without warning to ppp; explosive chromatic scales leading into romantic lyricism – the musical effects of a whole Italian opera fitted into a requiem.

Brilliant fun, yes. But as a mass for the dead? The first time I listened to it, I was seized with a longing to get hold of the composer and say, 'Now, Signor Verdi, that's all very well. But why don't you sit down, read the words, think about them very carefully and then write it again.'

I was talking to an aspiring writer the other day about criticism she'd been given about her manuscript. She was a bit indignant. 'All right, it's sort of a cosy, but I wanted to have something really dramatic at the end. They said the problem was that it wasn't appropriate.' She described the scene, which wouldn't have been out of place in one of the gorier Patricia Cornwell novels.

It clashed with her story, the way I feel Verdi's music clashes with the words. Consistency isn't always easy and it's hard, too, to be objective about your own writing. But if what you end up with is a schlock ending which readers who enjoy hard-boiled will never reach because they don't read cosies, while fans who thought they were reading a cosy are vowing never to read another of your books because they're horrified, it won't do anything for your sales figures.

On the other hand, it didn't do Signor Verdi, a lot of harm, did it?

6 comments:

Donis Casey said...

I want to sing.

hannahdennison@daviselen.com said...

Great post .... do wish I had the confidence to sing in public as opposed to the shower!

Vicki Delany said...

Aline, you must get in touch with Linda Wiken aka Mystery Maven Canada. She sings in the Ottawa Classical Choir.

Aline Templeton said...

I've somehow made it sound as if I'm a better singer than I am! It was a choir of around 300, where the fact that an alto in the second-back row rather came unstuck during the Libera Me didn't matter! Find a nice big non-audition choir, Hannah, and have a go! Vicki, the Ottawa Classical Choir sounds really serious stuff - Linda must be realy good.

Linda Wiken said...

I'm a bit late with this comment, Aline. What a coincidence -- our choir performed the Verdi Requiem for the first time in May. We sang with our 3 sister choirs from Quebec and were about 200 voices. It was an amazing experiences -- I'd felt a bit daunted when we first started learning it but grew to love it.

BTW, I enjoyed your blog!!

Aline Templeton said...

Linda, I've just read your post - thanks for your kind words. That is a coincidence! Our choir joined with a school choir which had just won the British Songs of Praise Choir of the Year award, and boy, those kids could sing! We were 300 in total - thrilling.