Rather prophetically, since Christmas I've been reading Arthur Ransome's 'Winter Holiday' to my children, a sequel to Swallows and Amazons in which the intrepid young explorers have an extended holiday in the Lake District when one of them falls ill with mumps, and they end up staying in quarantine for a month. Of course, the children still manage to enjoy a large range of adventures, going climbing, skating, building igloos and such, but our nationwide lockdown is rather more limiting! As we adjust to this new 'normal', with all the practical difficulties it involves, we are also finding different ways to reach out to our friends and community. I hope that in some small way our lockdown blog and daily posting on lockdown island discs will brighten your day.
I've asked members of the choir the following questions, which we will be sharing over the next few weeks and it seems only fair that I share my answers first!
Paul Gameson, choir musical director
Who are you isolated with at the moment?
I'm at home with my wife and two boys. This week we've had a surprisingly successful time enjoying setting up our home school, agreeing a timetable, school name and badge, and then even having some lessons too! For exercise we've been cycling to our nearby park and ride carpark, which is eerily deserted.
What are you reading at the moment?
I'm very near completing 'Murder at Fountains Abbey' by Antonia Hodgson, part of a historical series of whodunnits set in the 1720s. I stumbled on this in a church book sale in Cornwall last summer, and have enjoyed both the historical context and recognizing landmarks within the story. I'm not sure where to turn next, but I take the opportunity to make inroads into my large pile of unread history text books, starting with Kevin Sharpes's 'The Personal Rule of Charles I'.
What is your favourite choral recording?
One of the earliest CDs I purchased was The Tallis Scholars' recording of Brumel's stunning Earthquake Mass. The quality of the singing really brings to life this musical tour de force of twelve-part polyphony, and I still enjoy listening to this - and was very much looking forward to inlcuding it in our May concert. However, I always return to airs de cour featured in 'Antoine Boesset: Je meurs sans mourir' performed by Le Poème Harmonique. Simply sublime.
What is your favourite choral recording by The Ebor Singers?
Who set these questions?! I have no favorites! At this time of year, however, I enjoy our disc of Victoria's Lamentations, and remember a lovely few days recording this in the beautiful chapel of Giggleswick School. I always invest in the next recording - and we're midway through a project of American Christmas music (our first sesssions were completed just before lockdown). We've been exploring some glorious repertoire which is rarely (if at all) performed by English choirs.
What is your favourite recording of any genre?
I have a rather large collection of film soundtracks, and 'The Ipcress File' by York-born John Barry is a strong contender. But he's edged aside by Michel Legrand's highly evocative music for the original version of 'The Thomas Crown Affair'. However, I think my winner is the Herbie Hancock album 'Manchild', where Hancock moves away from his jazz roots and moves in a funk-fusion direction. This music is fresh and varied, and features other great performers including Wayne Shorter and Stevie Wonder.
Words of greeting to the wider world
In all the sadness and isolation, its been reassuring to see the natural world reset itself. In a way our enforced quarantine enables us to do that too, and I hope you are able to find some enjoyment amidst the anxiety. Hopefully it won't be too long before we'll be able to share music in person!