Sunday, November 13, 2016

Gerontius + "nobody knows anything"

To Ely Cathedral last night to hear our English Granddaughter sing in The Dream of Gerontius.  I don't think I have been to Ely since I left Cambridge 40 years ago, and the cathedral is certainly extraordinary. The view of the "lantern" of the cathedral in the evening mist was amazing, but didn't photograph at all well.

The Gerontius was part of the Cambridge Music Festival. The soloists were Allan Clayton (Gerontius), Allison Cook (Angel), and Duncan Rock (Priest and Angel of the Agony) who were very fine. The Britten Sinfonia was the orchestra, augmented by a good number of casuals, and the chorus was the combined choirs of Jesus, Clare, Gonville & Caius and Selwyn colleges, Cambridge University Chamber Choir, Ely Cathedral Girls’ Choir and St Catherine’s College Girls’ Choir, conducted by Mark Williams.

It's a wonderful piece I know and love greatly, though I've only sung in it once: when I was at school - I think it was 46 years ago. It must be the greatest piece of large-scale choral music written in the UK for the last 200 years. However I didn't know until I read the fascinating programme notes (I can't see who the author is) that the premiere in 1900 was a complete debacle. This was partly because Elgar was late in producing the proofs for the choir and orchestra the Chorus Master died and his predecessor had to come out of retirement, and the conductor, Hans Richter, hadn't mastered the score. "the critics railed against not only the appalling number of glaring mistakes but also the complete lack of expression."  Indeed it seems to have turned Elgar against God, and towards the end of his life he scandalised a staunchly catholic friend by saying he was "taking all the 'nots' from the Commandments and putting them into the Creed."

This seems to be yet another example of the dictum of the last Robert Altmann that, when it comes to what artistic works will succeed (he was talking about film but I think it applies more widely) "nobody knows anything."

Which brings me to Trump.  I don't want to blog too much about this for obvious reasons. President-Elect Trump certainly seems to be taking a much more measured and moderate tone than Candidate Trump. We have to pray that he picks wise advisers and that wise counsels prevail. But one thing really sticks out. The only thing we knew about Clinton vs Trump was that Clinton had vastly greater political experience than Trump, and that her team was full of seasoned and experienced advisers and pollsters who really understood the technical aspects of targeting for a (US) General Election: where to focus your resources to get the most "bang" (Electoral College votes) for your "buck". Yet in the end Trump got 6.47 EC Votes per % popular vote and Clinton only got 4.85, so Trump was 33% more efficient than Clinton. By contrast Obama in 2012 got 6.50 vs Romney's 4.36 (so 49% more efficient).  It seems that, when it came to Clinton's "experts", nobody knew anything either.

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