Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
From the dressing room at the Jersey Arts Centre, St. Helier on the island of Jersey
No, I havenít got a laptop suddenlyóIím writing this in the time-honoured traditional way, with paper and pen. I donít seem to have time when Iím at home, so Iím trying a new method: writing during those moments of waiting which are part of a musicianís lifeóon planes, trains, in dressing rooms, etc., and then typing it up at home.
Iím here with two actors and Sir Frank Kermode, the great Shakespeare scholar, to do a programme about the Bard. The first half consists of a talk by Sir Frank, and, in the second, the actors and I present poetry and dramatic extracts by Mr. S., interspersed with lute music of the time. (The audience is, in fact, getting a sneak preview of pieces from my next DGM album: Jane Pickeringeís Lute Book.)
Itís a very brief visit to Jersey (so this is the place that New Jersey was named afterócouldnít be more different!), as Iím playing in Wigmore Hall in London tomorrow night, to launch the new Linn CD of Verdelot madrigals performed by myself and four singers.
After that, with the exception of about three miscellaneous concerts and recording sessions (ranging from a Disney soundtrack recording to a BBC Chaucer event, to a concert of Dowland in Belfast), Iíll be preparing more or less full time for the US/Canada trip which starts in three weeks. This trip is sure to be interestingóit will be the first time Iíve toured with two different solo programmes at the same time (Josquin and Pickeringe). It wonít be easy, but I like a challenge. In between all this, I must find time to work on the funding for the Keeling/Sinfield project.
Zan and I have had an extended period at home together, which has been wonderful. Starting on Monday, sheís away almost continuously for two weeks. And then I start my trip. . . . So we value specially the time we have.
Itís Monday morning, and Iím exhausted! Saturday night in Jersey went very well, and I enjoyed working in a show that involved mainly the spoken word rather than music. Especially because the words were the exquisite words of Shakespeare, which I found inspired my playing.
But it was a late night and a very early morning (up at 0520 yesterday, to catch a flight back to London), and a very very long day yesterday. Upon returning home, I had to turn more or less immediately to the final preparation for last nightís concert in Wigmore Hall. By the time the evening came, it was all I could do to gather my strength for the concert. I didnít enjoy it quite as much as I would have if I had been more awake; I found I had to concentrate like mad to make up for lack of alertness. But the concert was a great successóthe audience loved it, the team of four singers was on very good form, and these wonderful madrigals wove their magic. I had numerous friends there, which make for a good atmosphere. The CD was launched, and lots of people took home copies. For interested readers, the label is Linn, the title is a Renaissance Songbook, and the catalogue number is CKD142.
Then, an early morning today, as Zan left early to go and teach the viol on a course for a few days, leaving me to get on with the many things that I need to do here at home. I especially look forward to this afternoonís Alexander Technique lessonóI need a good going over after the rigours of the last couple of days.
Iíve just booked a ticket to hear King Crimson in Chicago on Halloween night! I look forward to that very much!!
I hope to be able to say hello to one or two of the Chicago "friends of DGM" on that occasion.
This trip is rapidly approaching. Today I had another excellent session practising Jane Pickeringe. Itís coming together. Such wonderful music. And for me thereís nothing like the satisfaction of immersing myself in actually practising music like this! The joy of playing my instrument and communing with another time, another place brings me a surge of energy which working at my desk and answering the telephone could never do.
Telephone chats today to Gail in Chicago and Andrew Keeling in Lancashire.
Yesterday was a surreal day. I got some session work at short notice, and spent seven and a half hours in a studio recording music for the soundtrack of a Disney cartoon film: The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. !! Seven and a half hours playing mind-numbingly banal (but probably highly suitable) tunes to a click track in a high tech studio crawling with staff and stuffed with expensive gadgets. It felt like working at a factory. It did not feel like making music. However, it was an unexpected and welcome bit of work, and the money earned will go towards helping to cover the costs of making the next solo record for DGM. The film composer who wrote this stuff, and who, by the way, seems to be very good at what he does, is probably a millionaire. This made me think about the various things one can do or not do as a musician. I feel very very lucky. I would not want his job.
Oh, dear! Itís very late again. It was another excellent day of practice for the upcoming tour. I know I say this all the time: but working intensively on my instrument, watching my technique progress, watching the music gradually take shape as I work on it over timeówatching all this almost as if I were an observer from the outside, and yet very much involved in the process at the same timeóall this is a source of tremendous joy. It puts me in touch with myself, and with another world as well. When Iím tired or depressed, a quiet couple of hours with the instrument gives me cheer, new energy and connectedness. I see now more and more that making music is for me about the joy I personally derive from making music. (Of course it also often comes from making music with other people.) Itís not primarily about recognition by outside parties, or about fame and glory, or money. One day I may well tire of all the shit that goes with itóthe exhausting travel, the frequent separation from wife and home, the commercial aspects, the need to be a salesman, the administrative work, etc.óso much so that I may decide I donít want to be a professional musician anymore. But I canít imagine that Iíll ever be able to stop making music.
Flurry of activity on the Keeling/Sinfield front, resulting in some definite and some possible gigs in the north of England next year, as part of the planned tour.
Also a flurry of activity on the agent front: Melanne Mueller has offered to take on the duo with Catherine and also the ensemble Virelai. It makes sense as she is already handling me as a soloist. This is excellent news, and Iím very excited.
Lots of practice for upcoming tour, and long phone chat with Zan in France, where she is working on a modern dance project, and has been for awhile. Sheís back on Sunday! Yippee!!!
Her absence is the reason for my late night computer sessions at the moment. Iíve been burning the midnight oil, emailing and creating a demo CD for Virelai and another for the duo.
But bed is calling!
Itís Monday, and Zanís back from her French trip, having had an intensive couple of weeks working with a modern dance troupe on what sounds like an amazing and innovative project. It feels like a hundred years since weíve had some time together. We went straight off to our favourite restaurant, the Osteria Antica Bologna on Northcote Road, for an evening of catching up. Itís an hourís walk from here, and that gave us a good opportunity to talk. We do some of our best talking on long walks.
Last night I spent five and a half hours at the BBC, taking part in a Chaucer evening commemorating the six hundredth anniversary of the great poetís death. We played music of the period to punctuate the spoken contributions. There were readings from his poetry, and discussions of his work by leading scholars, as well as an account of a modern-day recreation of the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Itís an interesting experience to spend most of a gig sitting quietly waiting, and then having to play suddenly, on live radio, with no opportunity to warm up or prepare. It means you have to throw caution to the winds and give all your attention and commitment to the moment in which you play. Two or three minutes later, itís over, and youíre waiting again. It is actually good training. It teaches you to be in the present moment, and to give everything to the present moment. There is no time or space to think about what is to come, or what went before. In a performance of this sort, there is only the present moment.
A brief entry before retiring. Tomorrow we depart early for Belfast, where weíll be playing English renaissance music. On Thursday we return home. On Friday weíre giving a birthday party for a dear friend. And on Sunday Iím off to the US and Canada for two and a half weeks. Trying to fit everything in before departure. Itís quite a challenge to prepare for this trip, since Iíll be playing both Pickeringe and Josquin on this tour. Plus thereís all the other stuff ó Belfast for one thing, and meeting the programme deadline for the York Christmas Early Music Festival for another. Catherine and I will be giving them a programme of "Sacred Lute Songs". The sacred lute song (psalm and hymn settings for voice and lute) is a very neglected area, so naturally Iím attracted to it.
And Zan and I are trying to come to terms with being separated again so soon after being apart for nearly two weeks while she was in France, and before that, being apart while she was away teaching in Oxfordshire. The fact is, this autumn we wonít be seeing as much of each other as weíd likeÖ.