Last night at choir rehearsal, we practiced Mozart’s “Venite populi,” which will close out our all-Mozart Konzert, Oct. 1 and 2. The last time we sang this was actually under the direction of Sir David Willcocks, perhaps one of the most famous choral conductors in the world. Here’s a little information for you:
He was born December 30, 1919 in Cornwall, England and was a chorister at Westminster Abbey from 1923 to 1934. He later became the organ scholar at King’s College, moved on to Salisbury and Worcester Cathedrals, then returned to King’s College, Cambridge where he was the Director of Music from 1957 to 1974. Carl and I own many of the fine recordings he made with the King’s College Choir.
When he came to Hawaii in February, 2002, Carl was responsible for preparing the chorus which, with the Bach Chamber Orchestra, presented an all-Mozart program at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. I was the rehearsal accompanist, then played continuo organ for the concert (We had moved the little organ to the Cathedral.) At that time, Sir David Willcocks was well in his eighties, and I was amazed at his very quick tempos and boundless energy!
Right before the concert, he went into the room where the choir was warming up to give us some words of encouragement. He talked about conducting a massed choir festival where there was a very tall lady in the alto section. Thinking she might be blocking someone’s view of the conductor, she asked whether she should move. The lady behind her said, “Oh no, I saw him last year!” Everyone had a good laugh at that one!
On that 2002 concert in addition to playing the continuo organ, I also played the complete Fantaisie in F minor, K. 608, considered by some to be “unplayable” because of its level of difficulty. However, I will only play the continuo organ in our upcoming concert, which of course has no pedals. I guess I won’t have to wear my organ shoes that day!