After three memorable performances with Eubo and The choir of Clare College Cambridge, I'm now heading back to Canada for another concert as well as a bit of downtime. Although it has been over six months since EUBO assembled last, returning to Echternach gave me a feeling of returning 'home' in a way. Arriving in town with the knowledge that all of your best buds will be at the hotel bar is something I don't experience often enough.
Despite my disinclination towards the presentation of our program, the performances in Rotterdam, Echternach, and Nantes hit a new high for the group, in my opinion. The level of awareness throughout each concert, the familiarity of the program, and the investment of the players into each movement made the difference. What an incredible feeling it is to look out at an orchestra and know each and every one of them too!
Moreover, though it might have been disappointing to see the turnout in Nantes, we banded together with more conviction than ever. It's actions like that which make working with this group so fulfilling. It's that whole-hearted investment in the compact which goes beyond the average professional ensemble.
Performing with Clare College Choir was special for many of us. After spending five short days together there was so much to take home to think about. In a group where the average age ranges from 19 to 22, the quality is phenomenal. Their a capella performance of Take him, Earth, for Cherishing by Herbert Howells was excellent and carried new meaning every evening. Most inspiring for me was the group dynamic. Where each member of Eubo has at least completed a bachelors degree in Music (most of whom holding or completing their graduate degrees in early music), Chinese, Medicine, Archaeology, History, Classics, are just some of the many different focuses of the choir members. In fact, only a minority are concentrating on music in their studies. No doubt rehearsing and performing 5 days a week during term time helps, but college-system life and summer touring ensures a closer bond between the choir's members than I have ever seen in a musical ensemble (of top quality) before.
It makes me wonder if I really had the university experience, or just sat in a practice room for four years. At Carleton University I spent most of my time, with a few minor exceptions, taking classes within the music faculty and I never participated in activities outside of my focus (maybe if there had been a men's rugby team...). The music students even had their own lounge locking us away in some obscure corner of campus. Looking at the choir, have I missed something essential in those formative years? I wonder if many musicians would ask themselves the same question if they saw what I did.
Working with Clare reminded me that it is only when I take that step off of the bus in Echternach when I feel that I'm a part of a community. And until we (the Eubo members) got the news of the extension into 2014, I was convinced that this community had an expiry date. Now, with tours until January on the horizon, I can only hope we will find the means to keep this community alive.