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Winter’s Journey

Posted on 25 January 2021

A song I recorded recently for my choir was “We Are Going”, a traditional American folk song that includes the words:

It will be hard, we know,
and the road will be muddy and rough,
but we are going,
Heaven knows when we will get there,
but we know we will.”

Winter journeys can be tough. This winter is a terrible one, with floods and a possibility of the Beast from the East, not to mention that much smaller (virus-sized) beast from the east that is causing huge problems. But we have to keep going! I was nearly born in a snowdrift on a journey in one of the worst winters of recent times, when my father was driving my mother in labour to the nursing home on the first day of the “Snowmageddon” of 1947 — but we got there.

The aim of recording We are Going was to try and find a way of keeping my choir on the road. I hope to send a song every week so that everyone can sing along and keep their voices going. It has been good practice for me, to struggle with technology. And I hope it will help us celebrate World Music Therapy Day on March 1st. Of course the winter journey to meet together at Wath Court on that day is now cancelled, but we can keep going, singing songs from round the world in our own rooms – and when we can get together again, it will be wonderful.

An example that really underlines this message is the concert I went to of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise (Winter Journey – hence the title of this piece) performed by Ian Bostridge and Joseph Middleton in Leeds Town Hall earlier this winter. It’s a very sad tale of a rejected young man wandering hopelessly through a winter landscape, possibly towards his death. And our journeys to Leeds were grim: for me – roadworks in Leeds blocked my usual route, and I collided with a deer on the A64; and for Bostridge – his train from King’s Cross was cancelled at the last minute so he had to hire a car and drive through the winter gloom to get to Leeds on time.

He made it! And to arrive there, to be at a concert again, even with a very small audience wearing masks, was clearly hugely up-lifting. And for us all, to be back together, and to hear that performance was an absolutely transforming experience. I’ll never forget it.