05 October, 2017

Dona eis requiem: Gill Corble

I have joined the choir of the local symphonic orchestra based in Pau but meant to cover all the Bearn countryside. This past weekend, we went on tour in two rural towns to sing a concert of choral blockbusters. I only had three weeks' rehearsal since I joined in early September but luckily, I already knew half of the pieces, these being blockbusters.

The first Saturday evening concert went very well in the quaint romane church of the small mountain town of Arudy. The small audience was enthusiastic and we gave a very good concert. So we were all very comfortable and pleased with ourselves before starting the second concert in the larger echo-y church of Sauveterre-de-Béarn. There were many small mistakes here and there; somehow we all seemed to be distracted on the Sunday afternoon. It had rained all day. I was feeling rather disappointed with myself coming back home on Sunday evening.

It is lucky I do not activate internet access on my mobile phone otherwise I would have been even more distracted and I may even have sobbed through the whole Sunday concert. When I got connected again back home on Sunday evening, I read an email from my good friend Frank Guthrie announcing the death of his wife Gill Corble. Gill, Frank and I had sung together with Canterbury Singers when I was studying for my PhD in the UK. Gill was not only the elected Chairwoman of the Singers, Frank and she were also both the cheerleaders of the group. Their never-dying enthusiasm made sure a small group would make it to the pub for a pint with them after our weekly practice. I was very grateful to both of them for their warm welcome of the young froggy tenor who had to sight-read through the very British and not always easy (Elgar, Britten, Tippett) repertoire that all of the other Singers already knew.

We have kept in touch ever since. For the past thirteen years we have visited each other in Herne Bay and Paris. We have exchanged musical news and went to listen to each others' concerts. We have sent each other post cards from the most exotic destinations. Because Gill and Frank were also great travellers, cycling through whole countries, trekking up and down mountains, exploring foreign lands in search of large smiles like theirs. I was really looking forward to host Gill and Frank in Pau to go hike together in the Pyrenees mountains. It will unfortunately not be the case for Gill who succumbed to a sudden surge of her latent leukemia. Rest in peace, Gill.

W.A. Mozart, Requiem KV 626
Wiener Singverein, Berliner Philharmoniker, H. von Karajan, Deutsche Gramophon

Photo choir: OPPB
Photo brèche de Roland, Pyrenees mountains: Frédéric A