Fiona Duffy, Alto, has sung Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture thirty times – but she still loves it and here’s why…
When some people think of Tchaikovsky, they think of his ballets. But I think of muskets, cannon fire and indoor fireworks.
When my older sister left home to go to university, she left her collection of records behind, which I immediately (of course) plundered.
Among the vinyl (mainly Duran Duran and Depeche Mode) there were several classical records, including a Music for Pleasure recording of the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra from 1971.
The tracks weren’t all Tchaikovsky – the William Tell Overture, Poet and Peasant and the Light Cavalry. But the final track was the 1812 Overture.
I played it constantly – and loudly, much to my mother’s annoyance. The slowly built tension to the brass finale – complete with cannons and ringing chimes – released some teenage angst just through the joy of listening.
Replete with Live Musket
As a choir, we are privileged to be one of the regular performers for Raymond Gubbay‘s Classical Spectaculars at the Royal Albert Hall.
Regular audience members will know that the finale of those concerts is always the 1812 – in full and replete with live musket and cannon fire provided by the Moscow Militia.
Listening to the work live for the first time (20 years later!) at my first Classical Spectacular was absolutely thrilling.
I estimate that I have now sung the work about 30 times but the excitement never fades. We wear earplugs to protect us from the extreme decibel levels on stage but none of the sounds are lost.
Each time, watching the chimes being rung, listening to the brass playing the descending scales, getting ready to stand for our entry, I am always reminded to look up, and not just at the conductor. As we sing our lines, there are indoor fireworks shooting across the top of the auditorium, bringing the piece to a shimmering climax.
You can watch us singing the 1812 Overture amongst fireworks, lasers and cannons at Raymond Gubbay’s Classical Spectacular concerts on 18 and 20 November at The Royal Albert Hall.