My new Études Nos. 3 & 4 for solo violin, commissioned by London Sinfonietta as part of their ‘Sinfonietta Shorts’ series, were premiered on the 23rd July at King’s Place‘s Rotunda Room. The two new études, lasting around five minutes in total, were played wonderfully by the Sinfonietta’s principal violinist Jonathan Morton to invited guests at one of the Sinfonietta’s ‘World Premiere Wednesdays’ series. The études will be recorded for NMC Recordings, who are recording all of the Sinfonietta Shorts for digital downloads.
The two new études now form a set alongside Études Nos. 1 & 2, which I wrote in 2010 for violinist Sarah Hill. Find more about the études here.
It’s the 67th Aldeburgh Festival this month, and my piece Rainbow-Shooting Cloud Contraption for 15 players is being performed on Saturday 21st by the Britten-Pears Composers Ensemble, conducted by Gregory Charette. The piece was written at Aldeburgh’s Contemporary Composition course last year, run by Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews and Michael Gandolfi. The concert is at 6pm at the Britten Studio at Snape Maltings. The concert also features pieces by Elliott Carter, Louis Chiappetta, Bruno Maderna, Nicholas Moroz, Robert Peate, Emma Ruth Richards and Michael Taplin.
While you’re at it, you can also find some new recordings over at my revamped Listen page, now featuring recordings of Antic Rounds by Orchestra of the Swan, and Limp by Helen Tonge & Richard Whalley.
I am part of the first group of composers involved in the re-launch of Sound and Music‘s ‘New Voices‘ scheme for 2014/15. The scheme sees an annual group of emerging composers selected to have their work showcased by Sound and Music and the British Music Collection. It basically serves as a platform for the composers, and as a curated selection of new British music for promoters and ensembles to peruse.
There are 56 composers on New Voices 2014/15, all alumni of Sound and Music’s Embedded and Portfolio schemes (I held an Embedded residency with the BBC Symphony Orchestra between 2012 and 2013). Information, audio and scores for all the composers can be found at the New Voices website – the British Music Collection is currently redesigning its website but will later showcase the New Voices collection, as will a new exhibition in the Google Cultural Institute.
In other news, Czech new music ensemble Ensemble Konvergence played Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux on Tuesday 22nd April at Prague’s Church of St. Vavřinec, alongside new pieces by Agustín Castilla-Ávila, Michaela Plachká, Gerald Resch and Tomáš Pálka.
An update about some recent education work I’ve been doing – alongside violinist Sarah Hill, I organised a two-day composition course for 9-14 year olds, held at Pembroke House in South London. The course was inspired by George Crumb’s piece Eleven Echoes of Autumn, extracts of which we performed during the course with flautist Jenny Dyson, pianist Dasol Lee and clarinettist Dean Wood. Using the piece as a starting point, Sarah and I introduced the children to ideas about timbre, narrative, the transformation of motifs and musical conversation. The 25 young musicians were split into four groups and by the end of the second day, each of these groups had collectively composed a piece of music inspired by paintings by Klee, Matisse, Rousseau and Miró. The course culminated in a showcase concert for friends and family, where the four new pieces were premiered, and we performed the Crumb piece in full. The two days were great fun and we were really proud of the children and what they achieved, and we got some lovely feedback from parents and participants. Below are some beautiful photographs of the workshops taken by Basia Lewandowska Cummings:
As part of the Bangor New Music Festival in March, where my piece Antic Rounds was premiered by Orchestra of the Swan, I co-led a series of workshops in Maesincla and Talysarn schools with Orchestra of the Swan cellist Matthew Forbes. The 2014 festival’s theme was Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary, and we coached the children on telling stories through music. In a concert at the festival, the children from each school told Shakespeare stories and illustrated them through music – Ysgol Maesincla created short musical tableaux based on scenes from King Lear, Macbeth, Henry V and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while Ysgol Talysarn created music to accompany a thoroughgoing telling of the story of Romeo & Juliet.
With the London Symphony Orchestra, I was assisting on a project led by Fraser Trainer – eleven young musicians from Camden Schools formed the ‘Camden Festival Band’, alongside Fraser, Jordan Hunt and three LSO players. The children collectively composed musical ideas over a series of workshops, then Fraser went away and arranged this material for the massed choirs of Camden schools and the Camden Youth Orchestra, Jazz Band and Concert Band. The mega-composition, now entitled ‘Shake Off Your Sleep’, was performed at the Royal Albert Hall in March, with the our Festival Band (literally) taking centre stage amongst the thousand-odd performers. We then adapted the piece for the band to perform it alone at a concert at LSO St Luke’s.
This Friday, the Bangor New Music Festival will play host to the premiere of a new piece of mine for chamber orchestra, entitled Antic Rounds. The piece will be performed by the Orchestra of the Swan, conducted by their director David Curtis, in a concert also featuring a premiere by festival director Guto Puw and pieces by Robert Saxton, Huw Watkins and Tansy Davies.
The festival’s theme is the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and my piece takes its title from the witches’ scene in Act IV Scene I of Macbeth, the ‘antic rounds’ referring to the significant amount of canonic writing the piece. It’s scored for 4 winds, 3 brass, 2 percussionists and a string section minus the violins – read my programme note here.
I’ll be giving a pre-concert talk at 6.30 alongside Guto Puw and violinist Madeleine Mitchell, where there will also be a performance by schoolchildren from Ysgol Talysarn and Ysgol Maesincla. The children from these schools have been working with myself and the Orchestra of the Swan’s Matthew Forbes to create music inspired by Shakespeare’s stories.
I have been selected for the ‘Opera Creation’ workshops at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence this summer. The workshops are being run by playwright Martin Crimp, with contributions from his operatic collaborator (and my composition teacher) George Benjamin. I will take part in seminars and workshops alongside other young composers, librettists and directors, and will also attend festival operas and concerts. The workshops are part of the ENOA network of European opera academies.
Before that, a couple of repeat performances in the next couple of weeks: my Piano Trio “The Chronophage” will receive its UK premiere on the 27th February 2014 in the capable hands of the Fidelio Trio (Mary Dullea, Robin Michael & Darragh Morgan), at the Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts alongside trios by Schumann, Ravel and Graham Fitkin. The piece was originally premiered by the Third Angle Ensemble in Portland, Oregon in 2012. Eight days later, Psappha will perform Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux at Manchester’s Cosmo Rodewald Hall on the 7 March, in a concert that also features Schoenberg’s arrangement of Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Slide Stride, and a new commission by my old teacher Camden Reeves.
I have been commissioned, with funds from the William Alwyn Foundation, to write a piece for the Britten Sinfonia for their 2014/15 season. The piece, scored for string orchestra, will be premiered in March 2015 in concerts at Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall, Norwich’s Theatre Royal, and the Barbican‘s Milton Court Concert Hall in London. All concerts will feature Thomas Gould directing from the violin in Locatelli’s Concerto Grosso Op. 1 No. 11, Hans Abrahamsen‘s Double Concerto (featuring Alasdair Beatson as soloist), and Sitkovetsky’s arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.