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.
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.
My piece Codex (Homage to Serafini), performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Garry Walker, was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 this Saturday the 11th of January. The programme is the BBC’s weekly contemporary music programme Hear and Now, and also features music by Ben Oliver, Aaron Holloway-Nahum and Robin Holloway, as well as interviews with all of us by Ivan Hewett.
The broadcast can be heard worldwide until Saturday 18th January on BBC iPlayer – just click here for the webpage.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, gave a fantastic performance of Codex (Homage to Serafini) on Thursday night at Maida Vale Studios. The programme also included world premieres by Ben Oliver, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, Emily Howard‘s Solar, and a UK premiere of Robin Holloway‘s In China. The whole concert was recorded for Radio 3, and will be broadcast on the BBC’s contemporary music programme Hear and Now on January 11th, with interviews from all the composers involved.
Before the concert, Aaron, Ben and I spoke on the weekly LSO Soundhub hour on Resonance FM, alongside interviews from conductor Garry Walker, CEO of Sound and Music Susanna Eastburn, and Chief Producer of the BBCSO Ann McKay. You can now hear the show archived below, and read a blog post that Aaron wrote about the process.
For the past year, I have been in residence with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as part of the Embedded scheme run by Sound and Music, and on Thursday 14 November my new 12-minute piece for the orchestra, Codex (Homage to Serafini), will receive its premiere. Garry Walker will conduct my piece at BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, alongside new works written by fellow Sound and Music Embeddees Ben Oliver and Aaron Holloway-Nahum and music by Emily Howard and Robin Holloway. It’s been a thrilling and illuminating experience working with the BBCSO and the finished score is immeasurably better thanks to the wonderful workshop time we had on earlier drafts. Tickets are free and can be booked at the BBC website, and if you can’t make it, the concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the new year.
I’ll also be speaking about the piece and the process as well as playing some examples from the workshops on Resonance FM alongside Aaron and Ben two days before the concert. It’s part of the weekly LSO Soundhub Hour, where composers on the LSO’s flagship development programme discuss matters musical. We’ll be broadcasting live on the 12th November between 9.30 and 10.30pm, and the programme will also end up archived on Soundcloud.
Some other news – Enmîmés sont les gougebosqueux has been awarded Second Prize in the Sun River Composition Prize, awarded by the Sichuan Conservatory of Music, China. The First Prize was awarded to Shou-Zhu Yang. Closer to home, the piece will also receive a repeat performance by Psappha in Manchester on the 7 March, after they performed it at the Bangor New Music Festival earlier this year. The concert is at the Cosmo Rodewald Hall, and 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 by the Bangor New Music Festival to write a chamber orchestra piece for the Orchestra of the Swan conducted by their director David Curtis. The piece will celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, and will be performed during the festival on 14 March 2014 alongside a new violin concerto by Guto Puw and pieces by Peter Maxwell Davies, Huw Watkins and Tansy Davies.
Also in early 2014, 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. The piece was originally premiered by the Third Angle Ensemble in Portland, Oregon last year after it won their New Ideas in Music Competition. Also in the concert are trios by Schumann, Graham Fitkin and Ravel.