Category Archives: Concert music

Gold from the Stone wins JAM President’s Commission

I was delighted that my piece for the JAM Voces8 Masterclass, ‘Gold from the Stone’, received its premiere as part of the culmination concert at St Bride’s, Fleet Street in October. It was a wonderful concert, performed by the brilliant Voces8 Scholars, whose voices were just sublime in those acoustics. St Brides is a beautiful venue, and I loved hearing 6 premieres (by Christopher Churcher, Henrik Dahlgren, George Parris, Jack Ledger-Dowse and Chris Williamson), alongside earlier works by Tallis, Gibbons, Byrd.

It was a fantastic surprise at the end of the concert to be awarded, jointly with Christopher Churcher, the President’s Commission, which means I will be composing a new work for the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College for JAM’s ‘Music of our Time’ concert in March 2023.

Thank you so much to Voces8 Scholars, Voces8, JAM and Paul Mealor, and to Lemn Sissay for allowing me to set his poem Gold from the Stone.

Receiving the award at St Bride’s Church

Voces8 concert, St Brides Church

Tickets are now available for the Voces8 Foundation concert, in association with John Armitage Trust, featuring 6 premieres, including my ‘Gold from the Stone‘.

This concert is the culmination of the Jam on the Marsh Masterclass, with Voces8 and Paul Mealor, in which drafts of pieces we sent were workshopped and then developed. I’m very much looking forward to hearing Voces8 Scholars perform the pieces, alongside Byrd and Tallis, on October 12. For my composition I have used words from Lemn Sissay’s poem Gold from the Stone.

More information on the Jam website: jamconcert.org

Voces8 Foundation concert, October 12

Britten Sinfonia Opus 1 Scheme

In the summer I was delighted to be selected to Britten Sinfonia’s brilliant Opus 1 scheme, for emerging composers. There are eight composers and two trio combinations — mine is the very unusual grouping of French horn, violin and percussion. It’s been wonderful to work with such wonderful musicians, trying out ideas in two workshops, with help from mentors Dani Howard and Raymond Yui. There finished pieces will be recorded in early October in Stapleford Granary.

Here is a picture of the second workshop, in the beautiful Craxton Studios, with the other trio of harp, viola and flute (Sarah O’Flynn, Bridget Carey and Tomos Xerri.

St Magnus Festival returns for three weeks

There’s another chance to watch the beautiful films made for St Magnus International Festival. I thought they were the best examples of online concerts I’d seen during the pandemic period, as you really get a feel of the venue and of Orkney!

The tickets per concert are now only £2.50 and you can watch my string trio Green Deva, which is included in the Hebrides Ensemble’s performance at St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney.

St Magnus International Festival

Hebrides Ensemble premiere my string trio for St Magnus International Music Festival

I am delighted that the Hebrides Ensemble will perform the world premiere of my string trio, Green Deva, at St Magnus Catherdral, Kirkwall, Orkney, for St Magnus International Festival. The concert will be recorded and made available online as part of the festival’s Midsummer Nights strand. I am very excited to be part of a programme that includes Judith Weir, Alasdair Nicolson, Sally Beamish, Maxwell Davies and Britten.

Tickets available here.

Online taster of Black Leaf

Black Leaf for violin and piano

My new piece, Black Leaf, commissioned by Kamilla Arku and Dhyani Heath, was due to be premiered by the duo in Cambridge in May, with further concerts in London and Paris. Instead they performed a wonderful online concert, Kamilla from Berlin joining Dhyani from Productions Chez Nous in Paris. In a varied programme Kamilla and Dhyani performed a sampler of the piece, beautifully playing movements II and IV. Black Leaf will be presented in its entirety when it’s possible to have live concerts again —

Black Leaf is inspired by the photograph above, taken by my Australian friend Antonia Baldo, who found these leaves on her doorstep one morning — a sign of the approaching Bush fires.

Prepared Piano Suite played on Radio 3 Night Tracks

Night Tracks playlist

It was great to have a piece played on Hannah Peel’s fabulous BBC Radio 3 show Night Tracks — my first Radio 3 outing! I’ve been listening to Night Tracks since it began a couple of months ago, and made some great discoveries. Hannah played a tiny taster of my Suite for Prepared Piano — part nine —performed by Kamilla Arku.

Part 9 is like a little sweet at the end of a meal, or as Hannah put it, ‘a bite-size cookie’. Listen to the show, we’re about 20 minutes in, and the whole suite here.

 

Charles Owen performs ‘Approach’ in Leicester concert

New Walk Museum, Leicester

Last Thursday pianist Charles Owen — ‘one of the finest British pianists of his generation’ according to Gramphone magazine —  premiered my new set of miniatures, ‘Approach‘, as part of a wonderful programme of Liszt (St Francis of Assisi Preaching to the Birds) , Ravel (Miroirs) and Wagner/Liszt (Isolde’s Liebestod, S447) in a lunchtime concert in Leicester.

Part of the International Festival of New Music Concert Lunchtime Series, the performance was held in the beautiful New Walk Museum, on a fantastic Steinway, surrounded by paintings.

My miniatures — Approach, Between the Reeds, Flicker, Spark, Element, Flight and Green Deva I and II — were composed earlier this summer, most of them especially for this concert, and Charles played them as beautifully as I had envisaged. There was a full house for the concert, with the audience and festival staff all incredibly welcoming both to their much-loved Charles and to me. A very happy day!

An online review gave a very positive report of both Charles’ concert as a whole and Approach, saying of Charles’ performance of Liszt and Ravel that “there seems such a complete confidence in the playing that it simply demands that the audience listens to music of this period afresh. The result for me was that this was one of most bracing concerts it has been my pleasure to experience in recent years.”  While initially concerned about how my piece might follow the Ravel, the reviewer concluded: “However, gradually I found myself attracted by what I can only describe as the modest effectiveness of each piece. Unlike some contemporary composition, the music needed no decoding and, what was more, became more memorable as it progressed, culminating in a piece entitled Green Deva 1 and 2, the twin inspiration for which was Indian music and a painting by the composer’s father. In the end the music fully justified its place in the concert. Even a culminating fine performance of  Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Tristan Leibestod failed to expunge it from the memory.”

Creative Retreat at the Britten-Pears Foundation

Footpath near the Red House

In October I spent a great week back at Cosy Nook, the cottage where I had spent the Wild Plum Arts residency in the summer. I was very grateful to the Britten-Pears Foundation for giving me the opportunity to continue working on my oratorio in the peaceful surroundings of the Red House grounds. Given this week of solitude and uninterrupted work time, I made very good progress.

Cosy Nook, Made at the Red House

Made at the Red House residency with Wild Plum Arts

Cosy Nook, Made at the Red House residency

In August I spent a wonderful week staying at Cosy Nook, a lovely cottage on the outskirts of Aldeburgh built in the grounds of the Red House by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears for their housekeeper when she retired. I was here thanks to an amazing composing residency, hosted by the wonderful Wild Plum Arts, who had been asked by the Britten Foundation to run a summer of composing/writing workshops.

I took my Joan of Arc oratorio and made great progress, finalising the structure, paring down text and forming musical ideas for a couple of scenes.

There were two other composers and a composer/writer duo, and it was great to hear about their projects. We were lucky enough to have lovely weather, so every day I took a break with a run or swim, and while days were our own to work, we met together for dinner. These were provided by Wild Plum Arts’ Lucy Schaufer and Christopher Gillett, who as well as being amazing cooks were wonderful hosts and company. They invited various guests to join us on some nights, and it was great to meet Harriet Wybor from PRS, Sarah Bardwell from Britten Foundation, James Murphy from Royal Philharmonic Society and music expert/presenter/lots more Katy Hamilton.

It was such a treat to get this uninterrupted time to work on this composition and I am so grateful to Lucy and Chris for all their hard work and support.