It’s that time of year when I try to find some time to write a blog on something musically Christmas-related. It’s not always the easiest task, particularly as I’ve been to seven carol services already this festive period, so I feel a little bludgeoned by angels, holly, Wise Men and cockatrices (whatever they are). And with trying to write some music, and dampen the expectations of two Christmas-fixated small children, and the REF – there isn’t always time to decide on something to write on. But then I remembered Bethlehem Down…
Peter Warlock (1894 – 1930) is one of the most notorious British composers of the early Twentieth Century, more known for his louche lifestyle and forthright opinions then for his music. He is the very essence of a ‘nearly man’ – he had all the musical abilities and the right contacts to be a formidable composer of the very first rank, but like many before and after him he was hugely emotionally unstable with a predilection for self-destruction. Which he did in 1930. His reputation rests on his musical criticism, his pioneering work in reintroducing Tudor music to Britain in the 1920s and on a small canon of works including The Capriol Suite and some beautifully wrought little masterpieces such as Bethlehem Down. And it is a masterpiece, in my opinion. Read more…
The London Welsh Chorale will give two further performances of O magnum mysterium (2005) firstly at the Welsh Nine Lessons and Carols at the London Welsh Centre, Grays Inn Road, London on the 14/12 at 18.30. The second performance will be at St Benet’s Welsh Church, London on the 16/12 at 19.00. Pob lwc to all involved!
Aberdeen-based chamber choir, Con Anima will give the première of my new carol Sweet was the song (2014) today at St Mary’s Chapel, Blairs, Aberdeenshire. They will give the second performance at King’s College Chapel, Aberdeen University later in the day. The third performance of this work will also be today (and the London première) at St Andrew’s Church, Holborn, London, given by the London Welsh Chorale conducted by Edward Rhys Harry. They will also give the London première of O magnum mysterium (2005). Busy day. PAC
This Tuesday (10/12/2014) will see another performance of There is no rose (2013) when the King’s College Chapel Choir (the chapel choir of Aberdeen University) will perform the work in the University Carol Service at St Machar’s Cathedral, Aberdeen.
Tomorrow (07/12) sees the London premiere of my carol There is no rose given by Voce Chamber Choir, conducted by Suzi Digby. The concert is at the Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair, London at 19.00. I’ll be there! PAC
Tomorrow sees the world premiere of my third setting of the Evening Canticles, this time for the Girls’ Choir of Ely Cathedral. The work will be performed by the choir, conducted by Sarah MacDonald in that amazing Norman edifice. I’m also really excited to be able to attend the service (something I don’t always manage!).
December sees a busy end to the year with performances across the country and further afield. It begins on the 3 December with the premiere of my Third Service [Ely Cathedral] performed by the Girl Choristers of Ely Cathedral, conducted by Sarah MacDonald at evensong in the cathedral. The University of Aberdeen Choral Society will give the Scottish premiere of O magnum mysterium (2005) at two concerts at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen on the 6 December. The 7 December sees Voce Chamber Choir, conducted by Suzi Digby, give the London premiere of There is no rose (2013) at 19.30 at the Grovsener Chapel, Mayfair. The 10 December sees another performance of There is no rose given by the King’s College Chapel Choir of Aberdeen at St Machar’s Cathedral as part of the University Carol Service (the choir will have performed the piece on tour to Hungary earlier in the month). The 13 December sees the Aberdeen choir, Con Anima, give the premiere and second performance of Sweet was the song (2014), whilst in London the London Welsh Chorale will give the London premiere of the same piece as well as the London premiere of O magnum mysterium. I hope to be at as many as I can! PAC
This Tuesday will see the première of my new work for cello and choir, Threnos (2014) performed by the Aberdeen University Chamber Choir, with Peter Davis (cello), conducted by Paul Mealor. This should be a hugely exciting concert with works by Paul and I, and by our post-graduate students: Ed Jones, Gemma McGregor, John Hudson and Tom LaVoy. The concert is in King’s College Chapel, Aberdeen at 19.30.
My first setting of the Evening Service is performed three times this week (which is lovely!) – firstly by the girl’s choir and lay clerks of Ely Cathedral on Monday in evensong, followed by a performance in evensong the day after at Selwyn College, Cambridge by the Chapel Choir. Both conducted by the wonderful Sarah MacDonald. The Choir of St Bride’s, Fleet Street, London perform the work on Sunday conducted by Robert Jones. Alas, I can’t make any of them (it’s quite a jaunt from Aberdeen), but I will be going to the first performance of the Third Service at Ely in December.
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post on Jonathan Harvey in which I gave the briefest of overviews of his career to date, dipping a toe in the water here or there to highlight the odd piece that particularly appealed to me. The piece which I dwelt longest on was the electro-acoustic masterpiece Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, so with Harvey on my mind at the moment I thought I’d put more than my toe in the water this time and throw the rest of my body into this amazing music.
Harvey is a composer whose music has always appealed to me, not in a sort of ‘take-it-to-my-heart’ kind of way, but more that my ears have been tickled by something new, something different and something original. I don’t really know half of the works he composed (unfortunately he died after a long illness in 2012), and certainly nothing from his final years but there are certain key works from throughout his career that are as impressive and as exciting as anything I’ve heard from a British composer in the last forty years. Read more…