One of the unexpected joys (and I use that word with some trepidation here) of my summer vacation this year was wading my way through my Grandmother’s hoard of aging choral music, much of it dog-eared and buried deep in various antique bits of furniture – in fact I should qualify this by noting that much of the music was her mother and father’s, so music that was being performed regularly in the 1920s and 30s. That’s not to say it was music written in the 20s and 30s (so no Vaughan Williams and Holst) but music that was still being performed with some regularity in the provinces, particularly in County Durham where my paternal family hail from. Many of the scores bore testament to concerts by long-defunct choral societies and light opera groups and to no-doubt wonderful evenings of amateur music making and revelry in the concert halls and parish churches of Barnard Castle, Darlington and Bishop Auckland. It was like researching a family tree, but through the medium of long-forgotten cantatas and curious operetta – I loved it. Read more…
Here are some photos of the premiere of The Song of Shadows (2016) which was given by the University of Aberdeen, Marischal Chamber Orchestra, with Kathleen Cronie (soprano) and conducted by Chris Gray. The performance took place in the impressive Sir Duncan Rice library at the university.
June is one of the busiest months of the year so far with performances and premières across the country and further afield. The month begins with further performances by The Harry Ensemble of Veni Sponsa Christi (2015) in their Norwegian tour. On the 04 June the Lantern Singers of Elgin will perform How Clear, How Lovely (2010) in Aberlour, this is followed by two performances (in Aberdeen and Glasgow) of my new orchestral song cycle The Song of Shadows (2016) by the University of Aberdeen, Marischal Chamber Orchestra. The Northern Spirit Singers will give another performance of O salutaris Hostia (2008) as part of the Swaledale Festival on the 11 June. The month finishes with two performances of Prayer to St Alban (2016) at St Alban’s Cathedral (18-19 June) and the première of Judas Mercartor Pessimus (2016) at St John’s, Smith Square London by the Gesualdo Six on the 19 June.
It was really nice to hear my setting of O lux beata Trinitas (2013) on BBC Radio Scotland’s Classic Unwrapped yesterday. The recording was taken from the forthcoming CD of the same title by The Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen, conducted by David Smith. The programme can be heard here at about 1.22.00 in (available until 20 June). Two broadcasts on national radio in one day…
It was really nice to hear my setting of O sacrum convivium (2012) on BBC Radio 3’s The Choir earlier today. The recording was taken from the forthcoming CD of the same title by The Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen, conducted by David Smith. The programme can be heard here at about 36 minutes in (available until 20 June).
May heralds the beginning of a busy couple of months with performances and premières across the country and further afield. The Choir of St Pancras Church will give the première of Prayer to St Alban (2016) at the National Gallery in London as part of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music 2016 on the 13 May. The Northern Spirit Singers will perform O salutaris Hostia (2008) at The Sage, Gateshead on the 22 May and the Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen, will perform O sacrum convivium (2012) as part of the their CD launch event on the 27 May in Aberdeen. At the end of the month The Harry Ensemble will give the Norwegian première of Veni Sponsa Christi (2015) as part of their Norwegian tour.
I was thrilled to hear that my work Judas Mercartor Pessimus (2016) has won the inaugural composition competition of the Gesauldo Six, one of the country’s leading vocal ensembles. The work will be performed by the group on the 19 June at St John’s Smith Square in London.
It was nice to have a few copies of my motet O salutaris hostia (2008) arrive in the post this morning, nicely published by Schott Music in Germany this month. Copies are available to buy here.
My motets O lux beata Trinitas (2013), Veni Sancte Spiritus (2012) and O sacrum convivium (2012) will be released on a CD entitled O Sacrum Convivium on Vox Regis Records on 27 May. The recording is made by The Chapel Choir of King’s College, Aberdeen University (with whom I have a strong working relationship), conducted by David Smith, and features works by Tallis, Stanford and Purcell as well as contemporary pieces. The motets were first performed by the choir. A CD launch will take place as part of the university’s May Festival on 27 May and will feature a performance of O sacrum convivium.
It’s reached that time of the year when I say to myself ‘the next piece I write is going to be polyphonic’ – it happens every year (funnily enough always around Easter time) and every year I labour at trying to do something and every year I duly fail. Why is it so difficult to write polyphonic music? Why do so many contemporary composers (mainly choral composers here, I guess…) just not bother to even try? Why is it important to even attempt to write polyphonic music? I guess there are lots of answers to those questions, some of which may take a little longer to answer then this medium allows. But the main answer, and I may be being a little flippant here, is that polyphonic music is just not in fashion at the moment. And it’s hard to do. But mainly the fashion bit. Read more…