Commission from St John’s College, Cambridge

The choir of St John’s College, Cambridge needs no introduction from me.

chapelRenowned across the world for its rich sound, beautiful blend, vivacity and virtuosity, it is a world-class ensemble.  I feel very excited to have been commissioned to write a new piece for them, which they will sing during Evensong in 2015 under the direction of Andrew Nethsingha.  Much to think about!  What words to set?  How best to enjoy those voices?   I’ll post again when the new piece is taking shape.  Incidentally, somewhat off at a tangent (because though I like them very much, I don’t think I’ll be setting them to music), I recently came across these lines from George Herbert’s poem Even-song:      Thus in thy ebony box / Thou dost inclose us, till the day / Put our amendment in our way, / And give new wheels to our disorder’d clocks.

Ouija, Celadon, Messiaen, Magnificat, Slow Tide II

This is a quick news post with dates of some upcoming performances:

First up, Celadon will be played in two concerts given by the distinguished Korean musicians Kyung Sung Cho, Hyo Young Kim and Seungmi Suh during their visit to Cambridge this month – at 5.30pm on Wednesday 25 April in the Recital Room, University Faculty of Music (West Rd), and on Saturday April 28 at 5.00pm in Robinson College Chapel.

Next, I’m writing and presenting a programme in BBC Radio 3’s long-running Saturday morning series Building a Library on Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie; it’ll be broadcast on Saturday May 26th at about 9.30am.

Ouija will receive its first performance at 8pm on May 23 in Sidney Sussex Chapel, in a recital by Peter Sheppard Skaerved which also includes the premiere of Sonata Sospesa by Poul Ruders, and Bach’s G minor sonata and D minor Partita.  Full details and tickets available from Cambridge Summer Music Festival.  This is the piece conceived as a kind of séance, in which the violinist seeks to communicate with unseen spirits (see two earlier posts here and here).  Sidney Sussex Chapel will be a wonderfully atmospheric setting.

There will be further performances of Ouija at the Holywell Music Room in Oxford on November 2nd, and in London (details still tbc).

Later that week Gonville & Caius Choir, with senior organ scholar Annie Lydford and their director Geoffrey Webber, will give the second performance of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis I wrote for them (the Caius Service) – this is on Sunday 27 May at 6pm in Gonville and Caius Chapel.

And in June I will be giving a concert in Bonn, which includes performances of a newly revised version of A Sense of Touch (originally for four pianos: here in its alternative version for two pianos and tape) and the first performance of Slow Tide II.  This is a rethinking of the music of Slow Tide, a piece for two pianos and two percussionists, keeping most of the harmonic and melodic material, but radically rethinking the sonority and texture, and recasting the piece for piano, MIDI keyboard and tape.  The sounds of the MIDI keyboard and the tape are being realised by Jo Snape in The Hague.  The programme will also include more of my piano music.   This is on Tuesday June 12th in the Schumannhaus, Bonn, with the support of the Institut Français.

[Image: Celadon ceramic art, Korea]

GOATs in concert

The climax of six weeks of scraping and blasting came yesterday, with a grand concert in Cambridge Corn Exchange to celebrate the success of the Grade-One-A-Thon raising money for the Spinal Injuries Association.  A large and motley orchestra of well over a hundred players filled the stage, and played to a huge audience.  Everyone, it turned out, had passed their grade 1 exams, most with distinctions.  More importantly, vast amounts of money had been raised for this fantastic cause – in the end, a grand total of £60,000.

There’s a short feature about it all on BBC Look East – the music being played throughout the clip is my piece.  You can also hear about it on Radio 5 live (Christian O’Connell) if you fast-forward to 47 mins in.

It was a lot of fun.  Chris Lawrence did some excellent stand-up, and Russell Keable took the orchestra through its paces, which included new pieces by Simon Brown and me, both of which sounded surprisingly acceptable!  Guy Llewellyn and Maurice Hodges gave an excellent rendition of Mozart’s Rondo (from the 4th horn concerto), taking turns at horn and piano.  There were many strange squeaks and thumps, and much laughter.  All credit to those who worked very hard to make this happen so wonderfully.

GOAT music

Chances are, the premiere of this new orchestral piece will be a raucous affair.  It’ll be an orchestra with a difference, as you can tell from the name, ‘Clueless in Concert’…

This month over 150 musicians from in and around Cambridge have taken up the ‘Grade-one-a-thon‘ challenge.   That is, they’ve heroically volunteered to learn a completely new instrument up to the level of Grade 1 in one month, taking the exam at the end of February.  By collecting sponsorship they have already raised over £20,000 for the Spinal Injuries Assocation (SIA).

I’ve been asked to write a short piece for the full orchestra, which is set to include a hundred or more players, including 14 horns and 7 harps.  I finished it last week and all the parts were sent off this weekend.  It was certainly fun to write and I hope it’s fun to play.  I can’t vouch for what it’ll sound like, though!

Clueless in Concert is going to be an amazing occasion – do get a ticket before they all sell out, and come along.  (It’s on Sunday 27 February, in the Guildhall – click here for the full story.)