Hello November, and hello to the cold, crisp mornings that make my 'composing walks' just a little more challenging to get out of bed for! Due to being behind with various deadlines, I'm going to keep this short, and maybe add to it when I have a spare moment - unlikely in the next week or so!
Work continues apace to finish the vocal scores before they can go off to print, ready for the much anticipated rehearsals of 'On Windover Hill' to begin in January. I'm hoping to get some rehearsal footage on YouTube before too long so people can begin to get a taste of what the performance in March will sound like. Have you got your tickets yet?! Over 20% of tickets were sold in the first week they were on sale, so don't hang about! Interest is also building in the modern premiere of Avril Coleridge-Taylor's Wyndore, that will also be performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Concert Orchestra on March 7th.
In the meantime, I'm gearing up for Christmas with my numerous choirs, and I'm looking forward to hearing at least two performances of my Christmas Chimes (below) in the next month. I've also submitted one or two pieces to next year's London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. So we'll see what happens there! I had the fortune to sing at St Stephen's Walbrook (London) at the beginning of this month. What a place, and what an acoustic! It's so wonderful to still be making new discoveries. It's what being a musician is all about.
And so it's that time of year again where choirs finally are guilt-free when they sing their Christmas repertoire - honestly, singing about kings and babies in September does seem a bit early! I'm very excited to be hearing two premieres of mine in the next week or two, with Christmas Chimes (free score featured below) being sung on 16th December, and a choral setting of the early 19th century English folk song, 'For the Snows', being performed just a few days previously.
I've now received the final draft of 'On Windover Hill' vocal scores back from the printers and I'm so pleased with the final result. I'll be making final edits and tweaks over the next few days before ordering them to arrive in readiness for rehearsals to begin on January 7th, exactly 3 months before the performance date - have you got your tickets yet?!
I'm delighted to have accepted further support from the RVW Trust, who do such good work in supporting the work of British composers. I don't take any of your support for granted and it's a real privilege to have this opportunity to not only have my work performed, but also to be able to support the work of fellow artists who are working with me on this amazing project. That I can also promote the music of neglected female composers, Avril Coleridge-Taylor and Ruth Gipps (the latter who I knew as a youngster), is a very important part of the concert and project as a whole.
So until the New Year, a very Happy Christmas to you all.
The dust is beginning to settle from 14 carol services and it's beginning to sink in that March is really not that far away! For those of you following my progress with On Windover Hill, there seem to be almost daily developments and it's tricky to keep all channels of social media and this website up to date!
Tickets are selling very well and I would encourage you not to delay purchasing yours. Advertising is now live on the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's own website so we are expecting things to be hotting up even further!
Please also keep Saturday 1st February as a date in mind for something quite exciting that I shall be announcing soon...
In other news, I'm delighted that my arrangement of the Finale from Beethoven's Choral Symphony 'Ode to Joy' (down a major 3rd) will be performed as part of the his 250th anniversary. Details to follow soon!
My 'Christmas Chimes' was performed by no less than 3 choirs over the festive period - my heartfelt thanks to them for including it in their programmes. My latest featured work (below) is a short anthem suitable for Easter. It's completely free to download - just drop me a line on social media to let me know if you'd like to perform it!
Have a very happy new year!
September has rattled past and October has appeared out of the gloom and rain.
The last few weeks haven't been quite as constructive as I'd have liked, with lots of things that come under the banner of 'life' slightly getting in the way of all the composing and arranging I had planned. Still, mustn't grumble, things are still on track for the big concert in March and I've been testing various printers and publishers on the quality of their service so as to decide where to have my vocal and orchestral scores printed. Oh, and some new mini-flyers have arrived too!
I've designed an attractive sponsorship package for interested parties for the Windover Hill premiere, and it has started to appear on concert-listing websites, such as Bachtrack. Tickets go on sale THIS MONTH *gulp*! Expect many hints on social media and this website...
I've had some really productive meetings about the event itself and hope to reveal more soon, but in the meantime, it's back to Sibelius to tweak, arrange, and hopefully not adjust too much. It's the composer's prerogative to make changes, but it's dangerous to revisit a score more than a couple of times as you become incapable of remembering why you did what you did. And that moment must be respected. But, oh, the temptation to make too many changes!
In other news, my Christmas Chimes appeared as part of a workshop in Mickleham, Surrey, last month, and I'm looking forward to hearing it in performance in December in Sussex! Do help yourself to the score below if you or your choir are interested.
In the meantime, onward with the composing, playing, and conducting...and did someone mention Christmas...?
Is it Autumn already? September seems have come round very quickly and already I've felt a crispness in the air on my early morning walks.
Although its been a fairly quiet month musically as everyone is off enjoying their summer holidays, I've enjoyed some excellent networking events and have been to a number of live performances. These have been good for the soul and has helped strengthen my resolve to be doing what I'm doing, and at the most base level, have acted as great motivation. One of these events was held at Leith Hill Place, with the Museum of the Royal College of Music. It was great to meet and talk all things Coleridge-Taylor and Gipps with their research associate, and I look forward to the avenues of research it may have opened up for our performance next year. Leith Hill Place is cared for by the National Trust and, though not a large property, it is worth experiencing, not just to see the piano on which Vaughan-Williams wrote so much of his music, they also do the world's best cream tea. Just saying.
I also attended an ArtWave exhibition in Sussex of the work of Ashley Hylands, who is inspired daily by the Long Man of Wilmington, living as close to it as she does. I'm really looking forward to seeing her artwork in conjunction with my cantata when they are presented together next March.
As well as starting the editing process of On Windover Hill, I am now beginning to promote the concert more and particularly the sponsorship opportunities on offer. Watch this space!
This month's freebie is my Christmas song, Christmas Chimes. For SATB choir, this original tune weaves twelve hidden carols around it, and the choirs who have performed it have really enjoyed it! Just click on the score to download it.
Have a great month everyone.
After a few weeks respite in early August, I'm up and running again! I've had some wonderful musical experiences in the last few weeks and I feel motivated and inspired to continue exploring my own musical path. It's a funny old existence being a composer and I'm already wondering where music is going to take me after On Windover Hill is all finished!
I've had some excellent news from the Ambache Charitable Trust who have generously awarded my project a grant which will allow us to programme music by Sussex composers, Ruth Gipps, and Avril Coleridge-Taylor. I recently had the privilege of meeting Ruth's son and daughter-in-law, who showed me her tremendous archive of music, some of which we will choose to perform in March 2020 alongside my piece. I also purchased a signed copy of Avril Coleridge-Taylor's book of her and her father's life. I would recommend it though it is not an easy read - the incredible hardships she endured are quite sobering. I'm delighted however that we will be performing her orchestral/choral tone-poem, Wyndore, (an early version of Windover) which hasn't been performed since 1953.
As for my piece, most movements are now complete so the editing process can begin! On holiday with the family in Dorset, I took the opportunity to walk (actually quite a climb) around the Long Man's cousin, the Cerne Abbas Giant. I have to confess, not being able to see the entire figure from various viewpoints around the hill makes it a little hard to comprehend. I didn't quite 'get' the sense of mystery that I still feel when I make the walk up Windover Hill. I can however recommend the local brewery!
Finally, just a little thing that made me smile; standing in a queue in a shop, I heard a little tune. I couldn't quite recognise it, and its origin was quite indistinct. But it was beautifully melodic and quite entrancing. And then I realised, it was my 10 year-old son, humming a little tune that had just come to him. Of course, he denied ever humming anything when questioned, but it was without doubt, just a little moment of creativity from a lad who as yet, has not found his musical path... or has he?
It's July, and life is in danger of being completely taken over by On Windover Hill.
There seems to be a new development every day lately, and whilst it is very exciting and totally absorbing, I am trying to be careful with balancing that most delicate of balancing acts, life and work. I've got this wrong before, and whilst it is so easy to become completely wrapped up in a project, it's so important to make quality down time within your schedule, and ensure that you are listening to your body and its requirements. That said, I'm going on a writing retreat this month to knuckle down and get writing the next few movements. When the ideas flow, they flow like water, the notes tumbling and spilling over each other in their haste to get onto the paper. I've had to recognise that when the ideas stop, as they do quite regularly, I have to seek an input for my creativity to feed off. Even if it's just taking a couple of hours to go for a walk, space for the soul to thrive, to listen, and the mind to wander, is absolutely key (no musical pun intended).
It's been suggested that alongside my composition, I write up my mini-blogs/tweets/insta posts and diary notes, in a booklet to accompany the music. I have to say I quite like that idea, so I'm continuing to make notes, whilst making notes, if you see what I mean.
More important meeting beckon, more artists to discover, and more musicians and fellow composers to talk to this month. More news soon!
If you haven't heard of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, then you've just missed a treat! I was fortunate enough to have three hearings of my music over the course of a very special week in early May, where many of London's churches extended their musical repertoire to mostly contemporary music, much of it written especially for the festival itself. The festival also provides a useful platform for composers to meet and discuss, for example, modern approaches to hymn-writing. I'm looking forward to 2020's festival already.
I also had the chance last month to work briefly with that most magical of choirs, Tenebrae. Their clarity of sound is exceptional and it was a joy to be amongst them.
On Windover Hill is progressing steadily as I balance the distractions of the day with getting some dots on paper. I'm really enjoying the orchestrations that are lending themselves to my melodies and the first movement is now complete! Watch this space as the project continues to grow and gather in pace, and do please check out the project's own webpages from the top menu of this page. The first mini-blog from the composition process is available to read here.
I've spent many happy hours reading this last month, finalising the libretto for On Windover Hill. There are still so many books that are surfacing in charity shops, eBay, libraries, and archives, all of which relate to the Long Man of Wilmington. I found lots of fascinating photographs and documents during my visit to The Keep - a world-class archive in Brighton to be recommended! I'm still hearing from artists from all over the world who want to be involved in my project in some way or another, even if just to say they've been inspired by the Long Man themselves. Otherwise, it's all go to start the serious business of composing On Windover Hill this month. I shall also visit Boxgrove Priory near Chichester, where I hope to have the first performance.
In other news, I was thrilled with the first performance of my anthem, You Have Redeemed the World, that was sung by the Pelham Choir at a Good Friday service in Sussex. Later in May, I'll be attending the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music where two of my recent pieces are being premiered.
With my conducting, composing, playing, (and much cooking), it's looking to be another busy month!
What a busy month it's been! So much to tell, it's probably easiest displayed as bullet points!
Discussed possible collaboration with Sussex artist, Ashley Hylands (see Instagram)
Submitted proposals for grant funding for @OnWindoverHill
Recorded first movement of On Windover Hill
Set a date for the first performance of On Windover Hill - 7th March 2020
Continued rehearsals for Brahms Requiem
Watched my son in his school's performance of 'Oliver' - totally brilliant!
Played jazz piano for my sister's charity event
Visited the Long Man Brewery Shop - highly recommended!
TWO pieces were accepted for performance at this year's London Festival of Contemporary Church Music. So looking forward to attending a total of 3 premieres of mine over the next few weeks!
I can't really believe it's all happening at last; my self-imposed mission to give the Long Man of Wilmington a voice is really starting to take shape. My crowdfunding campaign lasts through March and I'll be doing everything I can to make the project as successful as I can. In a week or two, I'll be singing through the first draft of one of the movements for choir, and I've already had some really positive discussions with them regarding a first performance of On Windover Hill in early 2020.
Please keep an eye on my Instagram and Twitter accounts as more news is posted daily.
I was delighted to accept a commission from a local church choir, for a short mediation for Good Friday. I'm making it free for any interested parties, so please scroll down to see it in my 'Featured Work'.
In other news, I'm still rehearsing every week with five choirs, whether it be waving my arms, accompanying on a variety of pianos (dodgy and non-dodgy), or singing!
I was delighted to feature on the BBC breakfast show with BBC Sussex & Surrey on Sunday 17th February, where I introduced my project to give the Long Man of Wilmington a voice. To hear it again, please visit the project's own web-page here.
I'm also very excited to have just been given permission to use the melody and lyrics of Maria Cunningham's 1996 folksong about the Long Man as inspiration for one of the choral movements I'm writing.
Finally, I've heard great reports about the second performance of my featured work below (I Wander Where I Go), so thank you to all those who sung and gave it life!
My project to give the Long Man of Wilmington a voice continues to blossom and I've been busily rummaging through various books that have arrived in the post, for more historical titbits that will help me in my composing.
The best discovery I've made is that in 1932, a young Benjamin Britten visited the Long Man on a variety of occasions, with fellow composer, Frank Bridge (who lived in Friston, just across the South Downs from Wilmington). Britten notes in his diary that he picnicked on "David, (giant)" on 23rd July, which, his editor suggests is a local name for the Long Man. Through dialogue with the Britten- Pears Foundation and various esteemed archaeologists, I have decided that this is not the case, and is in fact Britten's own name for the Long Man.
But the bigger question remains, was Britten ever inspired to write any music inspired by "David"?