1215: Foundation Of Liberty, Beowulf, Chelsea, Exeter Book, Exeter Cathedral, Flyht, London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, O God Of Earth And Altar, Parliament Choir, Royal Hospital, Seamus Heaney, The Lord Is My Light
Into clearer air now that March has arrived, I am pleased to recount that the full orchestral score of the complete version of 1215: Foundation Of Liberty is now ready. The shortened version, running to twenty minutes, is looking set fair for a first performance in June, but we are very keen to get this full account out there as well. I’ll be chasing up leads to try to get this performed, but anybody who might be interested is welcome to get in touch. The orchestra is standard (double woodwinds, trumpets and horns, timps, percussion and strings) and the vocal parts are within the reach of decent singers with a bit of rehearsal behind them, but the baritone soloist would probably need to be a pro. As I say, drop me a line if interested.
As I think I mentioned last time I wrote, Flyht looks set to be performed at Exeter Cathedral on 13th June, which is good news indeed. Listening to Seamus Heaney reading his account of Beowulf on the radio late last night took me back to the wonderful sounds of the Old English language which, of course, makes up the central section of Flyht, from the Exeter Book.
We’ll be working on O God Of Earth And Altar with the Parliament Choir tomorrow, and I am looking forward to giving the singers a little bit of insight into what goes in the mind of a twenty-first century composer, this one, at least. The piece ticks along quite happily on the surface, but there is more going on underneath, which I am keen to have the choir know about. I think that all that information really helps the singers to get involved with a piece, and has the bonus of making me look a little cleverer than I am, no bad thing.
I have taken this process on to my next piece, which is in bits and pieces on my computer screen as I write. I have three commissions on the table at the moment (four if you count promotion of 1215), and, tackling them in the order they came in, I am heading into my fourth setting of the Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis. My previous settings have all been “on” rather than “in” (Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis on E, for example, which, ahem, won a prize), and this latest one has moved from C to Eb, for reasons which will become apparent once they are explained, but that point has not been reached quite yet. It is really important to me to make commissions specific to commissioners, either through choice of text or through some kind of musical idea which is unique to that piece, and here there is an image which will go through the entire setting.
With a basic idea in place, the modern composer can then go about transforming it in all sorts of different ways, achieving that grail of generating new material which is nevertheless derived from a central idea. That kind of unity in diversity is pretty central to writing for me, rather than wafting around aimlessly in search of some kind of sonority or other. Build the ideas and the sonorities will follow.
Lastly, some good news for my setting of The Lord Is My Light. This has been selected for performance at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea on 17th May, as part of the London Festival Of Contemporary Church Music. This will be the fourth (I think) appearance of my music at this Festival, which is heartening to know, even though other work will keep me away from that performance.
It has been good to get to March, which was always a crucial point for my new life. I knew that things would occasionally be difficult from November to here (too many variables, too many unknowns), but from this point things will begin to settle. It is time to look ahead and to work out the kind of life I would like to have over the next – what? – five years or so, I suppose. I already have a fairly clear idea of what is likely to happen, and now I have the time to begin to focus on that, also to get back to some serious writing and promoting.