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Birmingham Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music Teaching The Arts Workshops

A River Through History – CBSO Performance

A River Through History Title Page

Yesterday I attended both of the CBSO’s schools concerts involving the final performance for the Birmingham History Project I have been involved with. The full orchestra performed in Symphony Hall with audiences of 2000 children in each concert.

The reason for my excitement was that I had arranged a piece written by secondary school pupils from Shenley Academy for the full orchestra to perform. Earlier in May the young people performed the piece themselves at the CBSO Centre, then I went away and arranged it for the orchestra. My main concern whilst arranging the music was that I needed to balance needing to make the piece sound ‘orchestral’ and giving it a ‘professional’ edge, without losing the sense of the original material composed by the young people.

The ideas from the students were really good and fortunately I was able to work really well with the material they had composed without adding to it very much at all. I felt like I was able to be true to their original intentions. Fortunately I was able to go into the school and do a session with them to explain to them exactly what I had done with their piece, so that they could understand why they might not hear ‘their bit’ played by the same instrument or in the same way. I think this was a really valuable session.

From talking to them after the concert, they seemed really pleased that they could hear ‘their music’ in the piece even though I hadn’t just taken their piece note by note and orchestrated it.

It has taken a lot of work, but I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’m hoping to get a recording online soon.

A River Through History - Page 1

A River Through History double pageA River Through History section

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Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Prizewinning new piece – For Amber for voice and piano

Here’s a recording of the most recent performance of my work. This is For Amber which won a prize in the Association of English Singers and Speakers Composition Competition 2012.

It was performed in May at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama by the fantastic soprano Sarah Leonard.

The lovely chap who beat me to first place (grrrr) is the talented Mr Michael Betteridge who wrote a great piece called Charity which you can hear on his soundcloud.

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music Teaching The Arts

Science & Music

Notes spilling onto page
Notes spilling onto page – if only it were this easy!

Over the past few weeks I have been working with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group on a project called Resolution. The project brings together science and musical composition and as part of it I am writing a piece for a group of young secondary school students to play, which is based on research into Sjogren’s Syndrome. It’s all very intriguing.

The scientist I have been working with is looking into specific theories of how Sjogren’s Syndrome might develop, as it isn’t really known. It’s amazing both how much and how little scientists know! So the piece I’m writing uses extra-musical information such as the ideas of bacteria, antigens, antibodies etc and I am trying to convey this information without it being too much of a story-telling exercise. Which is fascinating. And difficult. But fun. And challenging.

The trouble is that the information given to me by the scientist is very complex and abstract and although myriad different ideas are sparked off by the research, actually honing those ideas down to be more communicative of the science is quite tricky. It should be interesting to see how this pans out! It begs the question – can concrete scientific ideas ever be communicated successfully by a non-verbal medium?

Samples and Samples
Samples and Samples
A fake science experiment
A fake science experiment or an intriguing appetiser?
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Birmingham The Arts

Disabled by Wilfred Owen & The Torn Fields by Mark-Anthony Turnage

Last night I went to a performance by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s The Torn Fields.

The piece is based on a number of war poems, one of which is Disabled by Wilfred Owen. This heart-wrenching poem is beautifully set  in the fourth movement of Turnage’s piece. Turnage has been careful not to detract from the poem but to enhance it. The poem was written during the first world war, but has disturbing resonances with today as conflict continues across the globe.

Have a listen here:

And here is the text:

Disabled – Wilfred Owen

He sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark,
And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey,
Legless, sewn short at elbow. Through the park
Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn,
Voices of play and pleasure after day,
Till gathering sleep had mothered them from him.

About this time Town used to swing so gay
When glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees
And girls glanced lovelier as the air grew dim,
— In the old times, before he threw away his knees.
Now he will never feel again how slim
Girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands,
All of them touch him like some queer disease.

There was an artist silly for his face,
For it was younger than his youth, last year.
Now he is old; his back will never brace;
He’s lost his colour very far from here,
Poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry,
And half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap of purple spurted from his thigh.
One time he liked a bloodsmear down his leg,
After the matches carried shoulder-high.
It was after football, when he’d drunk a peg,
He thought he’d better join. He wonders why . . .
Someone had said he’d look a god in kilts.

That’s why; and maybe, too, to please his Meg,
Aye, that was it, to please the giddy jilts,
He asked to join. He didn’t have to beg;
Smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years.
Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears
Of Fear came yet. He thought of jewelled hilts
For daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;
And care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears;
Esprit de corps; and hints for young recruits.
And soon, he was drafted out with drums and cheers.

Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal.
Only a solemn man who brought him fruits
Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul.
Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women’s eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

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Jeremy Clay New Music

That Terrible Silence – my latest piece

Here’s a recording of my latest piece which was premiered at The Forge in Camden in October. It was performed by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble conducted by Dan Watson.

The piece is roughly based on the frustration of not being able to write anything. I’d already written half a piece for the ensemble but it was terrible so I got rid of it and was really frustrated with it all – then this popped into my head and I just went for it!

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Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Y Gollyngdod: Mezzo-soprano aria with piano reduction

Finally got around to uploading this recording from October 2011. I posted about the project at the time which you can read here.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this!

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

New piece: A Little Character – for Trumpet and Piano

Here’s a new track which I recorded with Ed Carpenter earlier this autumn.
It’s very delicate to begin with, and I have parts where I am playing inside the piano. I also use the trumpet to set off resonances inside the piano, which are very quiet on the recording, but just about make it out!

Towards the end there’s a great bit of squealing by Ed on the trumpet, along with some singing… look out for that!

Hope you enjoy it.

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Make an Aria – public masterclass at the Barber Institute

On this coming Monday (10th Oct) from 5pm til 7.30pm there will be a public masterclass of four new arias written for the Make an Aria project, and I have written one of them!

The project is through Welsh National Opera, Music Theatre Wales, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, The University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University (Birmingham Conservatoire). There were four composers and four writers from the two universities and we were paired up. My writer was David Roberts, and we focused on a storyline which involved the intriguing and conflicting life of a communist Welshman. The aria is sung by his wife as she mourns his death and comes to the realisation that she has not really been able to live her life because of him.

If you fancy coming along, the  public masterclass will be at 5pm at the Barber Institute in Birmingham, which is a beautiful venue with a lovely acoustic.

See you there!

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Birmingham Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Sorting the Nation – video of performance at ArtsFest 2011

Here is a video of my most recent piece which was performed twice at ArtsFest in Birmingham September 2011 by Futuresonic. This performance is in Gallery 20 at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery which was a really cool venue to play in, although a little echoey, so there were some issues of balance. It was a shame their previous exhibition had finished because it would have tied in nicely with the concept of the piece.

Apologies for the Shelly ‘Shaky Hands’ Knotts filiming technique… :p Haha! To be fair it was very difficult holding the flip video recorder above audience head hight for over ten minutes! I’m hoping to get an audio recording which will be better quality, so I’ll sync it with the video when that happens… Anyway…

This is a piece written about the recent riots in Birmingham and the inadequate response of our politicians to address underlying social injustices and inequalities which were the root cause of the unrest.

Performers are Matt Stone – Baritone; Sam Hawksley – Clarinet; Ed Carpenter – Trumpet; Bryn Bowen – Percussion; Jo Walters – Violin

Many thanks to these guys! They did an excellent job with limited rehearsal time. And a particular well done to Matt Stone who interpreted my score amazingly well!

Also many thanks to ArtsFest for letting us play!

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Birmingham Community Music Jeremy Clay New Music The Arts

Sorting The Nation – Futuresonic Performance at ArtsFest Birmingham

This weekend is Birmingham’s ArtsFest, a mega two-day arts festival in the centre of Birmingham which is completely free! Obviously a brilliant idea. I love that you can go into town and check out loads of different performances of various genres. An excellent idea! This year I’m having a piece played by Futuresonic musicians which is a really fun piece as you can see:

On Saturday 10th September at 2pm we’re performing in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Gallery 20 – Sorting the Nation by me, and into the darkness he spoke… by Joanna Karselis and a piece by Shelly Knotts. This programme will be repeated at 4pm on Sunday 11th September in Room 3 of the Council House (not, as it says on the original ArtsFest programme, in the HMS Daring Room because that room is 4m x 5m and we have 7 performers including a drum kit and I requested we have room for an audience!) We are also playing Shelly’s piece outside on Cherry Street at 12.30pm on Sunday.

We have some ace musicians playing for Futuresonic this time:

Baritone – Matt Stone; Flute – Ruth Harrison; Clarinet – Sam Hawksley; Trumpet – Ed Carpenter; Percussion – Bryn Bowen; Violin – Jo Walters and on Sunday we have Beth Clay joining us to sing Soprano in my piece.

This our rehearsal last weekend in Oasis Church‘s new community space (yes, a rehearsal space we can use for free!) at Edgbaston Cricket Ground.