Here’s a fantastic photo from the Selfish Giant tour! It still amazes me that they are dancing to MY music!!! I love the way the giant is reacting!
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.
Make an Aria at the Barber Institute – Y Gollyngdod
Monday was fun! I got to rehearse my aria – Y Gollyngdod – with mezzo-soprano Amanda Baldwin, Michael Rafferty conducting and Michael McCarthy directing. I was really pleased with the way it turned out and it was really nice to see it being rehearsed with real attention to the subtleties of David Roberts‘ libretto. Amanda was great, and was really enthusiastic about getting to grips with the aria which was great to see. Also, repetiteur Nicola Rose did a really nice job.
In the masterclass Nigel Osborne really got to the heart of my music and showed a great deal of insight and understanding which was really helpful for me. Having such a big focus from Nigel and the others on my music was incredibly revealing and taught me a great deal. It also made me pretty pleased with myself, because I think its a pretty decent piece!
Overall I think the project was ace – a great opportunity to really work with a writer and confront the challenges that collaborative opera writing can throw up, as well as really making sure I got to the heart of the text and considered the dramatic aspects. A big thank you to all the people involved from Music Theatre Wales, Welsh National Opera and BCMG. At some point we may even get round to finishing the opera!
For now, David and I are going to work on a few songs – he tells me he has some poems he reckons would be good so it’ll be interesting to get my teeth into them. Speaking of teeth, I’m having really awful toothache – I think from my wisdom teeth. Sad times.
Anyway, hopefully I should get a recording up here pretty soon, so please come back when its around!
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!
Until the Middle – my latest piece – have a listen!
Here’s my latest work – a piano solo entitled Until the Middle which I recorded at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham last week. There’s no huge story behind it – it’s fairly abstract. It uses a series of pitches for the first 3/4 then kind of inverts it, around the middle of the piano keyboard. I wanted to write a piano piece which didn’t use any extended piano techniques like playing inside, but that still has a dramatic visual effect… Unfortunately I don’t have a video of it though!
Hope you enjoy it!
Arts Council England funding a tour of my latest piece!
Quick update with some exciting news! My latest piece for Springs Dance Company has just received funding from Arts Council England to tour around England! The Selfish Giant is a newly composed and choreographed piece based on the children’s story of the same name by Oscar Wilde. The show is a production of dance, storytelling and puppetry and is a great show for families. The tour dates are here, so go and have a look if you fancy it – and take some children along with you!
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!
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.
Dancing with Girls by the Cemetery – Recording
Here we go!
This is my latest piece, performed by Thumb Contemporary Music Ensemble in concert at Birmingham Conservatoire, conducted by Dan Watson.
It was inspired by an American solider’s snapshot photo album from the Korean war, which I saw when I was working for military history book publishers Helion & Co:
What interested me about it was the juxtaposition of really fun party times with the girls dancing / singing, placed next to a photo of a war cemetery where, presumably, lots of the solider’s friends had headstones. It just shocked me that the soldier was able to reconcile these images in his photo album – death and suffering juxtaposed with fun and relaxation. It raises all sorts of questions about escapism, denial, coping mechanisms etc etc…
In this piece I have simply taken the idea of juxtaposition and have taken solemn moments and juxtaposed them with reinvented versions American hit songs from the 1950s.
Hope you enjoy it!
I went down to the Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk yesterday, to the the CBSO & BCMG concert conducted by Oliver Knussen. First time I’d been to that part of the world and I have to say it was really nice!!! Always love being by the sea, but there’s something very calming about the landscape in Suffolk, so that I enjoyed that. Fish and chips on Aldeburgh beach followed by a great concert at Snape Maltings Concert Hall. Was nice to hear Charlotte Bray‘s violin concerto Caught in Treetops again, played even better this time by Alex Wood. And Elliot Carter’s new piece Conversations was ace, with a real sense of humour. Great piano and percussion soloists really brought the piece vividly to life and the audience loved it – and loved it even more when Knussen played it again straight afterwards. And of course there was some fantastic Stravinsky.
Then a great meal followed at the Lighthouse restaurant…never had rock eel before, but now I can recommend it!
Good times were had by all, until the pesky seagulls woke us up ridiculously early this morning. Winner.