LATEST NEWS | 2018

Galway plays Mozart at Dorchester

November 2018

My Hazara People in the Orchestra of St. Johns 50th Anniversary Concert

www.some.ox.ac.uk
www.osj.org.uk

My Hazara People has been performed both in a piano and voice version (Charlotte Tetley (mezzo) and Graeme Bailey (piano) as part of a panel discussion on Women Refugees at Somerville College, Oxford, 20 June) and with string orchestra at the Tandem Festival ( 24 June). The work will be performed again at Dorchester Abbey by Charlotte and the Orchestra of St. John’s conducted by Cayenna Ponchione. The concert is a celebration of OSJ’s 50th Anniversary.

Sadie writes: 'My Hazara People is a setting of two texts, the title work by Shukria Rezaei, a young Afghan poet, and Lalai, lalai, bobe bacha shikar rafta (Baby’s father went hunting), a traditional Hazari lullaby. Although their characters are entirely different, the two poems share much in common. The importance of family and home, and beyond that connection with country and heritage are at the centre of both. Shukria’s poem is a direct expression of love and despair for Afghanistan with intimate moments of terror - a cup falling from her mother’s hand during an explosion, her aunt fainting - set against the suffering of Hazaras across the world. In the context of this devastating contemporary experience Lalai lalai is nostalgic and poignant - open gates, straw latches, a sleeping child. The tune of the lullaby is heard in two highly contrasted versions. For Shukria’s words it is dark and restrained, a repeating rhythm illustrating the Hazara’s seemingly never-ending pain, and for Lalai lalai it is bright and joyful with sounds of the hunt, a crackling fire and a gentle chorus as the child is rocked. A further thread runs through the music - a quotation of my favourite traditional Afghan Herati lullaby Allah Hu(God is great), reflecting Shukria’s reference to her people’s religious heritage. I have adapted the text at the end of Lalai Lalai to bring it into the Shukria’s world, a reminder that each innocent person caught up in conflict is a mother, a brother, a sister, a father, a daughter….kids like us.

Shukria Rezaei is from Afghanistan. She began writing English poems when she arrived in England 7 years ago. Her work predominately focuses on her people, the Hazaras of Afghanistan, and the politics surrounding her country. She has been featured on BBC Radio and Channel Four. She has mentored young students to write poems following her award of a Forward Foundation Studentship from Oxford Spires Academy. Shukria is currently studying Politics, Philosophy & Economics at Goldsmiths, University of London. © Shukria Rezaei 2018.

I am indebted to Shukria for allowing to set her poem and to Cayenna Ponchione for inviting me to be part of this wonderful collaboration.

Catherine Clarke

November 2018

Katherine Clarke premieres Cantare et trepidare for singing violist

http://www.boroughnewmusic.co.uk/series/series-11
http://stolave.weebly.com
https://www.katherineclarkeviola.co.uk

Singing violist Katherine Clarke will be giving the premiere of Cantare et trepidare in the Borough New Music Series at St. George the Martyr Church (London) on 27 November with a subsequent performance in St. Olave Church the following day. The piece was written especially for Katherine after hearing her wonderful performance of my solo viola piece Three Dances for Diana Nemorensis. Cantare is based on the The Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (Red Book of Montserrat), a devotional collection of Catalan, Occitan and Latin texts including several late medieval songs. The 14th century manuscript is located at the monastery of Montserrat outside Barcelona in Catalonia. The monastery also holds the shrine of the Virgin of Montserrat, which was a major site of pilgrimage during the time the manuscript was prepared. The purpose of the Llibre Vermell is expressed by its anonymous compiler:

Because the pilgrims wish to sing and dance while they keep their watch at night in the church of the Blessed Mary of Montserrat, and also in the light of day; and in the church no songs should be sung unless they are chaste and pious, for that reason these songs that appear here have been written. And these should be used modestly, and take care that no one who keeps watch in prayer and contemplation is disturbed.

My reworking of four of the texts maintains much of the original vocal music with the viola taking the part of an other canonic voice, a hurdy-gurdy or a medieval fiddle.

I Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus (Death dance)
We hurry towards death, let us desist from sin. I have resolved to write about the contempt of the world, that the living should not spend their time in vain things. Now is the hour to rise from the evil sleep of death.

II Mariam, matrem viginem (Polyphonic chant: virelais a 3)
Extol Mary, the Virgin Mother, extol Jesus Christ with one accord. Mary, haven for the whole world, protect us. Jesus, saviour of us all, hear us. Indeed you are our sanctuary, truly a refuge for the whole world.

III Stella splendens in monte (Danse: virelais a 2)
Splendid star on the jagged mountain, with miracles shining like a sunbeam, hear the people. From all around they rally, rejoicing, rich and poor, young and old. Splendid star on the jagged mountain, with miracles shining like a sunbeam, hear the people.

IV Imperayritz de la ciutat joyosa (Polyphonic chant: virelais a 2)
Empress of the joyous city of paradise, eternally happy, purified of sin, abounding in virtues, Mother of God, by divine order; the beautiful Virgin with an angelic face, because you are so beloved of God, have pity on the faithful, pious one, praying for them to the celestial king.

V Ad mortem festinamus peccare desistamus (Death dance)

Duncan Honeybourne

November 2018

Shadows: Six Portraits of William Baines in Eccleshall

http://ascrecords.com/primafacie/return_nightingales
http://www.duncanhoneybourne.com/events

Duncan will be giving a repeat performance of Shadows on Saturday 10th November 2018 at Eccleshall Parish Church, Staffordshire at a recital entitled Shadows: Echoes of the Great War. Shadows is inspired by the life and music of little-known Yorkshire composer William Baines. Baines died in 1922 at the age of 23 but left behind a substantial catalogue of over 150 works. Likened to that of Scriabin, Baines’ piano music is sensuous, highly coloured and quite unlike anything being written by his British contemporaries. Shadows are reflections on episodes from Baines’ life and diary entries, each piece incorporating a chord, a gesture or a figuration from one of Baines’ solo piano works. Duncan gave the work its premiere in 2013 in Ripon Cathedral and recorded it for Prima Facie on The Return of the Nightingales (released November 2017):

Honeybourne sensitively and sensuously illuminates the tender, intimate lyricism. (Cross-eyed Pianist)

Duncan Honeybourne has the lion's share... with fine accounts of the two large sets, Lunae (2012) and Shadows (2013). (Music Opinion)

A disc that offers much of interest for inquiring listeners and players alike. Not that those latter will find it easy to match the technical finesse and interpretative insight of the pianists featured here. (Gramophone)

The movements are entitled:
I ..waiting.. 11 Shepstye Road, Horbury, Yorkshire, 26 March 1899 (Baines’ birth)
II Horbury Co-op Cinema 1912: Ghosts (Baines’ time as a silent movie pianist)
III '..out into the lonely grey..' August 11th 1921 (boat trip around Baines’ beloved Flamborough Head)
IV 'Tomorrow I shall be in khaki.' (Baines was conscripted into the RAF on 4 October 1917)
V '..after I had played le Rossignol..' (Baines’ last piano recital on March 28th 1922)
VI ..waiting.. 91 Albemarle Road, The Mount, York (Baines died at home on 6 November 1922).

Bass Clarinet and Friends - a miscellany

October 2018

Divine Art/Metier CD Release including Owl of the Hazels

https://divineartrecords.com/recording/bass-clarinet-and-friends-a-miscellany

Here at UYMP are very pleased that Harrison’s work for bass clarinet and piano, Owl of the Hazels (Lazdynn Peleda), has been recorded by Ian Mitchell and Aleksander Szram for Divine Art/Métier on the CD Bass Clarinet and Friends - a miscellany.

Harrison writes: 'Owl of the Hazels uses traditional Lithuanian songs that tell of a bride’s journey from first love to the walk home from the church after the wedding (Anksta ryta keliau /I woke up early) and finally a week later, to her lamenting the loss of her mother and family home (Prapuoliau, motula / I am lost, mother). The title refers to the bride reminiscing about the owl in the hazel trees near her parent’s house. The work was premiered by its dedicatee, Ian Mitchell and Tim Jones at the International Bass Clarinet Convention, De Doelen Concert Hall, Rotterdam, 21st October 2005.’

Ian Mitchell is a leading performer on all members of the clarinet family and has made recordings with most of them. Here, a miscellany of pieces, in several styles of music from the Romantic to the Modern including the jazz-influenced, duets with voice, Cuban dances and other ensemble pieces, demonstrates the range and mellifluousness of the bass clarinet. The works on this CD are by leading American and British composers and some who deserve wider recognition based on the fine pieces presented here. Included is a suite by William O. Smith, better known as jazz legend Bill Smith, for two bass clarinets. Ian Mitchell has for many years also led the Gemini ensemble which is very highly regarded in the UK for its work in contemporary music. Guest appearances from ‘friends’ complete a fine line up of expert musicians: Ian Mitchell, Ileana Ruhemann, Aleksander Szram, Caroline Balding, Yuko Inoue, Sophie Harris, with Friends - Ruth Ehrlich, Mick Foster, Naomi Sullivan, Alison Wells.

Owl of the Hazels (Lazdynn Peleda) will be performed at the CD Launch Concert on 7 October 2018 performed by Ian and Aleksander at the 1901 Club, Waterloo.

Festival Jovens Musicos 2018 Afghanistan’s Ensemble Zohra

September 2018

Afghanistan’s Ensemble Zohra perform Sapida-dam-Nau in Lisbon

https://gulbenkian.pt/noticias/coesao-integracao-social/orquestra-zohra-em-lisboa

It has been an unbelievable honour to write for these young women and I am absolutely thrilled that my new work Sapida-Dam-Nau (New Dawn) will receive a further performance on 29 September 2018 at the Youth Music Festival in Lisbon, Portugal at the Gulbenkian Hall conducted by Lauren Braithwaite.

On ANIM’s website, Ensemble Zohra is described as ‘the first of its kind in the country. It consists of over thirty female students from grades 6 – 12. Led by young female conducting students who are the first female conductors in the country’s history, this ensemble is an important step in providing opportunities for female musicians to unite in solidarity, deepen their commitment to music, and develop their skills as collaborative musicians. Ensemble Zohra is prominently featured on the album "The Rosegarden of Light," released internationally on Toccata Classics and Naxos in 2016. Via this album, the Ensemble has been heard on radio and online broadcasts all across the world.’

The work was premiered at the Closing Concert of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on 20 January 2017 conducted by Kevin Bishop with subsequent performances at the Tonhalle-Gesellschaft Zürich, Centre for the Arts, International School of Geneva, Kaiser-Wilhelm- Gedächtnis-Kirche (Berlin), Großer Saal des Musikgymnasiums Schloss Belvedere (Weimar).

https://www.weforum.org/press/2016/12/afghan-women-s-orchestra-zohra-launches-tour-at-world-economic-forum-annual-meeting-2017-in-davos

PROGRAMME NOTE:
The AWO is unique in its integration of traditional and western instruments, including the tanbur, ghichak, dilruba, sitar, rubab and qashkarcha, instruments which feature alongside compliments of strings, woodwind, percussion and piano. Sapida Dam-Nau integrates the instruments into a piece which celebrates the unique sound of the ensemble.The huge variety of sounds are transformed into jubilant peals of bells and two contrasted melodies. The first melody is lyrical and reminiscent of the English pastoral and the second is joyous in character, inspired by an Afghan-Indian scale associated with early morning. The title is suggestive of the music that might be heard at dawn in both my home town of Shaftesbury and in Kabul and also celebrates the ‘new dawn’ of music in Afghanistan. It is particularly wonderful that this rebirth is being spearheaded by the Afghanistan Women’s Orchestra ‘Ensemble Zohra’ (Venus). The commission was generously supported by a 2016 Finzi Trust Scholarship.

Peter Sheppard Skaerved

September 2018

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs Gallery in Vermont

https://toccataclassics.com/product/sadie-harrison-strings-and-piano

Hardly a month goes by when I don’t hear of yet another performance of pieces from Gallery (Rooms 1 and 2). On 28 September Peter plays a selection in Middlebury College, Vermont. Peter’s recording of the work (Toccata Classics TOCC0304) has been described by Kate Wakeling in the BBC Music Magazine as ‘a vivid exploration of the miniature. No single movement exceeds four minutes and the shortest is just 24 seconds, yet these five magnetic works explore content and form with a dazzling intensity. Many of the compositions are exphrastic in nature…Gallery is by turns meditative and skittish, exploring the paintings and drawings of artist and violinist Peter Sheppard Skaerved who also performs the work (and writes the disc’s engaging liner notes)’, and by Fiona Maddocks (Guardian) as ‘Gallery (Rooms I and II) for solo violin – 19 musical glimpses to be played in any order – takes the paintings of the versatile violinist Peter Sheppard-Skaerved as a starting point….each glittering in their intensity.’

Future for Music Coretta performance

September 2018

Coretta at St. George’s, Brandon Hill

http://www.nmsw.org.uk

Coretta receives a further performance on 23 September 2018 at St. Geroges, Brandon Hill, Bristol, performed by Andy Keenan, Alison Holford, Michelle Ezigbo and Tomáš Klement.

Coretta is a collage of fictional musical recollections given to Coretta, wife of Martin Luther King, following the assassination of her husband on 4 April 1968. It is not so well known that Coretta King (née Scott) was a fine classical singer and pianist, referred to as ‘a talented young soprano’ in a January 1964 Time Magazine article. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and education from Antioch College, Ohio and supported by a scholarship, she undertook a second degree in voice and violin at the New England Conservatory of Music in the early 1950s, meeting Martin Luther King during this time in Boston. Although Coretta has envisioned a life for herself as a musician, she realised that such a career was not fitting for a Baptist minister’s wife. However, following her marriage on 18 June 1953, Coretta continued to perform in concerts and religious services as a form of non-violent protest, giving audiences ‘an emotional connection to the messages of social, economic, and spiritual transformation’.

Martin Luther King also valued music as a force for political change and spoke publicly about its importance for the Civil Rights Movement. On 13 September 1964, he met with the organisers of West Berlin’s first jazz festival, contributing the foreword for the programme. He wrote ‘When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument….Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.This is triumphant music.’

Coretta begins and ends with Martin Luther King’s favourite song Precious Lord, take my hand. King’s last words prior to his assassination were a request that it be sung at a mass he was to attend that night. The hymn is initially heard transformed by Coretta’s grief into a dark lament, followed by hazy memories of music that she may have shared with her husband - a blues waltz, quirky bebop ‘improvisation’, a dance from a 1950s musical, a quote from There is a Balm in Gilead (the only recording we have of Coretta’s singing voice) and fleeting harmonies taken from Verdi and Rossini soprano arias. These memories gradually transform into a joyful version of the opening hymn, dissolving into its 1932 setting by Thomas Andrew Dorsey. The very first notes of the piece - CorEttA - are heard throughout as a leitmotiv, eventually transformed from the minor into the major, mirroring the journey from personal grief to a public celebration of the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement, Coretta Scott King (27 April 1927 – 30 January 2006). The work is dedicated to NMSW’s founder and director Julian Leeks.

Coretta was commissioned by New Music in the South West with generous support from Arts Council England.

Duncan Honeybourne

September 2018

Duncan Honeybourne premieres ‘on a name’ in Sherborne

I am so indebted to Duncan for his several performances of my music over the past decade and am delighted that he will be premiering ‘..on a name..’ at Sherborne School for Girls on 12 September.

Programme note: These miniatures illustrate three nineteenth century texts regarding the villages of Church Honeybourne and Cow Honeybourne, (now united within the boundary of Worcestershire). The village names are derived from Old English (hunig - honey, and burna - stream), meaning places on the stream by which honey is found. ‘Cow’ comes from calu, meaning bare, or lacking vegetation. Duncan Honeybourne is a great researcher of history and genealogy as well as the finest of pianists, and I am pleased to dedicate this set of historically-derived pieces to him by way of thanks for his great support of my music. His name is found as a cipher throughout the pieces.

I - ‘the church long in ruins’
‘HONEYBOURNE (COW), a parish in the upper division of the hundred of KIFTSGATE, county of GLOUCESTER, 4 miles (N.W.) of Chipping-Campden, containing 333 inhabitants. The living was annexed to the perpetual curacy of Church-Honeybourne after the dissolution. The church, long in ruins, has been converted into houses for the poor, but the tower is still entire.’(Lewis, S., A Topographical Dictionary of England in Four Volumes, S. Lewis & Company, 1831)

II - ‘disturbing the bodies of the dead’
‘The Reverend William Baldwin Bonaker became curate at Honeybourne in 1813 and vicar in 1817, a living he held until his death in 1869. He was considered to be a generally uncaring vicar…violating the churchyard, by ‘indecently and irreverently digging the ground in the churchyard and thereby disturbing the bodies of dead therein’ in order to move earth from there to his garden.’ (Haggard, J., Reports of Cases Argued & Determined in the Ecclesiastical Courts at Doctors' Commons, & in the High Court of Delegates, W.Benning, 1829)

III - ‘wilful murder against some person unknown’
‘On June 22nd, 1809, a young woman named Harris, residing at Honeybourne, was called up from her bed in the night, and on opening the door she was attacked by some person with a pitchfork, dragged to a horsepond, and drowned. Suspicion fell on a young man by whom she was pregnant, but the jury returned a verdict of ‘wilful murder against some person unknown’ and the murderer was never discovered.’ (Noakes, J., Guide to Worcestershire, Longman & Co., London, 1868)

Easter Zunday at Late Music York

August 2018

Easter Zunday at Late Music York

Easter Zunday for tenor and piano was commissioned and recorded by NMC for their 20th Anniversary in 2008 and am so pleased that the song is getting another airing at Late Music York Festival on 4 August in the Unitarian Chapel, performed by Christopher O’Gorman and pianist Kate Ledger.

William Barnes was born in 1801 at Bagber, near Sturminster Newton in North Dorset. He was educated locally and worked as a solicitor's clerk until 1823, when he became a schoolmaster.He was ordained in 1848 and was appointed curate at Whitcombe near Dorchester. Barnes died in 1886 and his obituary in the Saturday Review read: 'There is no doubt that he is the best pastoral poet we possess, the most sincere, the most genuine, the most theocritan; and that the dialect is but a very thin veil hiding from us some of the most delicate and finished verse written in our time.'

William Barnes Poem

Jonathan Dove: Out of Winter cycle
Elisabeth Lutyens: The Egocentric
Sadie Harrison: Easter Zunday
James Cave: New Work – LM commission
Steve Crowther: Walls in Stone -WP
Britten: Winter Words

Sound World

July 2018

Sadie Harrison appointed as Sound World Chair of the Board

http://sound-world.org

Here at UYMP, we are delighted to announce that our house composer Sadie Harrison has been appointed as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for SOUND WORLD, a new charity dedicated to promoting new music in the South West. SOUND WORLD is privileged to have Dame Evelyn Glennie, Armando Iannucci and John Pickard as Patrons.

The charity’s founder Julian Leeks writes: 'SOUND WORLD is a newly formed charity running concert series, education projects, a commissioning programme and outreach schemes. Our maxim – Great music for everyone – reflects our commitment to the highest artistic and educational standards and also our determination to take live classical music and the best contemporary repertoire to new, diverse audiences. Our concerts will aim to put the best regional performers and composers together with those of national and international renown, creating programmes with a strong local identity and an ambitious outlook. All concerts will feature educational elements, such as talks or Q&A sessions with composers and performers, and for many we will run parallel, themed outreach projects.

Sound World’s educational work will seek to support the development of the region’s brightest young musical talent, but it will also focus on giving talented youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds the proper encouragement and opportunity to fulfil their potential. Over time, we hope to build up a portfolio of commissions from a broad range of composers, from those at the very start of their careers to those with international reputations. We will also provide young composers from our educational schemes their first professional experiences. Whether it is our imaginative concert programming, our educational projects or our outreach work, Sound World is about the future of great music and doing whatever we can to support its long-term health.’

Shaftesbury Fringe 2018

June 2018

NMSW & Coretta Best in Shaftesbury Fringe

A musical performance celebrating the life of Martin Luther King, 50 years since his assassination, has been declared the best event at last month's Shaftesbury Fringe, by it's panel of judges.

'Soul of A Nation' by The NMSW Trio also took the Best Music award. New Music in The South-West, to give the organisation it's full name, is a not-for-profit body based in Bristol. It supports the development of young musicians across the West and promotes classical music.

Founder Julian Leeks is delighted that his show gained top marks. His group has been awarded a magnum of champagne and treats to the value of £100, thanks to David and Alice Perry of Shaftesbury Wines."It was a lovely evening. We received a lot of really pleasant comments and a few people had tears in their eyes at the end of the performance," said Julian. The musical score made Luther King's story even more poignant. "A lady who was perhaps in her 70s, came up and said she'd been going to concerts all of her life and she had never experienced anything as wonderful and profound," Julian said. "When you experience that, you already know it's good."

The performance had a strong Shaftesbury connection. "The piece that closed the concert was composed by Sadie Harrison who is a resident of Shaftesbury. It also featured a section for singer Michelle Ezigbo, a former student at Shaftesbury School," Julian explained.

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs Bavad Khair Baqi!

June 2018

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs Bavad Khair Baqi!

Peter gave the first performance of this virtuosic 12 minute work for solo violin at the Glyptothek Museum, Munich in 2002. Since then he has performed the work in venues across the globe, also recording it on Metier Records MSV CD 92084. The work is the third piece of my trilogy The Light Garden which was written as a response to the Taliban’s invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The title comes from an inscription on the tomb of Babur the Conqueror, found on the fourteenth terrace of the Bagh-e Babur (Babur’s garden) built by Shah Jahan in Kabul in the 16th century. Bavad Khair Baqi! (May this goodness last forever!) is a condensed and fractured derivation of material from the first two works in the set. Played without a break, the piece is meant to be a struggle - edgy, desperate, with suppressed aggression and exhausting. I am delighted that Peter will be giving a repeat performance at Deptford Town Hall on 13 June 2018.

Josie Jobbins

June 2018

Josie Jobbins performs Josie’s Piece in RAM final degree recital

Totally thrilled that Royal Academy of Music student Josie Jobbins included Josie’s Piece as part of her final degree recital on 10 June 2018. The piece was written especially for her in 2014 after hearing her performance of Bottesiniʼs Elegy and is designed to showcase her sensitive and lyrical playing. The RAM has funded Josie’s Masters study for 2019 - BRAVO!!

Soul of a Nation Shaftesbury Fringe 2018

June 30th 2018

NMSW Trio perform Coretta at Shaftesbury Fringe Festival

shaftesburyfringe.co.uk
www.nmsw.org.uk/events/soul-of-a-nation-shaftesbury

Shaftesbury School publicity: We are thrilled that former student Michelle Ezigbo (currently studying Biology at Birmingham University) gave the premiere of Sadie Harrison’s piece Coretta in Bristol and Bath with the professional music ensemble NMSW Trio (clarinet: Andy Keenan, cello: Lionel Handy, piano: Tomáš Klement) in February. Michelle was a valued member of the choir and Close Harmony groups through her time at Shaftesbury School and was much admired for her soulful voice, heard in many concerts over the years. Sadie knew that Michelle’s gospel voice was just perfect for her new work which was commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Michelle takes the role of King’s wife Coretta who was a fine classical singer and pianist. Martin Luther King also valued music highly as a force for political change and spoke publicly about its importance for the Civil Rights Movement. In 1964 he wrote, ’When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument….Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.This is triumphant music.’ Coretta ends with Michelle singing Martin Luther King’s favourite hymn Precious Lord, take my hand. King’s last words prior to his assassination were a request that it be sung at a mass he was to attend that night.

A further performance of Coretta will be given by Michelle and the NMSW Trio during the Shaftesbury Fringe Festival at St. Peter’s Church on 30 June 2018. The concert will include pieces by Andy Keenan, Hannah Kendal and Karen Wimhurst who will lead Shaftesbury’s Palida Choir.

June 2018

Madeleine Mitchell performs Aurea Luce at Bryanston School, Dorset

divineartrecords.com/recording/violin-muse

Madeleine Mitchell and pianist Nigel Clayton will be performing Aurea Luce again, this time at Bryanston Shool, Dorset on 15 June 2018. Aurea Luce was written at the request of Madeleine Mitchell by way of celebrating my 50th birthday at a concert in my home town of Shaftesbury, Dorset. The work is based on a plainsong melody sung as a hymn for the Feast of St. Peterʼs Chair in Rome, reflecting the dedication of the church in which the premiere took place. I started writing the work on International Womenʼs Day 2015 and it was serendipitous that the hymnʼs text is ascribed to a 5th century female author, Elpis (reputedly the first wife of the philosopher Boethius). The title translates asʻ..with golden light..ʼ and in context within the verse it reads as:

Aurea luce et decore roseo, lux lucis, omne perfudisti seculum, decoran caelos inclito martyrio hac sacra die, quae dat reis veniam. (The Poissy Antiphonal, fol. 412v)

(The beauteous light of Eternity hath flooded with blissful fires this golden day which crowns the Prince of the Apostles, and gives unto the guilty a free way to heaven).

The piece states the plainsong clearly at the beginning, with a gradual accumulation of bells (constructed from patterns taken from St. Peterʼs Church bell changes) making conscious reference to the tintinabulation style of Arvo Pärt. It also hints at James Macmillanʼs Kiss on Wood which was written especially for Madeleine and which has become one of her ʻcalling cardsʼ. The work was premiered on 19 September 2015 at St. Peterʼs Church, Shaftesbury by the dedicatees, Madeleine and Geoff.

June 2018

Premiere of Mimih’s First Song at Bei Wu Sculpturepark, Wesenberg

Music Festival Bei Wuwww.uymp.co.uk/news/prsf-composers-fund-supports-sadie-harrisons-bei-wu-residency

UYMP publicity: Sadie Harrison’s orchestral work Mimih’s First Song was commissioned as part of her Residency with Künstler Bei Wu and will be premiered on 30 June 2018 by Concerto Brandenburg, conducted by Christian Dallmann. Harrison’s Residency is supported by an Arts Council England/British Council International Development Grant and a Performing Rights Society Foundation Composers Fund Award.

Harrison writes: ‘Aboriginal people in the rocky environments of western and south-western Arnhem Land relate stories of spirits which they call mimih. The Mimih taught the first people how to survive on the Arnhem Land plateau and also instructed them in dance, song and art. Mimih are still depicted in a popular form of wooden sculpture thought to be an adaptation of artefacts used in ancient mortuary ceremonies. The sculptures are regarded by the Aboriginal communities as a way of sharing their way of life with the outside world whilst also containing complex references to their cultural traditions. The Maningrida people describe the Mimih as extremely thin, having necks so slender that a stiff breeze would be fatal. For this reason they emerge to hunt only on windless days and nights. As soon as a breeze develops, Mimih run back to their rocky caverns and disappear inside.’ (Copyright: Maningrida Arts and Culture in the catalogue of Australian Indigenous Art Exhibition 2017, Sculpture Park Wesenberg.)

The work is in six sections that run continuously: Mimih’s Song (a melody collected by anthropologist, Domeny de Rienzi in 1830, entitled by him as Air australien des sauvages de la terre d’Arnheim); Sunrise over Maningrida; Mimih’s Song Heralds the Dawn Chorus (with transcriptions of Northern Territory Pied Butcherbirds, Yellow Orioles and Rainbow Pittas); Mimih Dances with the Birds; Birds and the Mimih Dance with the First People (fast, quirky music underpinned by the clapsticks, based on an Arnhem Land tune called Truganinni’s Song); Mimih’s Last Song at Sunset (Lament) - a final meditation on the post-colonial destruction of much Aboriginal culture with the clapsticks now absent from the landscape. work is dedicated to David Lumsdaine and Nicola Lefanu.

My Hazard People

June 2018

My Hazara People commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Johns

www.some.ox.ac.uk
www.osj.org.uk

UYMP publicity: We are pleased to announce that Sadie Harrison has received a prestigious commission from The Orchestra of St. John’s to set a text by Shukria Rezaei, a young Afghan poet. My Hazara People will be performed a number of times in 2018 in various forms. The preview performed by Charlotte Tetley (mezzo) and Graeme Bailey (piano) will take place as part of a panel discussion on Women Refugees at Somerville College, Oxford on 20 June with subsequent performances at the Tandem Festival ( 24 June 2018) with a setting for voice and string quintet, and another in Oxford by the Orchestra of St. John’s conducted by Cayenna Ponchione.

Sadie writes: 'My Hazara People is a setting of two texts, the title work by Shukria Rezaei, a young Afghan poet, and Lalai, lalai, bobe bacha shikar rafta (Baby’s father went hunting), a traditional Hazari lullaby. Although their characters are entirely different, the two poems share much in common. The importance of family and home, and beyond that connection with country and heritage are at the centre of both. Shukria’s poem is a direct expression of love and despair for Afghanistan with intimate moments of terror - a cup falling from her mother’s hand during an explosion, her aunt fainting - set against the suffering of Hazaras across the world. In the context of this devastating contemporary experience Lalai lalai is nostalgic and poignant - open gates, straw latches, a sleeping child. The tune of the lullaby is heard in two highly contrasted versions. For Shukria’s words it is dark and restrained, a repeating rhythm illustrating the Hazara’s seemingly never-ending pain, and for Lalai lalai it is bright and joyful with sounds of the hunt, a crackling fire and a gentle chorus as the child is rocked. A further thread runs through the music - a quotation of my favourite traditional Afghan Herati lullaby Allah Hu(God is great), reflecting Shukria’s reference to her people’s religious heritage. I have adapted the text at the end of Lalai Lalai to bring it into the Shukria’s world, a reminder that each innocent person caught up in conflict is a mother, a brother, a sister, a father, a daughter….kids like us.

'The work exists in two versions, for voice and piano and voice and strings. The former was premiered by Charlotte Tetley (mezzo-soprano) and Graeme Bailey (piano) on 20 June 2018 at Somerville College, Oxford as part of a panel discussion on women refugees. The work was commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Johns. I am indebted to Shukria for allowing to set her poem and to Cayenna Ponchione for inviting me to be part of this wonderful collaboration.'

Shukria Rezaei is from Afghanistan. She began writing English poems when she arrived in England 7 years ago. Her work predominately focuses on her people, the Hazaras of Afghanistan, and the politics surrounding her country. She has been featured on BBC Radio and Channel Four. She has mentored young students to write poems following her award of a Forward Foundation Studentship from Oxford Spires Academy. Shukria is currently studying Politics, Philosophy & Economics at Goldsmiths, University of London. © Shukria Rezaei 2018.

St Bride's Church

May 2018

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs Ballare Una Passacaglia di Ombre at St. Bride’s

In his Fanfare review (December 2017) Colin Clarke writes: There are myriad influences, artfully woven together, for Harrison’s … ballare una passacaglia di ombre … of 2011. A Biber project by Sheppard Skaerved rubs shoulders with Danish fairy tales by the violinist’s wife, a mosaic by Sosos of Pergamon, two fragmentary Delphic hymns from 138 BC and Biber’s Sonata No. 16. It lasts less than four minutes, but occupies a very special, fragile space.

I am very pleased indeed that Peter Sheppard Skaerved is giving this brief work another outing on 9 May 2018 (6pm), particularly in the glorious surroundings of St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street, London. The work is part of the Preludes & Vollenteries series in London City churches offering a dialogue between church architects & the composers whose works were heard at the time.

Peter Sheppard

May 2018

Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs Gallery complete at The Forge, London

www.craftcentral.org.uk/news/composition-craft-musical-evenings

‘We are really pleased to announce Composition & Craft is back with three salon evenings at The Forge celebrating making and the links between music and craft. After the success of our first musical evening, Peter returns with three salons inspired by the magnificent architecture and acoustics of The Forge and the craftspeople at work at Craft Central. He brings guest musicians and interviews three craftspeople about their work. The first is entitled Pastorals (May 4th at 7.30pm).

Giuseppe Tartini – Piccola Sonata 7 ‘Tasso’ (ca. 1760)
Sadie Harrison – ‘Gallery’ (2013)
Michel Alec Rose – ‘Il Ritorno’ (2016)
Philip Glass – Strung Out (1963)
(Guest craftsperson: Florian Bailly - Bowmaker)

Sadie Harrison’s cycle functions as a musical gallery, responding to a series of drawings and paintings with highly crafted, virtuosic miniatures. Michael Alec Rose reflects on his deep affinity with Dartmoor, evoking the elements and associations of the moor. In this first event, Peter interviews acclaimed bowmaker Florian Bailly about his art. The bowmaker's art is vital to every string player. Violinists regard the great 'archetiers' of the present and past with the same reverence and admiration as violin makers - the bow is to the player as the lungs to the singer.’

Dr K. Sextet

May 2018

SQUISH! King Kong’s Love Song in Avon, USA

SQUISH! gets another outing, this time for a Mother’s Day concert at Avon Congregational Church, Connecticut. Kevin Bishop writes: Cuatro Puntos is a Hartford-based chamber music ensemble dedicated to intercultural dialogue and universal access through the performance, writing, and teaching of music. The group has performed across four continents, and their recordings have received international acclaim. They were recently the ensemble-in-residence for the 2018 Women Composers Festival of Hartford, where they had the opportunity to meet outstanding composers from across the world.

Please join us for a relaxing afternoon of beautiful music for string quartets by women. The quartet will also be joined by American Sign Language Storyteller Danielle Holdridge for a very special piece of music called SQUISH! King Kong's Love Story by Sadie Harrison.

PROGRAM
Florence Price: Five Folksongs in Counterpoint for String Quartet
Liza Sorbel: Five Scenes for String Quartet
Ursula Kwong-Brown: Unwinding II for String Quartet
Sonia Jacobson: Melting Pot for String Quartet
June Violet Aino: String Quartet (written for Cuatro Puntos)
Sadie Harrison: SQUISH! King Kong's Love Story for String Quartet & ASL Storyteller (written for Cuatro Puntos)

Jacob Dziubek and Nick Borghoff

April 2018

The Oldest Song in the World in Violas un-Caged, USA

Great news that Jacob Dziubek and Nick Borghoff, two of Steve Larson’s fabulous students from Hartt School (University of Hartford, Connecticut) have given a performance of The Oldest Song in the World. This brief work for 2 virtuoso violists was written at the request of violist and Director of Cuatro Puntos, Kevin Bishop. It weaves together two ancient Arabic sources, the ancient Syrian Hymn to Nikkal reputed to be the oldest notated song in the world dating from c. 1400 BCE, and ا بدا يتثنى لم (Lamma bada yatathana: When she begins to sway) which was written sometime in the 9th-10th centuries ACE. The lyrics of both songs celebrate women - the Hymn praises Nikkal, the Semitic goddess of fertility and orchards, and ا بدا يتثنى لم compares the beauty of a lover to the swaying branches of a tree.

The Hymn is heard at the centre of the work, a transformed version that brings out the unusually diatonic and expressive harmony of the music (most probably played on a lyre or sammûm). By contrast, the melody of Lamma bada yatathana is highly rhythmic, with its 10/8 metre (samai thaqil) punctuated by the accompanying viola as drum, emphasising the ‘doom’ on beats 1, 6 and 7 and the ‘tek’ on beats 4 and 8. The work ends with increasingly virtuosic counterpoint, the melody thrown between the two instruments with abandon!

The Oldest Song in the World is dedicated with admiration to Kevin Bishop and Steve Larson who gave the work its premiere on 16 February 2018 at the Lutheran Church of St. Marks, Glastonbury, Connecticut.

Elizabeth Foulser & Dylan Rader

April 2018

‘when love kept time’ performed at Rivers School Conservatory, USA

Many thanks to Elizabeth Foulser for introducing her student Dylan Rader to ‘when love kept time’ (2013). Dylan performed the piece on 20 April 2018 at a performance Seminar of Contemporary Music at the Rivers School Conservatory in Weston, Massachusetts outside Boston. The piece takes its title from a poem by Roderic Quinn entitled Soul of the Anzac which considers the sacrifice of the soldier and his memories of parents, lovers and the extraordinary qualities of the Australian landscape. (As an Australian, the story of the Anzacs is particularly pertinent to me.) The poem tells how time is measured by bells, clocks and the heartbeat of young love and the music expresses this in chiming bell-chords and momentarily through thundering machine guns and heavy marching footsteps. The piece ends with a distant echo of Waltzing Matilda at the very top of the piano creating a cavern of space between the living skies overhead and the deep earth of the double bass. The piece is dedicated to my father, Powell Harrison. The piece was given its first performance by the fabulous UK bassist David Heyes. It is published by Recital Music.

Dr K. Sextet

April 2018

Duncan Honeybourne performs Six Portraits of William Baines in Gillingham

I am delighted that Duncan is performing Shadows to inaugurate the new piano at Gillingham Methodist Church on 12 April 2018. Yorkshire composer William Baines died in 1922 at the age of 23 but left behind a substantial catalogue of over 150 works. Likened to that of Scriabin, Baines’ piano music is sensuous, highly coloured and quite unlike anything being written by his British contemporaries. Shadows are reflections on episodes from Baines’ life and diary entries, each piece incorporating a chord, a melodic fragment or a figuration from one of Baines’ solo piano works. Shadows received its premiere on 18 July 2013 in the Lunchtime Concert Series at Ripon Cathedral, performed by Duncan Honeybourne.

I ..waiting.. 11 Shepstye Road, Horbury, Yorkshire (26 March 1899)
William Baines was born at home on Palm Sunday 1899. The opening Easter hymn is entitled Mary to the Saviour’s Tomb, written by Simeon B. Marsh and included in The Primitive Methodist Hymnal with Supplement Tunes, edited by George Booth in 1899. It would undoubtedly have been known and sung by William's parents. The movement transforms the joyous hymn into a quiet lament, referencing Mary’s premonition of Jesus’s fate in religious paintings of the day. A ghost of the hymn returns at the end, bitter-sweet against the resonance from which it emerges. For P.J.H.

II Horbury Co-op Cinema 1912: Ghosts
In his early teens, Baines often deputised for his father as a pianist for silent movies at the Norbury Cinema. The movement is cast four scenes, three sultry tangos and a ‘memory and premonition’, quoting Baines’ Drift-light from 1922. The opening is marked ‘Projector, dust’ and end of the last bar as ‘Light: away with the dust into the rafters...’ For J.L. in memorium Bergland Batch.

III '..out into the lonely grey..' (August 11th 1921)
An entry in Baines’ diary describes a boat trip on The Frenchman - out of Bridlington Harbour and around his beloved Flamborough Head: ‘a slanting sun kissed a strip of sea into a golden pathway of light’. The movement is based on the traditional song Build me a boat that will carry two. For R.J.D.

IV 'Tomorrow I shall be in khaki.'
Baines was conscripted into the RAF on 4 October 1917 as an Officer’s batman. He was posted to Blandford Camp, Dorset, a few miles from my home in Shaftesbury. In the diary entry of 3 October he wrote ‘Only those who have my temperament can understand what it means’. The music for this movement features in two other piano works written in the same year as Shadows - The Return of the Nightingales (also on this disc) and Hidden Ceremonies I. In all three works the relentlessly aggressive music depicts destruction, from ritual slaughter in prehistory to World War 1 to the 20th century war in Afghanistan. For J.W. (RAF Regiment, Afghanistan).

V '..after I had played le Rossignol..' (March 28th 1922)

Baines gave his last public recital on 28 March, 1922 in Gainsborough. In his diary he noted that it was a great success despite the ‘appalling piano’ and that ‘One dear old lady clapped so much that a bird dropped out of her hat’. The movement opens with a reference to Liszt’s Le Rossignol and to Baines’ own Pool Lights, heard as a steady ostinato beneath the fluid nightingale’s song. For W.M.

VI ..waiting.. 91 Albemarle Road, The Mount, York
Baines died of tuberculosis at home on 6 Nov 1922, aged 23. The movement is marked ‘As slow as heavy time passing, the long wait...’ a depiction of final breaths and gentle recollections. For T.L.W.

Dr K. Sextet

April 2018

Ian Pace at 50: premiere of ‘gentle’
Friday, April 20 at 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM, City University Performance Space

www.city.ac.uk/events/2018/april/ian-pace-at-fifty-tributes-and-early-modernism

To celebrate Ian Pace’s 50th birthday, a group of international composers have all written short piano pieces in tribute to him. These were collected by US composer Evan Johnson, who wrote that this collection was ‘in recognition of a career built around the persistent championing of young or unduly ignored composers, and of difficult or otherwise unreasonable music: the sort often thankless effort that can indelibly shape a nascent compositional career, build decades-long collaborations, and begin to change the face of a repertoire’. Eighteen world premieres will form one half of the concert, and in the other half Ian will perform four other lesser-known early twentieth-century piano works: Arthur Lourié’s sensuous and ultra-chromatic Deux poèmes op. 8 (1912), Stefan Wolpe’s brutalist Sonata for piano, op. 1 (1925), Frederic Mompou’s aloof Charmes (1920-21), and Roger Sessions’ lyrical and brilliant Piano Sonata No. 1 (1930).

Full programme:
Arthur Lourié, Deux poèmes op. 8 (1912)
Stefan Wolpe, Sonata for piano. Op. 1 (1925)
Frederic Mompou, Charmes (1920-21)
Roger Sessions, Piano Sonata No. 1 (1930)
***
Christopher Fox, Fifty Points of Light (2017) (WP)
James Dillon, amethyst (2018) (WP)
Roddy Hawkins, Down-Time for Ian (2007, rev. 2017) (WP)
Lauren Redhead, nothing really changes (2017) (WP)
Mic Spencer, A Maze I(a)n (S)pace (Space [G]race) (2017) (WP)
Michael Finnissy, Were we born yesterday? (2017) (WP)
Sadie Harrison, gentle (2017) (WP)
Ben Smith, burnt (2017-18) (WP)
Patrícia Sucena de Almeida, Desperatio (piano piece no. 5) (2017-18) (WP)
Walter Zimmermann, Stars for Ian (2017) (WP)
Ian Pace, auseinandergerissene Hälften (2018) (WP)
Jesse Ronneau, AGHB (2017) (WP)
Eleri Angharad Pound, pbh (2017-18) (WP)
Marc Yeats, exordium (2017) (WP)
Allanah Marie Halay, Progress always comes late (2017) (WP)
Nigel McBride, wide stare stared itself (2017-18) (WP)
Alistair Zaldua, Sylph Figures for Ian Pace (2017) (WP)
Wieland Hoban, Whiptail (2017) (WP)
Evan Johnson (2017) qu’en joye on vous demaine (2017) (WP)

Dr K. Sextet

April 2018

Duncan Honeybourne performs Shadows: Six Portraits of William Baines in Gillingham

http://www.duncanhoneybourne.com

I am absolutely delighted that Duncan Honeybourne will be giving Shadows another performance, this time to inaugurate the new piano in Gillingham Methodist Church, Dorset on 20 April at 7.30pm. Shadows is inspired by the life and music of little-known Yorkshire composer William Baines. Baines died in 1922 at the age of 23 but left behind a substantial catalogue of over 150 works. Likened to that of Scriabin, Baines’ piano music is sensuous, highly coloured and quite unlike anything being written by his British contemporaries. Shadows are reflections on episodes from Baines’ life and diary entries, each piece incorporating a chord, a gesture or a figuration from one of Baines’ solo piano works. Duncan gave the work its premiere in 2013 in Ripon Cathedral and recorded it for Prima Facie on The Return of the Nightingales (released November 2017): http://ascrecords.com/primafacie/return_nightingales

The movements are entitled:

I ..waiting.. 11 Shepstye Road, Horbury, Yorkshire, 26 March 1899 (Baines’ birth)
II Horbury Co-op Cinema 1912: Ghosts (Baines’ time as a silent movie pianist)
III '..out into the lonely grey..' August 11th 1921 (boat trip around Baines’ beloved Flamborough Head)
IV 'Tomorrow I shall be in khaki.' (Baines was conscripted into the RAF on 4 October 1917)
V '..after I had played le Rossignol..' (Baines’ last piano recital on March 28th 1922)
VI ..waiting.. 91 Albemarle Road, The Mount, York (Baines died at home on 6 November 1922).

.

Dr K. Sextet

April 2018

Dr K. Sextet performs Bell Music for St. Casimir for Oxford Chamber Music Society

http://www.oxfordchambermusic.org

Clarinettist George Sleightholme and pianist Alex Wilson from Dr K. Sextet gave a fantastic performance of Bell Music for St. Casimir on March 4th 2017 at the Unitarian Chapel as part of Late Music York in a programme themed around story-telling, with several pieces exploring folk tales from around the world. They will perform the piece again on 15 April, 3pm in the Holywell Music Room as part of the Oxford Chamber Music Society concert series.

I wrote Bell Music after a visit to Vilnius, capital of Lithuania in February 2004. The clarinet plays a traditional lullaby called Aa-a-Mazulyte (Ah, the little one) and the piano echoes the music from an unusual set of bells in the towers of the Jesuit Church of St. Casimir. In 1997 the Lithuanian composer,Vladimir Tarasov, constructed a set of tubes and sails so that the 15 bells could be played by the wind. As the wind changes so does the music. The clarinet and piano play quite independently until they come together towards the end of the piece. Bell Music for St. Casimir was recorded by Ian Mitchell and Thalia Myers for SPECTRUM ABRSM: https://soundcloud.com/sadie-harrison-composer/bell-music-for-st-casimir. There is also a version for violin and piano recorded on NMC An Unexpected Light by Rusne Mataityte and Sergey Okrushko.

.

King Kong's Love Song

April 2018

SQUISH! (King Kong’s Love Song) at Women Composers Festival Hartford, USA

http://www.womencomposersfestivalhartford.com

I am very lucky indeed to have received several performances of SQUISH! by US ensemble Cuatro Puntos and ASL Interpreter Danielle Holdridge) and delighted that they will be playing the work again on 6 April 2018 as part of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford in Connecticut.

SQUISH! is a love story, King Kong’s love story. But not the conventional one immortalised in the 1933 Hollywood film - the terrifying giant ape astride the Empire State Building who clasps the fainting heroine, while swiping hopelessly at the planes which eventually send him crashing dead to the ground. This is the American Sign Language (ASL) version which has something of a twist at the end:

‘Deaf King Kong: The signer starts off by describing King Kong (showing his massive head, huge sausage like fingers, and big teeth) and then the city itself, showing the buildings first then the windows on each of the buildings. King Kong looks in one of the windows and sees something so he reaches his hand in and grabs it. He notices that it is a very attractive woman and he holds on to her. As he is walking the ground is shaking, people look up and see him and scream in fright, they all run away from him. He then sees a huge sky scraper and begins to climb it. When he gets to the top he can see everything. He then looks at the girl he has been holding on to and notices her beauty and signs that she is beautiful. He then realizes that she understood him and that she is Deaf. He tells her he is also Deaf. He signs "I want to Marry..." (the sign for marry is clasping two hands together) and in the process of signing this he squishes her. Oops...’ (© Danielle Holdridge) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emQKNGh40OQ)

ASL stories are a very important part of deaf culture, serving to entertain as well as teach and this musical interpretation attempts to capture something of the humour of the King Kong story as well as conveying the main narrative elements - the noise of New York, the thunderous footsteps of Kong, climbing the skyscraper, the tender love song and the tragic squish as the Beast kills the Beauty!

Squish! was written during my time as Composer-in-Residence with Cuatro Puntos and was commissioned with funds from the Connecticut Office of the Arts. The premiere took place at the American School for the Deaf (the oldest permanent school for the deaf in the United States founded in1817) in West Hartford, Connecticut on 7 December 2016.

Kevin Bishop and Miguel Campinho

April 2018

Premiere of Molto Viola! at Women Composers Festival of Hartford, USA

Kevin Bishop (viola) and Miguel Campinho (piano) will be giving the premiere Molto Viola! A Small Sonata on 6 April 2018 as part of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford, Connecticut. This 10 minute work was written for my friend Kevin as thanks for his support of my music over several years during my Composer-in-Residency with the US ensemble Cuatro Puntos. The piece is light-hearted in tone and celebrates the versatility of the viola and Kevin’s virtuosity and heart. The movements are marked:

I Molto moto!
II Molto Cantabile
III Molto scherzando
IV Molto Brilliante!

http://www.womencomposersfestivalhartford.com/2018-festival/featured-artists
http://www.miguelcampinho.com

Medeleine Mitchell

March 2018

International Piano Magazine review of Return of the Nightingales CD

INTERNATIONAL PIANO MAGAZINE
Colin Clarke
March 2018

Medeleine Mitchell

March 2018

Excellent reviews of Aurea Luce on Divine Art

https://divineartrecords.com/recording/violin-muse

‘..in Aurea Luce, based on a plainsong melody, the violin hangs glinting in the air, like some angelic visitation, ambivalent bell-like harmonies crowding beneath’ BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE (Helen Wallace)

'From the beautiful entrance of the violin, we enter a musical space of thoughtful reflection. The violin spins its mystical magic, by stating the melody, whilst bare chordal piano supports it. This work is totally convincing as a work of musical art, as it is taking us into an intense, but also intimate imagination.' BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY (Peter Byron-Smith)

'..the sublimely hieratic Aurea Luce with itsplainchant theme and echoes of resounding bells, which recall the ‘tintinnabulation’ of Arvo Pärt.' MUSIC WEB INTERNATIONAL (Paul Corfield Godfrey)

‘..the very lyrical ‘Aurea Luce’ by Sadie Harrison..' PIZZICATO (Remy Franck)

‘..Sadie Harrison’s lovely Aurea Luce..' THE WHOLE NOTE (Terry Robins)

'The slow creep of plainsong in Sadie Harrisons Aurea Luce builds to blistering richness.' THE STRAD (Catherine Nelson)

‘Sadie Harrison wrote Aurea Luce for Mitchell and Poole, intending it for St. Peter’s in Shaftesbury on the occasion of Harrison’s 50th birthday. It follows a plainsong hymn for the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair and, although it breaks into double-stops and imitates the pealing of bells in its middle section, it largely retains the eternal serenity of its Gregorian origins.’ FANFARE (Robert Maxham)

 

Seventh Angels

March 2018

Premiere of Seven Angels for Baroque violin and truhenorgel in Lüneburg, Germany

http://www.jvogelsaenger.de
https://www.st-johanniskirche.de

Kerstin Lindar-Dewan and Joachim Vogelsänger will give the premiere of Seven Angels for Baroque violin and truhenorgel (a single manual portable organ) on 3 March 2018 in the glorious surroundings of St. Johanniskirche in Lüneburg, Germany.

Seven Angels is based on a plainchant associated with the medieval Lüneburg convent, where the library is blessed with a small but significant number of manuscripts including two sources for the complete liturgy for the Coronation of Nuns. The plainsong text is Locutus est ad me unus ex septem angelis dicens veni ostendam tibi novam nuptam sponsam agni et vidi Jerusalem descendentem de caelo ornatam monilibus suis alleluia alleluia alleluia (I spoke to one of the seven angels, I saw a young bride Bride of the Lamb and Jerusalem coming down from the sky adorned, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia: source - Assisi, Biblioteca comunale, 693, first half of the 13th century).

The work is dedicated with much affection to my two friends Kerstin Lindar-Dewan and Carola Nielinger-Vakil. Carola (1966-2016) remains the foremost authority on Luigi Nono, and Seven Angels contains fragments of his final work Hay que caminar Soñando (You must walk, dreaming) - a thank you to Carola for bringing myself and Kerstin together, continuing her music-making through our joyful collaborations.

The work is supported by a PRSF Women Make Music Award and an Arts Council England International Development Grant as part of my association with the Bei Wu Sculpture Park, Wesenberg.

Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble

March 2018

Hard Rain perform 'No Title Required' on International Women’s Day Belfast

https://www.hardrainensemble.com/project-01

I’m incredibly pleased that the fantastic Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble is performing Quintet: No Title Required as part of International Women’s Day in Belfast on 8 March 2018 at The Crescent. The title of this work is taken from a poem of the same name by the Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1996) and considers the importance of revolutions, tyrannicides and political conspiracies in relation to that of skimming shadows, fluttering white butterflies and windblown clouds. No Title Required has two movements. The first is fast and virtuosic, the second, lyrical and colouristic. Both have the same formal pattern - a series of variations where one aspect of each section provides the ‘theme’ for the following variation. Whereas the first movement juxtaposes blocks of material to create a disjunct, segmented structure, the second weaves lines together to create a single, flexible texture (disrupted towards the end by ‘reminiscences’ of the work’s opening). The piece was commissioned by Double Image (to whom the work is dedicated) and has received several performances worldwide. The work was chosen to represent Australia in the ISCM World Music Days, Hong Kong in 2002 and was recorded by Double Image on Metier Records MSV CD 92056.

Knjiga PjesamaKnjiga Pjesama

March 2018

Premiere of Knjiga Pjesama in Granada, Spain (Kakarigi/López-Montes)

http://www.csmmurcia.com/kakarigi
http://www.lopezmontes.es

I am so grateful to Frano Kakarigi and José López-Montes for giving the premiere of Knjiga Pjesama (A Book of Poems) for double bass and piano on 16 March 2018 (7.30pm) at the Auditórium Caja Rural in Granada Spain. I wrote the piece as a thank you to Frano for his great support of my music - giving the premiere of A Not-So-Sonatina in 2016 with such passion and commitment. Knjiga Pjesama is a four movement work, taking inspiration from the poetry of Croatia (Frano was born in Dubrovnik):

I U Pohode Vukovima (Visiting the wolves) ‘The sounds of howling wolves and dark magic’
II Zvijezda Tjera Mjeseca (The stars chased the moon) ‘A midnight landscape’
III Svijet Je Sjena (The world is a shadow) ‘Outside time, molto rubato’
IV Galebovi (Seagulls) ‘Dancing with the birds’

February 2018

Excellent reviews of Return of the Nightingales CD

SOUNDS MAGAZINE
Peter Byrom-Smith, January 2018

http://soundsmagazine.co.uk/sadie-harrison-return-of-the-nightingales

The recent release of this new album of music by composer Sadie Harrison is receiving a wonderful reception from performers, composers, listeners, and quite deservedly too, in my opinion. We have a collection of works for solo piano, and such a variety it is, it’s like a box of delights, wrapped up in a musical package! Bringing together such a group of excellent pianists, Ian Pace, Philippa Harrison, Duncan Honeybourne and Renee Reznek into such a musical adventure, whilst stirring a superb creative mixture of notes, timbre, rhythms, delicate and powerful structures, in equal measure, we were guaranteed an enlightening experience, which is exactly what we have here.

Very difficult to choose any particular favourite, so I wont, well almost. Also, I won’t say too much about the programme notes, as I always feel the listener/purchaser, should read them for themselves, that way getting a little closer to the composers thoughts – it certainly doesn’t need my ramblings getting in the way, and the booklet has more than enough information, that I don’t intend to repeat it. Sadie Harrison is a terrific and inspired composer of music for the 21st century, and if you don’t know her musical voice, well, this CD is certainly a good introduction. All the works included in this recording were written between 2011 – 2017.

Here nearly 70 minutes of contemporary music for piano, from one of our most creative composers. Influenced by everything from art, writing, as well as music, here is a composer completely in control of where she has been and where she’s going, taking us all along for the ride. Anyone worried that a collection of contemporary solo piano music might be a little ’too much’ for them, and their delicate musical constitution, trust me, the approach to the actual choosing of the programme of works extremely well, in a few ways. Firstly, the moving from one work to another in the running order of the album, and probably took a bit of thought, planning and discussion – this is needed, so we have the auditory senses, stimulated to such an extent, that the music glides smoothly from one piece, to another.

This is very interesting, as each work is very distinct from the preceding, to the following one – Harrison has such a voice though, that it all sounds such an obvious, and natural progression, not always the case with other composer collections. Secondly, the music itself, with delicate beauty, sometimes overwhelmingly powerful, almost and everything in between, shows such a contrast of style within one composers work as to not only stimulate but, well, certainly for me, to hear the music again, well after the disc stops spinning – instead the music spins an emotional and intellectual web inside the listener as to take us on the composers intended journey.

Thirdly, the individual performances of each musician, is definitely second to none, which each pianist, so deeply enveloped amongst this music, that indeed, it almost seems at times that the musicians were there at the compositional birth of their individual pieces, so absorbed are their interpretations. The title track ‘ Return of the Nightingales’ begins with one of natures most beautiful creations, birdsong.

Then joining this hypnotic soundscape the piano enters, sometimes, it seems, in imitation, then building in complexity, and within a few moments the music takes us on a virtuosic journey, before a return to our birds. Any difficult technique here, is easily cast aside, as always, by Ian Pace so as to focus totally on the music. Another highlight for me is ’Shadows: Six Portraits of William Baines’ performed by Duncan Honeybourne.
Here we have the composer reflecting on diary entries of composer William Baines, sometimes using small fragments from Baines piano works. Harrison achieves so much, with so little, never a note out of place, or could ever be removed without the whole composition imploding – perfection. Honeybourne too, he knows both the composer and music so well, that at times, we feel as though we are actually in the head of the composer as she creates the work – the range of tone and dynamic control of each musical idea, love it! Also, the titles of each piece are really great, for example: ‘Horbury Co-op Cinema’ fabulous!! ‘ Par-feshani-ye’: Six Pieces after Bidel’ take their inspiration from a couplet by the Sufi poet Bidel.

The six brief movements, wonderfully performed by Renee Reznek, provides an auditory sensation, as we absorb both the imagery of the words and music, in equal measure. On a personal level, i actually enjoyed reading the words, whilst listening to each short piece in turn, as the score opened up its secrets. ‘Four JazzPortraits’ are a set of miniatures for piano, which were inspired by the individual pianist style of Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Thelonius Monk and Albert Ammons, they are totally inspired, and they capture the feel and style of each. To be honest, I just sat back and enjoyed this group of pieces, performed here by Philippa Harrison, for a personal indulgence. May I add too, they are musically exquisite and will certainly be on radio show playlist for quite a while – as will the the other tracks too, of course! Adding into this mix, some greatly artwork, very informative booklet, with programme notes, individual biographies of both composer and the performers, this is the total package, and one all record producers/companies should take note of!

Thanks to Prima Facie Records and everyone involved in the production of this tremendous addition to contemporary piano music recordings!! Available from Prima Facie Records.


BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY REVIEWS
Paul RW Jackson
, January 2018
http://www.britishmusicsociety.com

The world eclectic has become rather a pejorative word in recent times so I think the best words to describe Ms Harrison’s music as wide ranging in style, expression, emotional content, form and structure. The Return of the Nightingales, is the first and longest work on the disc. It begins with a recording of the eponymous bird around which the piano paints arabesques based on Afghanistan music. All this is treated in a Messiaen like way. It is an unsettling often violent work, appropriately so as it is a response to the devastation of the wars in Afghanistan. Par-feshani-ye ‘eshq, are six miniatures based on texts by Sufi poet Bidel. They are varied in their evocation of the words but in their brevity capture a perfumed world much in the way that Sorabji took much longer to do. Lunae are four instantly appealing nocturnes reminiscent most notably of French piano works of the early 20th century. There is Debussyian harmony and Messiaen like bird song, while the second is an elaborate fantasy based on Dowland’s famous Lachrymae Pavan. Shadows, are a homage to the composer William Baines who died tragically aged 23. Each piece is based on some chord or motif from one of his works. These are wide ranging pieces and the music of Ives came to my mind more than once while listening to them. Hymns, marches, slow moving water are perfectly conjured: a strange and wonderful set of works. Four Jazz Portraits are just that, evocations of the piano style of jazz giants seen through a 21st century lens. The laid back boogie woogie which ends the set is a delight. The rest of the disc is made up of three exquisite miniatures dedicated to friends of the composer. All of the pianists are excellent in conjuring up Ms Harrison’s sound world. At the end I am not certain exactly who Ms Harrison is as a composer but listening to the disc is a rewarding experience.


MUSICAL OPINION QUARTERLY
Guy Rickards, March 2018

I am not sure why it needed a relay of four pianists to tackle this programme of recent (i.e. from the past six years) music for solo piano by Sadie Harrison, but the advocacy of each exponent to their allotted piece(s) is very telling. The near 70 minutes of the disc are divided very unequally: Duncan Honeybourne has the lion’s share with exactly half the total playing time with fine accounts of the two large sets, Lunae (2012) and Shadows (2013). The others all have 10-12 minutes apiece. The music itself is as varied as the performers, consisting of one large single movement—the title track, Return of the Nightingales (2013)—plus sets of smaller pieces of varying lengths and complexity, and, to finish, a clutch of occasional pieces celebrating two students (one from Afghanistan) and her former teacher, Nicola Lefanu. Harrison’s interest in the music of the far Middle East is long established and Return of the Nightingales, atmospherically performed by Ian Pace here, was inspired by the removal of the Taliban’s ban on music in Afghanistan. The use of taped birdsong is the direct metaphor of this, Harrison’s own invention emerging from it, weaving around and finally merging back into the natural sound. Par-feshani- ye ‘eshq (‘The fluttering wings of love’, 2013-4), followed on close after that, six miniature meditations, poetic essays in sonority, on couplets of the Sufi poet Bidel. Renée Reznek performs them with the subtle delicacy they deserve, being rather less robust in form than Return.

The works on this album also document Harrison’s return to composition following a compositional silence from 2006 to 2012: one song in 2008 and a small piece for clarinet and piano aside in 2011. The four nocturnes that comprise Lunae were the vanguard of the flood of pieces that then poured out of her pen and each takes a pre-existing piece and extemporises upon it, the composers being respectively John Law, Dowland (Lachrymae, of course), Debussy and Messiaen combined and a medieval chant. Knowledge of the sources is not essential to appreciation of the finished work. The short-lived William Baines (1899-1922), is evoked in Shadows (2013), epigrammatic line drawings all the more expressive for their restraint, whereas in the 4 Jazz Portraits (2014, featuring Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Albert Ammons), Harrison lets her hair down. These are great fun, affording Philippa Harrison ample scope to display her mastery of boogie-woogie, and much else besides. This largely reflective album is gentle, wistful and jolly by turns. Terrifically quiet sound, too.


THE CROSS-EYED PIANIST
Frances Wilson, January 2018

https://crosseyedpianist.com/2018/01/27/return-of-the-nightingales-sadie-harrison

When I put ‘Return of the Nightingales’ (Prima Facie records) into my CD player, my cat Monty immediately dashed into my office and up onto my desk to find the birds that sing so sweetly at the start of the title track of this new disc of music by Sadie Harrison. The piano enters, delicately yet brightly, imitating the twittering birdsong before moving into a lively, rhythmic passage. Ian Pace, the pianist for this track, is very much at home in contemporary and new music for piano, and it shows in the ease with which he handles technical difficulties and his vivid, immediate sound.

The variety of writing in just a few minutes of this piece signals the theme for the entire disc: it’s a wonderful example of Sadie’s compositional breadth and rich imagination and a lovely introduction to her colourful and accessible music. Not only does the disc demonstrate the range of Sadie’s compositional palette but it also showcases the talents of five excellent pianists – Ian Pace, Renée Reznek, Duncan Honeybourne and Philippa Harrison, all of whom have considerable experience in this type of repertoire and who bring myriad colours, timbre and musical sensitivity and individuality to each work on the disc.

Composed between 2011 and 2017, the pieces on this disc reveal the many contrasting styles within one composer’s output, reflecting Sadie’s wide-ranging musical and cultural influences, including the music of Bartok, Berg, Chopin, and Debussy, jazz legends Bill Evans, Fats Waller and Thelonius Monk, Methodist hymns, vintage film music, her passion for the cultures of Persia and Afghanistan (Sadie is Composer-in-Association of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music), and the natural world. In ‘Return of the Nightingales’ (the title is drawn from the translation of a Persian poem), near-Eastern folk idioms are woven into the starkly modernist suite of pieces Par-feshani-ye ‘eshq (played by Renée Reznek), while in Lunae ‘Four Nocturnes’ Duncan Honeybourne sensitively and sensuously illuminates the tender, intimate lyricism and delicate traceries of these delightful and arresting miniatures (I purchased the sheet music on the strength of this performance in order to learn the pieces myself). Philippa Harrison brings the requisite vibe and swing to the Four Jazz Portraits, capturing the style of each jazz great to whom they are dedicated; while in Shadows ‘Six Portraits of William Baines’ Sadie takes small quotations from Baines’ piano works and reflections on his diary entries to create intriguing miniatures, masterfully presented by Duncan Honeybourne. The Souls of Flowers recalls Chopin in its long-spun melodic lines and shimmering trills, while Northern Lights uses harmonies and idioms redolent of folksong and hymns. The final work, Luna…..for Nicola, is a tiny yet meaningful hommage to Nicola le Fanu, with whom Sadie studied for three years, and was written in response to hearing the premiere of Nicola LeFanu’s orchestral work ‘The Crimson Bird’. in February 2017.

The song of the nightingale is the unifying thread on this disc – in the third of the four Lunae, the evocation of Alabiev–Liszt’s ‘Le Rossignol’ as played by William Baines, and in the fluttering wings of Par-feshani-ye ‘eshq, but also less obviously in the use of trills, sparkling runs, chirruping note clusters and tremolandos.

This is wonderfully rewarding, varied and enjoyable disc, proof that contemporary piano music can be tuneful, attractive and entirely accessible. There is much to delight and challenge the pianist too: the pieces are generally within the capability of the intermediate to advanced player, and are available to purchase as scores (from University of York Music Press). I particularly like Sadie’s treatment of melodic fragments and her jazz-infused harmonies.


GRAMOPHONE
Richard Whitehouse, February 2018

https://www.gramophone.co.uk/review/harrison-return-of-the-nightingales

The piano music on this disc all comes from the past five years, following on a comparable period when Sadie Harrison (b1965) chose to put compositional activities on hold to work as an archaeologist; an activity no doubt galvanised through her involvement with the culture, its riches so nearly obliterated during the Taliban era, of Afghanistan. This is manifest in the alternately ecstatic and ominous expression to be found in Return of the Nightingales, a field recording of which bird provides the backdrop for some intricate and fastidious writing that alludes to Messiaen and Scriabin across its eventful and increasingly intoxicating course.

Couplets from the 18th-century Sufi poet Bidel lie behind the evocative vignettes of Par-feshani-ye ’eshq (‘The fluttering wings of love’), though Harrison casts her net considerably wider for inspiration. Thus, the subtle contrast in her takes on the archetypal nocturne that is Lunae or the pert homages to jazz pianists of Four Jazz Portraits. Above all, Shadows – six pieces which amount to a biography-in-music of the short-lived while prolific composer William Baines – draws on aspects of his music with salient references from his diary to result in a sequence which renders the protagonist from an affecting and frequently almost tangible perspective.

Three limpidly appealing miniatures conclude a disc that offers much of interest for inquiring listeners and players alike. Not that those latter will find it easy to match the technical finesse and interpretative insight of the pianists featured here, their playing enhanced by the realistic sound courtesy of Prima Facie. Harrison has built up a sizeable discography (find out more at sadieharrisoncomposer.co.uk), to which this latest release is a welcome addition.

Musical Opinion Quarterly Gramophone

February 2018

Review of Late Music York Concerts in Musical Opinion Quarterly

Late Music Concert Series: Unitarian Chapel, York

A memorable recital by soprano Peyee Chen and pianist Kate Ledger on 5 August 2017…. Enterprisingly scheduled in the middle of these four settings was the concert premiere of Sadie Harrison’s Hidden Ceremonies I for piano of 2011. Kate Ledger put her stamp on these challenging but rewarding pieces, which are part of an ongoing series inspired by the paintings of Dorset-based artist Brian Graham. The paintings draw together the worlds of prehistoric archaeology, geology, music and contemporary landscape. Katie Ledger’s daringly expansive approach to the widely spaced and richly resonant chords of ‘after Sacrarium’ was especially striking as she maintained intensity throughout the long interstitial silences, making them a vital part of the music. She also managed ingenuously to suggest the physical shape outlined in the score of ‘Flint’. Sadie Harrison’s fragmentary pieces have a vitality and richness which ensures that they resonate long after their tiny durations. The concert debut of this compact, many-sided work was immensely satisfying and, at the same time, left the listeners wanting more.

On 2 September 2017 the Bingham Quartet’s outstanding Late Music concert celebrated York-based composer Nicola LeFanu’s 70th birthday. The evening consisted of pieces by several composers close to LeFanu….Concluding the concert’s first half was the world premiere of a piece by Sadie Harrison, who is another of LeFanu’s ex-pupils. Geda’s Weavings was written in 2004 and recorded on the NMC label. It combines ideas from the composer’s other five works that make up her Lithuanian project together with material inspired by the poetry of Sigitis Geda. There are three movements or ‘Weavings’: the first is tough and barbaric, inspired by Geda’s dark and aggressive ‘Traces of the Toad Cult Found Alongside Veprynas Lake; the second, which has a beguiling simplicity, takes as its starting point the moving ‘Poem for Arvydas, the Field of Love’, and gambolling third reflects ‘The Collective Request of the Dead Country Children of Pateru Village’. Sadie Harrison has laced together these disparate elements to form an emotionally compelling and musically satisfying string quartet with an expository first movement, a poignant and serene slow movement and a spirited, rhythmic finale which revisits the opening material at its conclusion. The Bingham Quartet made these intricately fashioned and keenly expressive pages come alive in a performance of great brio and vitality. I look forward to savouring the subtleties of this compelling piece again in concert – it merits and would reward a variety of interpretations. (Paul Conway)

Steve Larson & Kevin Bishop

February 2018

Premiere of The Oldest Song in the World in Connecticut, USA

http://www.cuatropuntos.org

Kevin Bishop and Steve Larson will be giving the work its premiere on 16 February 2018 at the Lutheran Church of St. Marks, Glastonbury, Connecticut and again on 23 February at Christchurch Cathedral in Hartford, USA as part of their series The Near East in America.

This brief work for 2 virtuoso violists was written at the request of violist and Director of Cuatro Puntos, Kevin Bishop, as part of a concert programme entitled Near East in America. It weaves together two ancient Arabic sources, the ancient Syrian Hymn to Nikkal reputed to be the oldest notated song in the world dating from c. 1400 BCE, and لما بدا يتثنى (Lamma bada yatathana: When she begins to sway) which was written sometime in the 9th-10th centuries ACE. The lyrics of both songs celebrate women - the Hymn praises Nikkal, the Semitic goddess of fertility and orchards, and لما بدا يتثنى compares the beauty of a lover to the swaying branches of a tree.

The Hymn is heard at the centre of the work, a transformed version that brings out the unusually diatonic and expressive harmony of the music (most probably played on a lyre or sammûm). By contrast, the melody of Lamma bada yatathana is highly rhythmic, with its 10/8 metre (samai thaqil) punctuated by the accompanying viola as drum, emphasising the ‘doom’ on beats 1, 6 and 7 and the ‘tek’ on beats 4 and 8. The work ends with increasingly virtuosic counterpoint, the melody thrown between the two instruments with abandon!

Rose Garden of Light - Eastern Connecticut State University

February 2018

Gulistan-e Nur at Eastern Connecticut State University, USA

http://www.cuatropuntos.org

https://toccataclassics.com/product/sadie-harrison-the-rosegarden-of-light

Many thanks to Cuatro Puntos for giving Gulistan-e Nur (The Rosegarden of Light) another performance on 23 February 2018 at Eastern Connecticut State University.

On 23 June 2014, Kevin Bishop, Samim Jafar and Madhurjya Barthakur gave the premiere of my Dast be Dast in the Istiqlal School, home to the French Cultural Centre in Kabul. On 11 December 2014, several young musicians from ANIM were performing at the same School. The venue was the target of a serious attack that left ANIM's founder Dr. Ahmad Sarmast with severe injuries. Gulistan-e Nur was devised as a musical response to this attack. It is a joyful celebration of the diversity, vivacity and beauty of the country’s musical heritage, also being a testament to the courage of the students and tutors who continue to make music in the most difficult of circumstances.

Gulistan-e Nur is in three sections, each containing a paired interlude for youth ensemble and a movement for string sextet which develops the interlude’s material. The first pair is based on an Afghan instrumental work known as Bahar-e nastaram-bihag or simply Radio Piece. I transcribed the melody from a private performance of the piece that John Baily (rubab) and Veronica Doubleday (daireh) gave me in February 2015. John had learnt the piece in the 1970s from the work’s likely composer, Ustad Mohammad Omar. The second pair of movements takes a beautiful love song as its inspiration - Shirin dohktar-e maldar (Sweet Nomad Girl). I know this song very well, having heard colleague and friend Veronica Doubleday sing it many times. The opening melody (heard again at the end) is an elaborate, decorated transcription of one of her particularly moving renditions.

The final movement is a whirling attan dance entitled Watan Jan (Dear Homeland), heard first in the Interlude with its joyful 7/8 rhythm (characteristic of this national dance of Afghanistan) and then in a virtuosic development played by the sextet. I found the tune in an anthology ‘Afghan Songs and Melodies -1965’ published by the Press and Information Ministry of Afghanistan. As well as providing an appropriately celebratory ending to the work, Watan Jan also purposely recalls the circumstances which brought about Gulistan-e Nur’s composition, being the same melody used in the final movement of Dast be Dast. A return to music and a Dear Homeland triumphant! The commission was generously supported by The Ambache Charitable Trust and an Arts Council England International Development Grant. (SH)

Coretta

February 2018

Premiere of NMSW Commission Coretta in Bristol and Bath

http://www.nmsw.org.uk

Coretta was commissioned by New Music in the South West with generous support from Arts Council England and receives its premiere on 4 February 2018 at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol, (with a further performance on 11 February at St. Michael’s Church, Bath) performed by Andy Keenan, Alison Holford, Michelle Ezigbo and Tomáš Klement.

Coretta is a collage of fictional musical recollections given to Coretta, wife of Martin Luther King, following the assassination of her husband on 4 April 1968. It is not so well known that Coretta King (née Scott) was a fine classical singer and pianist, referred to as ‘a talented young soprano’ in a January 1964 Time Magazine article. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and education from Antioch College, Ohio and supported by a scholarship, she undertook a second degree in voice and violin at the New England Conservatory of Music in the early 1950s, meeting Martin Luther King during this time in Boston. Although Coretta has envisioned a life for herself as a musician, she realised that such a career was not fitting for a Baptist minister’s wife. However, following her marriage on 18 June 1953, Coretta continued to perform in concerts and religious services as a form of non-violent protest, giving audiences ‘an emotional connection to the messages of social, economic, and spiritual transformation’.

Martin Luther King also valued music as a force for political change and spoke publicly about its importance for the Civil Rights Movement. On 13 September 1964, he met with the organisers of West Berlin’s first jazz festival, contributing the foreword for the programme. He wrote ‘When life itself offers no order and meaning, the musician creates an order and meaning from the sounds of the earth which flow through his instrument….Jazz speaks for life. The Blues tell the story of life's difficulties, and if you think for a moment, you will realize that they take the hardest realities of life and put them into music, only to come out with some new hope or sense of triumph.This is triumphant music.’

Coretta begins and ends with Martin Luther King’s favourite song Precious Lord, take my hand. King’s last words prior to his assassination were a request that it be sung at a mass he was to attend that night. The hymn is initially heard transformed by Coretta’s grief into a dark lament, followed by hazy memories of music that she may have shared with her husband - a blues waltz, quirky bebop ‘improvisation’, a dance from a 1950s musical, a quote from There is a Balm in Gilead (the only recording we have of Coretta’s singing voice) and fleeting harmonies taken from Verdi and Rossini soprano arias. These memories gradually transform into a joyful version of the opening hymn, dissolving into its 1932 setting by Thomas Andrew Dorsey. The very first notes of the piece - CorEttA - are heard throughout as a leitmotiv, eventually transformed from the minor into the major, mirroring the journey from personal grief to a public celebration of the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement, Coretta Scott King (27 April 1927 – 30 January 2006). The work is dedicated to NMSW’s founder and director Julian Leeks.

Composition & Craft

December 2017

The Rosegarden of Light on documentary soundtrack ‘Laila at the Bridge’

I am very honoured indeed that two tracks from The Rosegarden of Light CD (featuring American ensemble Cuatro Puntos and Ensemble Zohra from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, conducted by Camilo Jauregui) have been used for another film, this time an important documentary directed by Elissa Sylvia Mirzaei entitled Laila at the Bridge.

Set against the backdrop of the drug war in Afghanistan, Laila at the Bridge is the story of an Afghan woman working against all odds to care for the thousands of men and women addicted to heroin who live under an infamous bridge in the heart of Kabul.

Filmmaker Elissa Sylvia Mirzaei, born in Pennsylvania, has lived in Afghanistan for eight years. She speaks fluent Dari and is drawn to intimate stories that reveal the complexity, beauty and tragedies of Afghanistan from an Afghan perspective. Shocked by the number of drug addicts using openly on the streets, Elissa felt helpless witnessing passersby step over the huddled and skeletal masses of dying junkies. She and her husband, Gulistan Mirzaei, founders of Mirzaei Films, met Laila in 2012 and were inspired to make their first feature-length documentary, Laila at the Bridge. Elissa had worked on the BBC World Service documentary The Killing of Farkhunda, which aired in August 2015. The Mirzaeis' first film, Stranded In Kabul, was one of 10 films from across Asia selected for Al Jazeera English’s Viewfinder Asia workshop in South Korea and was broadcast on AJE in 2013. Their second film, Farewell Kabul, premiered on AJE in 2014.

Toccata Classics released The Rosegarden of Light in 2016 and it is receiving a great deal of international critical acclaim. Tracks have been used on three films - The Staging Post (Australia), The King of Kabura (Afghanistan) and now Laila at the Bridge (Afghanistan/USA).

Kantos Chamber Choir - The Silver Stars at Play

December 2017

Excellent reviews for As-salāmu ‘alaykum Bethlehem on Prima Facie

I am absolutely thrilled that my new Christmas Carol released on Prima Facie this month has been receiving fabulous reviews. As-salāmu ʿalaykum Bethlehem combines selected words from O Little Town of Bethlehem (written by Phillips Brooks after his visit to the town in 1895) with the Islamic greeting meaning ‘Peace be unto you’. At a time when Bethlehem is beset with troubles, this optimistic carol brings together the two traditions in a spirit of solidarity - ‘Peace be unto you O little town of Bethlehem!’ The work was premiered on 16 December at St. Ann’s Church, Manchester, performed by the excellent KANTOS conducted by Ellie Slorach.

Simon Cummings 5:4 (13.12.2017)
‘Tis the season and all that, and while the majority of festive new releases are concerned with reheating the usual fare, there’s one new Christmas disc that I particularly want to single out. Called The Silver Stars at Play, it’s a collection of 23 contemporary Christmas carol settings, performed by the Manchester-based Kantos Chamber Choir, conducted by the choir’s founder Elspeth Slorach...for me, the most striking carol on the album is Sadie Harrison‘s As-salāmu ʿalaykum Bethlehem, which doesn’t merely challenge the conventions of Christmas music but boldly sets out more or less to ignore them completely (brava!). Combining words from ‘O little town of Bethlehem’ with an Islamic greeting, its music – though contemplative at its epicentre – is daringly wild, so ebullient and confident in its expression of joy and optimism that the carol’s culmination sounds positively feral. Utterly amazing...The effect of Harrison’s carol is only as powerful as it is due to the astonishing determination and fervour that Kantos Chamber Choir bring to it, and that’s just as true for the more introspective and meditative performances captured on the disc as it is for firecrackers like this.
http://5against4.com/2017/12/13/kantos-chamber-choir-the-silver-stars-at-play

Christian Morris Composition Today (14.12.2017)
'The Silver Stars at Play’ from Prima Facie Records features 23 world premiere carol recordings. At over 70 minutes it is a generous programme, with a cross-section of both significant and lesser-known mostly British composers...Perhaps my favourite was Sadie Harrison’s As-salāmu ‘alaykum Bethlehem, a riot of sound that bows least to the saccharine tendencies of the season. Even whilst pushing the harmonic envelope the result feels like a great shout of joy.
http://www.compositiontoday.com

Planethugill (22.12.2017)
I was very struck by Sadie Harrison's As-salamu 'alaykum Bethlehem which combines O Little Town of Bethlehem with the Islamic greeting meaning 'Peace be unto you' to striking effect.

http://www.planethugill.com/2017/12/christmas-cd-roundup