Adopt a Composer: post performance

Chris James, Chairman of Southampton Concert Wind Band (SCWB), offers a delightful post-performance reflection on the group's involvement on the Adopt a Composer project with composer Robert Laidlow.

Shall we apply for the Adopt a Composer project?
Take it to a committee meeting
Make the application
Will we be shortlisted?
Interviews to go through
We have been selected!
Who will we be paired with?
We have Robert Laidlow!
How will Rob and the band get on?

In cinematic terms, the above jumpcuts of our involvement with the Adopt a Composer (AAC) project bounced around from the start. It began as soon as our Musical Director (MD), Calum Gray, became aware of AAC. In the frame was a series of uncertainties as above, with many more arising before the last question was resolved. 

We had long aspired to commission a new piece of music, but as a community wind band we had nowhere near the resource to be able to do this. We became a member of Making Music really for the sole purpose of their help in us reaching charitable status for the band. We have benefited from so much more. With the AAC project, suddenly, working with a composer to produce an entirely new piece of music had become a possibility.

We decided to make an application to the project, and after all the uncertainty, all the initial excitement and success with the selection process, the hard work of rehearsal and development began – methodically working through the score, understanding the music, preparing for its first performance. Running the ‘longshot’ to our previous ‘jumpcuts’.

We had many collaborative meetings with Robert, each adding inspiration for the further development of our composition.

Rehearsals began in earnest when we received the finished composition, and time in every subsequent rehearsal was spent getting to understand our role in bringing the piece to life both owning it and breathing life into it - as a faithful reproduction of what had previously only existed in our composer Robert’s mind.

Cinematic similes of jumpcuts and longshots are not an accident, though. Indeed the similes have been shamelessly stolen from Robert. In one of his blogs he eloquently describes how, in explaining his concept for the structure of his composition to us, he used movie-making terms, which in turn added further inspiration to him for the piece, and resulted in him naming it ‘Jumpcut/Longshot’.

The night of the premiere was an extremely auspicious one for our band. This year is our 25th anniversary, and 18 May was our Jubilee concert. Every former MD of the band took the baton one more time to conduct a piece dear to them. The venue was The Chapel in Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley. This historic building had recently been renovated, and although now stands alone in parkland, it used to be flanked either side by the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, the world’s longest building when it was completed in 1863.

The time we spent in rehearsal was rewarded with our committed and sparkling performance in concert. Musical motifs in the piece were explained and demonstrated to the audience, as Robert presented the thoughts and inspiration behind his composition. SCWB were greatly successful in showing both composer and audience the fruits of their labour. 

Jumpcut/Longshot is a triumph of modern music. Southampton Concert Wind Band’s association with Robert has been immersive, instructive and an overall amazing experience. It has added so much to our growth as a band.

We wish Robert well for his assured future as a composer, and hope that we have played a small part in his growth too.

Chris James, Chairman of SCWB 


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The Adopt a Composer project matches vocal and instrumental leisure-time music groups with some of the UK’s most promising composers to collaborate on creating a new piece of music. The project leads to a première performance and possible broadcast on BBC Radio 3. If you’re a music group or composer and you’d like to take part, find out more.