Adopt a Composer launch day – Ian Holmes (Music Director, City of Bristol Brass Band)
On Saturday 7 September, Steve Ellis (band Chairman) and I attended the Adopt a Composer 2019/20 launch day at London Bridge. We approached the day with eager anticipation, already thrilled to have been chosen as the first ever brass band to take part in the Adopt a Composer project.
Throughout the day, we learnt all about the project and how the timeline would be constructed over the next year. The day was brilliantly organised – including a splendid lunch – with the climax being meeting our ‘adopted’ composer for the first time.
We approached the day with eager anticipation, already thrilled to be chosen as the first ever brass band to take part in Adopt a Composer.
Reminiscent of the pairing of couples in Strictly Come Dancing, we soon met Laura Shipsey, and our exciting journey began. It was clear that Laura was looking forward to the challenge of writing for brass band and we were able to tell her about our set-up including both senior and learner bands – a total of over 40 musicians of all ages.
Ian Holmes (MD, City of Bristol Brass Band), Laura Shipsey (Composer), Steve Ellis (Chairman, City of Bristol Brass Band)
Laura bounded with enthusiasm, and when asked to present some initial thoughts, she came up with the idea of not only writing a piece for each individual band, but also a piece where we could combine. We soon had a date in our diaries when Laura could meet both bands at our regular Friday rehearsal, as well as a date for our first workshop when she would work with both bands for the first time supported by her mentor, Fraser Trainer.
The first workshop – Joanna Pearson (3rd cornet, band committee member)
City of Bristol Brass Band is going through a very exciting time at the moment. As well as several concerts and contests before the end of the year, we are also preparing to move to a new bandroom. The crowning glory, however, was to be one of seven groups chosen to be a part of the Adopt a Composer project, and indeed the first brass band to do so. It has given everyone such a lift and we are excited and privileged to be working with Laura Shipsey, our paired composer.
Laura Shipsey with members of the City of Bristol Brass Learner Band
On Saturday 2 November we had our first workshop day, and what a day it was! I can honestly say that afterwards I felt as though I had been somewhere else for a few hours. Going back into the rainy, trafficky world outside seemed so odd having been immersed in such a creative atmosphere. Both the City of Bristol Brass Learner Band and Main Band are involved in the project, and we started off by playing some games to bond us together. It was interesting to see who fared best with the rhythm, memory and coordination games. No finger pointing here, but it sorted out some wheat from some chaff!
Ian Holmes and the City of Bristol Brass Band playing through sketches by Laura Shipsey
It was then down to business, getting our instruments out and playing through some short passages Laura was experimenting with. It was a very different way of working for both parties, but one which will open up our eyes and ears to different ways of approaching a score. Both bands will be working with Laura over the next seven to eight months and all that hard work will culminate in a premiere of her pieces during a concert at St George’s Bristol on 27 June 2020.
I felt as though I had been somewhere else for a few hours. Going back into the rainy, trafficky world outside seemed so odd having been immersed in such a creative atmosphere.
It’s excellent that we’ve been able to get out of the starting blocks so quickly and we await with eagerness the next stage in the piece's development. We are delighted to be involved in the project and very excited about sharing the creative process with Laura. Watch this space!
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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 premiere performance and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. If you’re a music group or composer and you’d like to take part, find out more.