Our Adopt a Composer journey ended in style on 3 October in the fantastic venue, the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s New Auditorium, where we premiered Nicholas Olsen’s composition, Three Carriages.
Under the leadership of Barbara Pommerenke-Steel, our mandolin and guitar orchestra Da Capo Alba (the adult orchestra of the Lanarkshire Guitar and Mandolin Association) celebrated its 20th anniversary this year – and what better way to do this than with our very own composition.
From our first meeting with Nick we have been borne along by his boundless enthusiasm and creativity. He radiates energy and fun and if he ever actually stood still – well, you’d rush to check his pulse!
If any of us had doubts about Nick’s ability to write music for such an ensemble these were rapidly dispelled. Three Carriages had something for all of us – a story, a folk melody, challenges we could rise to, and a chance to showcase our multi-instrumentalists.
In the final run up to the premiere, there was a collective vibe of ownership and desire to do our composer, and ourselves, proud. This was clearly demonstrated by the near complete attendance at our extra weekend rehearsal (five hours on a sunny Saturday!) with input from Nick.
Three Carriages had something for all of us – a story, a folk melody, challenges we could rise to, and a chance to showcase our multi-instrumentalists.
On the day of the premiere, we were pleased to welcome representatives from the Adopt a Composer project: Celeste Berteau (singer and board member of Making Music), Fiona Allison (Creative Project Leader at Sound and Music), and Nick's mentor for the project, David Horne. We had a great turn out too – a nearly 300-strong audience, many of whom would never have heard a plucked-instrument orchestra before, who appeared as delighted as we were with Nick’s piece. We look forward to hearing the recording on BBC Radio 3 in due course.
The concert also featured the Hamburg-based Norddeutsches Zupforchester (The Mandolin and Guitar Orchestra of North Germany) led by Maren Trekel, whose performance included the enthralling, In the Land of Oz, by Lars Wüller. This is a programmatic work presenting the Wizard of Oz tale with a narrator (our bass player, Gordon West) and a sand art illustration projected on a screen.
The next evening was party time, celebrating with our friends from Hamburg (marking their 60th anniversary) with a traditional ceilidh – the band a joint venture featuring members of both orchestras.
We were privileged to receive the gift of a composition written for our instrumentation and skills by a composer who carried us along with his engagement, positivity and sheer wackiness.
What was our overall impression of the Adopt a Composer scheme? This is a unique opportunity for an amateur orchestra like ours to be part of a creative process that both involves us and reflects us. We were privileged to receive the gift of a composition written for our instrumentation and skills by a composer who carried us along with his engagement, positivity and sheer wackiness. The year has gone by too quickly, really, and we will miss this sense of fellowship with our 'own' composer, Nicholas Olsen.
We are immensely grateful to Making Music, The Philip and Dorothy Green Music Trust, Sound and Music, and the PRS Foundation, without whom none of this would have been possible. Thank you all.
Read more about the premiere of Three Carriages in Nicholas Olsen's Adopt a Composer blog.
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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.