Adopt a Composer: mucking in

Claire Victoria Roberts shares an insight into her first Adopt a Composer workshop with the Camden Symphony Orchestra.

I was thrilled when my pairing was announced at the Adopt a Composer launch day. It is always my dream to write for orchestra, seeing as that's where my love for music began, sitting at the back of second violins in my county youth orchestra. Levon Parikian, conductor of the Camden Symphony Orchestra, had given me an idea of the repertoire that the group love to play, and it was decided that I'd head down to a rehearsal with a few sketches.

Making Music, Adopt a Composer, Claire Victoria Roberts, Levon Parikian
James Taylor (Chair, CSO), Claire Victoria Roberts (composer), Levon Parikian (Musical Director, CSO)

Colin Riley, my mentor, had suggested that there should be a lot of variation in what I present, and Lev allowed for 40 minutes at the start of the rehearsal before they began rehearsing Dvorak for their upcoming concert. My initial thoughts were to present a few different textures and one thematic idea for everyone to try. The thematic idea, however, had a strong rhythmic groove, which is very different from the symphonic repertoire the orchestra is familiar with.

"...being a very good-natured group, everyone mucked in, had a go, and got a flavour of what the piece might entail."

The session went extremely well, mostly thanks to the fun, yet efficient, professional attitude of Lev as he directed the rehearsal. Some parts weren't quite appropriate, some techniques were new and required advice from the leader, and some players I was not expecting to write for on this occasion, such as the bass clarinet! But being a very good-natured group, everyone mucked in, had a go, and got a flavour of what the piece might entail.

In terms of the finished product, there are some exciting developments on the horizon, with the possibility of me performing alongside the orchestra. In addition, we are working on the involvement of Freedom From Torture in the project, thanks to the work that Sheila, of the second violins, has done with the organisation. Sheila runs creative writing workshops with members of FFT and has many wonderful texts which can be incorporated into the music. As the concert premiere will be a celebration of the orchestra's 40th anniversary, she has run a workshop on the theme of celebration and we are awaiting the results!

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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.