Adopt a Music Creator blog: A tribute to Christian Brewer

Music creator Litha Efthymiou shares her thoughts on her promising partnership with Bury St Edmunds Concert Band, and the influential Christian Brewer's recent passing.

My collaboration with the Bury St Edmunds Concert Band is going well, despite the current lockdown restrictions. Zoom meetings have proven to be an effective way of communicating, and I have learned much about the band’s musical tastes and performance history. During sessions involving smaller numbers of participants, I have also had the chance to connect more personally with individual musicians, which has enabled me to form a strong picture of the different personalities that come together to create the band’s particular sound. 

A session that proved especially fruitful was one in which eight musicians presented all the possible extended techniques available on their instruments. Several engaging, and often comical, moments emanated from this meeting. Among the techniques demonstrated was the use of a hairbrush to groom the body of a euphonium, blowing into the opposite end of a clarinet, and beatboxing into the bell of a tuba. I have since used some of these techniques to create preliminary sketches, which I hope to present to the band as soon as the lockdown restrictions are lifted.  

March 2018: Bury St Edmunds Concert Band perform at The Apex

Aside from these meetings over Zoom, other recent events have begun to influence the direction of this new work. The death of Christian Brewer, a much-loved teacher and friend, has devastated everyone who knew him. Christian was a successful jazz saxophonist whose music touched the very soul of anyone fortunate enough to encounter it. Watching him perform was a hypnotic experience. I often wondered where his mind journeyed to during those mesmerising improvisations – the ones that swept us up and transported us to a world far beyond the one we know. This world could sometimes feel dangerous, with its lack of discernible boundaries and time delineations, leaving its inhabitants unstable and vulnerable, but it was not to be feared.

Ultimately, it was a beautiful world, and now that Christian has taken his final breath, we are forced to revisit it only through our memories and the few available recordings. 

A new emotional vocabulary could be formed in this world because, through his luminous music – composed and performed in the same instant – Christian enabled us to experience feelings unattainable in any other context. It was difficult to know how much time was ever spent dwelling in this world. The clock would suggest a matter of minutes, but this was a timeless world in which there was no notion of beginning and end. Ultimately, it was a beautiful world, and now that Christian has taken his final breath, we are forced to revisit it only through our memories and the few available recordings. 

Since his death, Christian’s life and music occupy my thoughts on a regular basis, and, as I continue to write the new piece for Bury St Edmunds Concert Band, elements of his sound-world begin to creep through the corners of each page. My own sound-world is a far cry from his, but, in some small way, I hope this piece can pay homage to Christian Brewer’s bewitching music and captivating spirit.

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The Adopt a Music Creator project matches vocal and instrumental leisure-time music groups with some of the UK’s most promising music creators to collaborate on creating a new piece of music. The project leads to a premiere performance and possible broadcast. If you’re a music group or music creator and you’d like to take part, find out more