I write this on the way back from the final rehearsal with the Chandos Chamber Choir before their concert at St Pancras Church, London. I am buzzing! As the choir mentioned in their last blog post, we chose Cherry Smyth’s poem Evensong as a starting point for our collaboration.
This evening Cherry attended the rehearsal to hear the piece for the first time (eek!) and we were pleased to hear her positive and warm response. I was thrilled with the choir’s performance, and so impressed by how they had worked to achieve a beautiful feeling and flow in the past few weeks. I felt moved listening to them.
Now for a little more on the compositional process of the past few months: the words of Cherry’s poem had really resonated with me and, for this reason, I had felt worried about how best to set them.
I tend to think of music and words in a visual and physical way, and every phrase of Cherry’s poem evoked some colour, image or physical sensation for me.
I spent a long time trying to capture the subtleties of what I felt in her poem through the details of the music I was writing; her poem was so perfectly formed that I did not want to mess with its structure by repeating certain lines. So rather than trying too hard to repeat musical material, I aimed instead to instinctively follow the poem’s narrative and to evoke the colour and sensation of each phrase as it comes.
Evensong begins with the words, ‘The way evening comes in (or on, or down)’, which Cherry had told me was written in the busy, interconnected city that is London. This inspired me to compose another movement which would convey hectic London life through fast, repeating motifs, and would gradually fade into descending slides to convey evening coming in. This would set the scene for what had now become the second movement, Evensong.
There are a few people I’d like to thank: my mentor Jenni Pinnock, who has been totally fantastic, the Making Music team, all the mentors and composers on the scheme who I’ve loved getting to know, the brilliant Cherry Smyth, and, of course, Chandos Chamber Choir and their conductor James Davey for their dedication, positivity and kindness.
"I will add that I have found the Adopt a Composer programme genuinely fulfilling; it has given me the chance to meaningfully connect with people that I would never have otherwise met in this frantic London life."
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.