Over the years, the Adopt a Composer project has inspired fantastic musical creations that are worth sharing, so we've created a library of these compositions. The composers have re-scored their pieces to make them more accessible to other kinds of groups. These new versions are free for Making Music member groups to download and perform.
Below you can listen to recordings of each of the original pieces (made for the BBC Radio 3 broadcasts), and read accompanying notes from the composers and project mentors to help you identify which piece might work best for your group. We look forward to many more performances of these wonderful new compositions - let us know if you're thinking about performing them.
Contact the composers to request parts or if you have further questions about the pieces themselves. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more general enquires about the project.
Esmeralda Conde Ruiz – The Other Ocean
Scored for: 6 mandolin 1, 8 mandolin 2, 3 mandola, 6 guitars, 1 double bass, 1 mandoloncelli, 1 soprano
This piece explores memories through music and archive film images, provided by Screen Archive South East. It is inspired by real memories of Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra Brighton. Written as a poetic journey from childhood to adulthood life, all seven movements show different colours. We all might see the same images but it will trigger a complete different memory and that duality fascinates me. What makes the piece so special is the connection that it creates between the orchestra, the audience and the music.
In The Other Ocean, Esmeralda conjures a wide variety of sounds, atmospheres and moods. Originally composed to accompany silent film, the music is beguiling, haunting, tender, playful and quirky. The piece is an intriguing balance between old and new, blending ancient and modern sonorities and I’m sure any fretted orchestra would enjoy playing these pieces with or without the images that originally inspired them. None of the movements present particularly difficult technical challenges. The skill is in the ensemble being present in the moment and quickly capturing the unique style, mood and tempo of each new movement they encounter along the way.
If you would like to use the footage from Screen Archive South East, please email them directly so that they can send you the link to the film programme and to discuss their requirements for publicity credits.
Ben See – We Want and fingerprintplurals
Scored for: Voice, flutes, oboes, Bb clarinets, horns in F, trumpets in Bb, trombones, euphonium, strings, drum
This is an orchestral piece for very young players. The piece balances the everyday things that children want (like delicious biscuits), with bigger-picture feelings about being taken seriously. In this age of referendums and climate change do young people have a strong enough voice? We Want features accessible orchestral playing alongside homemade percussion, singing, shouting and the consuming of biscuits!
Scored for: 18.104.22.168 22.214.171.124 3perc str
This piece is about identity. The players are encouraged to take the material in lots of different directions and shape the piece in their own image. All the instrumental parts include elements of improvisation and sections which are open to interpretation. The score pushes the performers to make decisions, explore and play. The whole idea of the piece is to take ownership of the music and make it your own!
These two commented pieces for both junior and senior youth orchestras are colourful for both players and audience. They provide plenty of variety for all the instrumental sections as well as some unexpected dramatic elements too. Ben’s lyrical approach, stemming from his extensive vocal writing is warm, friendly and original in a really appealing way for young people.
Gaynor Barradell – Step-up
Step-up is an imaginary journey by bike through Edinburgh’s streets, dodging traffic, pedestrians, tourist groups spilling across steps and closes, reaching Parliament Square for some trickery on the concrete walls and benches, then climbing the stony paths of Arthur’s Seat, reaching the summit, legs and lungs burning from the sheer exertion.
Step-up by Gaynor Barradell is an energetic and invigorating work for large wind band that contains an impressive and enjoyable range of colours and musical expressions. It inventively plays with a number of folk and dance traditions from Scotland but also more distant tropical climes, and blends these in an original and exciting way. The work cleverly reuses material so that while the music constantly renews for the listener - the players do not feel that they are constantly learning new material. The option to improvise in some sections is very clearly explained and could be of great interest to some of the performers in the ensemble. There are very helpful musical details, such as articulations and dynamics that intermediate level and above and above will greatly enjoy practising and performing.
Edmund Hunt – Vita Hominum
Scored for: SSAATTBB, with at least one soprano soloist and a tenor soloist
Vita Hominum was inspired by the early medieval history of Northumbria. With the exception of the last movement, all of the texts come from writings by the Venerable Bede. The overriding theme is of a journey from storm and uncertainty to a place of serenity. At the end of the piece, the journey resumes and the music disperses.
Vita Hominum is a significant, substantial and very strong choral work. It’s atmospheric, thought-provoking and meditative in character. It's suitable for choirs who identify with being somewhere between experienced amateur, semi-professional and professional. The piece moves the singers around the performing space, splits the choir into small groups, highlights soloists and demands a certain level of independence from each member of the ensemble.
However, please do not let these unusual features, which enhance the work tremendously, put you off! The work needed at the outset will be repaid ten-fold once the shape and intention of the piece is realised and internalised. The pitching and rhythmic language is not highly demanding and every singer will be extremely aware of how their own particular contribution to the overall sound and texture impacts on the work and the listener.
Peter Yarde Martin – Nocturne
Re-scored for: 3-5 octaves of handbells, to allow the greatest number of handbell groups to play the piece
Nocturne was inspired by the bright starlit skies over rural Norfolk in the process of writing and developing this piece with the Bellfolk Handbell Ringers. The piece is essentially three different versions of the same melody, which grow increasingly complex. The first version is a lullaby melody with gently pulsing accompaniment, like the first stars that begin to appear in late evening as the sky darkens. The second melody at letter ‘C’ is a big chorale, depicting the appearance of larger dazzling constellations as the night progresses. The glittering, ever shifting accompaniment from letter ‘F’ mirrors the way in which the night sky shifts and changes over the course of the night, the planets moving in their own spheres and the constellations slowly turning around the earth.
This piece may be performed by 3 to 5 octaves of handbells. If 3 octaves are used, the notes in brackets should not be played, even if they are in the range of the handbells being used. This is so that melodic lines retain their original shape.
Nocturne is an evocative depiction of the ever-shifting night sky, centred around a tonal melody and accessible for performers and audiences alike. The notation is initially less complex than some pieces, but teams will have to balance a moving melody and suspended chords using both handbells and chimes. The piece grows in complexity as it progresses, requiring good ensemble skills across the team. Nocturne would suit groups looking to move beyond the dots to work on shaping and expression.
Anna Appleby – Turbines
Re-scored for: 126.96.36.199 188.8.131.52 tmp+2 hp str
NB 4 whirly tubes required
This piece was inspired by wind turbines seen from a train window on the journey between Glasgow and Manchester. It explores the meeting of nature and technology, as well as the spirit and identity of Merchant Sinfonia as a unique orchestra. The piece was written in collaboration with Merchant Sinfonia and is dedicated to them on the occasion of their 10th Anniversary. I would like to thank the orchestra and conductor Louise for their generous welcome to me, as well as their hard work, creativity, humour and enthusiasm in collaborating with me. I have been a very happily-adopted composer!
Find out more about the composer or request parts.
Anna Appleby’s Turbines is an exciting orchestral work that contains much energy and colour. It employs a number of unusual playing techniques, all of which are very manageable, and which always contribute in a meaningful way to the narrative behind the work. The musical ideas are divided excellently throughout the orchestra so that all sections have a chance to shine and it very cleverly uses relatively straightforward rhythms and melodic passages to build up to a seemingly more complex whole. The whirly tubes are particularly appreciated by both the orchestra and the audience, a real surprise! It is a work that intermediate level and above orchestras of all ages would enjoy playing.
Max Charles Davies - Y Goes Fawr
Scored for SATB choir and piano
Myfyrdod yw'r cywydd 'Y Gors Fawr' lle mae'r awdur yn ymweld a'r cylch cerrig hwn ym Mynachlog-ddu. Mae'n teimlo ias wrth gerdded i mewn i'r cylch ac yn dychmygu ei fod nol yn yr oes neolithig ac yn 'gweld' sut roedd y llwyth yn byw drwy eu gweithgareddau o ddydd i ddydd. Mae'n teimlo wrth ymadael ei fod wedi cyffwrdd y ffin a'i orffennol.
In 'Y Gors Fawr, the author visits an old stone circle in Mynachlod-ddu and is bewitched as he enters the site. He feels that he is back in the neolithic age and imagines what the tribe members are doing on a day to day basis. On leaving, he feels that he has touched an element of a previous life.
This is a well-crafted short piece for choir and piano of medium difficulty. It is a setting of a specially-written text in Welsh. The piece is varied in mood and contains elements of divisi for all voices.
Christopher Schlechte-Bond - Martian Saloon
Re-scored for: more flexible concert band 3flt(3rd Picc.).2ob.2bsn 3clr.bsclr 2asx.2tsx.bsx 2hn.3tpt.2tbn.bstbn.tba.euph 2perc bsgtr
Minimum requirements: 2flt(2nd Picc.).ob.bsn 2clr asx.tsx 2hn.2tpt.2tbn.bstbn.tba perc bsgtr
This piece is made up of two sections. The first is a martian soundscape of ethereal harmonies, atmospheric playing techniques and a lot of 'playing in freetime', beginning with a cloud of dreamy whistling and rumbling bass drum. The piccolo is heard mysteriously in the distance and then the instruments begin to creep in one by one. A more upbeat rhythm is hinted at through various ominous vocal effects. After a while, the second section emerges suddenly: exciting, fast-paced and clamorous.
This is an inventive composition for wind band which is of moderate difficulty, though the composer cleverly re-uses much of the works more rhythmic ideas so that the players do not need to learn a great deal of new material. The work also uses extended techniques, but these support the narrative of the music effectively and would make sense to any audience hearing the work for the first time. The evocative and atmospheric music in the first part of the piece is contrasted very well with more energetic and rhythmically driven sections, giving much variety for both players and audiences.
Aran Browning - A Quiet Life
Re-scored for: SATB and piano
The piece delves into what it's like to be a part of a community choir, highlighting and sharing the other elements off-stage that the audience don't usually see; from membership change to organising lifts, performance nerves to finding a place to rehearse. This customisable version gives the opportunity for choirs to contextualise and personalise the work to their story and community. Two versions of the score are provided, one with suggestive lyric gaps and another with the original text for reference. Incorporating video, which reflects and captures being in your choir, is encouraged. For support in customising, such as changing lyrics which would affect rhythm, contact the composer through Making Music.
This is an attractive work which takes its inspiration from the particular history of The Strathendrick Singers, for whom it was written. It can certainly be performed by other choirs in this original version, as the words and themes would have currency for many amateur groups, such as the strong sense of community. However, Aran has given the option for new groups to insert their own particular words or phrases, in order to individualise the piece, an innovative move that has been cleverly achieved. The work is of moderate difficulty and contains a separate piano part, but this would be easily managed by most choir pianists. The musical language is broadly tonal, with some attractive chromaticism that again would be within the grasp of most amateur choirs.
Rosie Clements - In Reginald's Garden
In Reginald’s Garden is inspired by the life of horticulturalist Reginald Cory and his family who resided at Dyffryn House and Gardens in Wales from 1891. Reginald went on many plant-hunting expeditions and funded many others and it it these trips and expeditions which gave Dyffryn Gardens it’s spectacular flora and fauna. This piece uses descriptions of flowers from the book Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland to reflect the scientific nature of these expeditions. Lily of the Valley and Yellow Whitlow Grass are featured heavily in this piece because of their connections to Dyffryn; Dyffryn is the Welsh word for valley as well as the name of the house, and Yellow Whitlow Grass is the county flower of the Vale of Glamorgan where Dyffryn lies.
Text from Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by Marjorie Blamey, Richard Fitter and Alastair Fitter, by permission from Domino Books Ltd.
Rosie’s piece is highly idiosyncratic with a dramatic beginning involving spatial presentation. The text is based on the names and descriptions of flowers, and through its mantra, it evokes a close up view of a garden through the medium of singing. It evolves passages of textural music and then more choric material. If you’re interested in something a bit different which might challenge your choir in many ways, then this piece is for you.
Adriano Adewale - Suite Dialogues
This piece is based on and inspired by the wonderful power dialogues have. It enables people to communicate feelings, emotions and thoughts in different levels. It creates possibilities of understanding one another while also nurturing a space for all people to come together through peaceful and yet poignant and truthful ways.
Suite Dialogues is a spirited and warm-hearted orchestral conversation in which every section of the orchestra has a chance to shine.
After a sparse, wistful opening, the pace soon quickens to expose a lightness of touch embedded in rhythmic intricacies which pass neatly through the orchestra.
Lyrical lines give way to tiptoeing tangos, while nimble pizzicato dance rhythms scurry from sudden punctuations. Perhaps a little more demanding in terms of rhythmic vitality for the string section than any other, the challenge here is not in notational complexities, but in bringing a radiant effervescence to sound, ensemble, rhythmic precision and dialogue.
Mark Boden - Homo Sum
Re-scored for: SATB, Children's chorus and sinfonietta
Homo Sum was conceived as a celebration of multiculturalism, reflecting both the diversity of Croydon and the Croydon Bach Choir for whom the piece was commissioned, in addition to celebrating the cosmopolitan nature of London and the UK in general. Across the eight movements comprising Homo Sum, some of the references to multiculturalism are very direct (such as the use of nine different languages), though there are also more more subtle allusions to different cultures and traditions, through varied use of rhythm, texture and harmony.
Mark’s piece exists in three forms; the full ‘choir and sinfonietta’ version, the ‘choir and strings’ version, and the ‘choir and piano’ version. It is a very accessible and varied piece, allowing for maximum flexibility. There are, for example, sections for soloists from within the choir. The texts form a wonderful collection from around the world, and the music is similarly eclectic. This is a powerful piece for a choir wishing to commit to a large-scale new work.
Chris Hutchings - Janya
Re-scored for: full orchestra (3333; 4331; timp&perc, strings)
Based on a sculpture by Annette Yarrow outside Chester Cathedral. A trio of trumpet, horn and trombone play together at several points (trio trumpet and trio horn should be high players) and should be seated together if possible, although they do not need to be separated from the rest of the brass. This trio trumpet part may be played by a soprano saxophone instead, if one is available.
Janya is an attractive orchestral work that takes as its inspiration the eponymous bronze elephant sculpture gifted to the city of Chester by the local zoo. While the inspiration was local to the orchestra that first performed the piece the work’s clear narrative will appeal to all audiences and performers. The music is cleverly written at an intermediate level of difficulty, containing freely written sections for some instruments and powerful passages in rhythmic unison, such as the opening and close of the work.
Ed Scolding - Land Cycle
Re-scored for: SATB and piano acc.
There are three movements, each focussing on a different moment of the year in a different outdoor landscape. Thaw by Edward Thomas sets a scene damped by a layer of melting snow; Shaun Gardiner’s Invocation sees new life bursting with violent insistence in spring; 8th century poet Li Po writes In the Mountains on a Summer Day of a hazy wood so hot that all movement slows to near stillness.
Land Cycle is a very evocative and compelling piece for voices, recently re-scored with piano. Its three movements each have a very distinctive feel and character. Winter Ending has an optimistic openness, a robust rhythmic template and offers an optional piano part to support the striding vocal lines. Spring Bursting is the most demanding movement with its taught, angular lines and independent layers. Great for developing the confidence in pitching of the group! Summer Heat demands precise ensemble and stamina whilst still wanting to sound relaxed and calm in the stifling temperatures.
Angela Slater - Fantasy of the Dawn
Re-scored for: String orchestra (2vn, va, vc, db)
In its original form, the piece begins with a section that explores the unusual sounds that the Ukulele can make, conjuring up imagery of nortunal activity. In this new version the same types of sounds are explored but using the strengths and unique timbres of bowed string instruments. This builds to a dramatic point of climax, marking the beginning of an energetic rhythmic section that represents the emergence of the day and the energy that it brings.
Fantasy of the Dawn is an imaginative work for string orchestra that combines fascinating extended techniques with more straightforward rhythmic passages filled with driving energy. At an intermediate level of difficulty this would be an excellent introduction to unusual sounds and textures for string players of all ages. The rhythmic sections are similarly fun to play and will definitely improve counting ability!
Neil Tòmas Smith - The Hoard and Perle (excerpt)
Re-scored for: SATB + solo SATB (The Hoard) or SATB (Perle)
The Hoard: In this piece I wanted to explore the idea of hoards in general, while also relating some aspects specifically to Thame. Above all I was interested in the strange juxtapositions of time – of history encountered through objects – that hoards embody so well. Past and present mix in this piece, creating a musical space in which the new can sound old, and the old new.
Perle: Originally the conclusion to The Hoard, Perle is a partial setting of a Middle English text by an unknown author (usually known as the ‘Perle Poet’). The poem is a lament for the loss of a woman dear to the narrator – a pearl who has slipped into earth.
The Hoard: This is a rich and thoughtful piece with variety in its three movements. Whilst is a serious undertaking, it is one that brings huge rewards for the choir as it is so well-written. For singers interested in stretching themselves and engaging with some new techniques and ways of performing, this would be an excellent piece to sing. There is also the opportunity to personalise the music by including local historical information. A part for children’s choir adds a further dimension, although again the music is flexible in that it can also be performed by an adult choir alone.
Perle: For a choir wishing to extend the range of their work, but to get back much as they put in, this is the perfect piece. It is very well written for a choir and has a clear structure. It is reasonably short and provides the interest of singing in Middle English.
Lee Westwood - Barricades
Re-scored for: Orchestra (3333; 43211; 2perc, strings)
Barricades takes its name from the old Jewish folk song Barikadn, which was written by the Vilna poet-partisan Shmerke Kaczerginsky. Whilst the lyrics describe another time and place in Jewish history, they resonate very closely with the events that took place during the Battle Of Cable Street. The music is built from two contrasting textures which meet face to face in stark fronts of sound, cutting each other off abruptly. As these collisions continue, and the barricades between them gradually weaken, the structural autonomy of the two textures is compromised, and they begin to overlap and merge in a simple dialogue of dynamics and colour.
Barricades is an earthy musical drama that sets two independent musical ideas against each other. It’s a great piece for developing the confidence and independence of players within an ensemble. The difficulty level is moderate and aims at developing the quality of intention, sonic presence and innate flexibility of each player. The notation is slightly different from the norm, but is consistent, effective and straightforward to interpret.
Alison Willis - Journeys
Re-scored for: Orchestra (flexible)
Journeys is a response to the ongoing Refugee Crisis. This version builds on the original string orchestration and is intended to be flexible, working with any orchestral ensemble that has a solid string section as its foundation. The piece is written in three movements, or 'Acts', which can be performed individually or as a whole. The first Act is about leaving, the second about travel and the third arriving. Each movement features solo lines that represent the millions of individuals that combine to become a 'bunch of migrants'.
This is an exciting and varied piece for youth orchestra/amateur orchestra and provides dramatic and instantly-enjoyable interest for all players. Some aspects are straightforward and others will take more time to put together, but the music always gives the players plenty to engage with. Each movement could I think also be performed separately.
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 broadcast on BBC Radio 3. If you’re a music group or composer and you’d like to take part, find out more.