LOVELY THINGS THIS WEEK....Read Now
I am absolutely delighted to hear that my piece The Wind's Warning has been selected as the winner of The Gesualdo Six's composition competiton. It is a particular honour as the judges read like a who's who of contemporary choral music, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Nigel Short, Kate Johnson, John Rutter and of course Owain Park. I am looking forward to the premiere at Cadogan Hall on March 7th this year. The piece features wind like vocal sounds in a setting of a dark poem by Ivor Gurney, believed to be the last poem he wrote.
It has also been my pleasure to attend two CD launches in the last few weeks, both of which have pieces of mine on them. Snow Queens by the awesome Juice Vocal Ensemble is a collection of winter music by contemporary composers. Kerry Andrew, Sarah Dacey and Anna Snow's voices are a magnificent blend and their innovative choice of repertoire and attention to detail make this a very special CD...not just for Christmas! My piece, The Ballad of the Harp Weaver, sets a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay. It tells the story of a mother desperate to clothe her young son during the harshest winter for many years. They have nothing but a "harp with a woman's head that nobody will buy", if you want to know the rest of the story listen here. I do love to tell a story in music and this is definitely influenced by another of my passions, English folk music!
The second launch was for This Day by the equally fabulous Blossom Street, featuring works by female composers to mark the centenary of women getting the vote. Sung by the female voices of the choir and directed by Hilary Campbell both the launch concert and the CD are stunning, exploring a wide range of music representing frequently under-represented women composers from the past hundred years. I couldn't be more pleased with the recording of Do Not Stand at my Grave and Weep, a setting of the poem of the same name by Mary Elizabeth Frye.
The poem was allegedly inspired by a German Jewish woman, Margaret Schwarzkopf, who was staying with Mary and her husband. Margaret was worried about her mother who was ill in Germany but she had been warned not to return home because of increasing unrest. When her mother died, the heartbroken young woman told Frye that she never had the chance to "stand by my mother's grave and shed a tear".
My setting uses cluster chords and elements of Jewish scales to tell this story. It was written in memory of my Uncle Francis, a fine musician and a truly gentle man.
You can listen here.
I am also delighted to report that at time of writing Snow Queens has entered the classical charts at 22 and This Day at 11. Congratulations to them both!
Leave a Reply.
Alison Willis is a composer and musician based in the East of England.