Happy New Year!Read Now
Ah the joys of composing organ music in sub zero temperatures!
I am fortunate to have access to a really very good (albeit electric) organ at the church in my village. The door is open during daylight hours...but the heating is only put on for services and events!
As you can see, my head and neck were lovely and warm...unfortunately I can't play manuals in gloves....or pedals in boots.
I always promise myself in these situations that I "will only stay half an hour", but time flies when you're enjoying yourself....and those crunchy chords in the middle section won't write themselves you know!
Another little challenge is that the lights are on a timer, so go off after about ten minutes. Sometimes running up and down the aisle to reactivate them is quite good fun (and prevents frostbite), but this is not always an option if you've just found the perfect notes and need to write them down before they evaporate back into the musical ether.
This is not new however.
I have been doing this since I was twelve.
I used to let myself in the Chancel door of my (then) parish church, Great St. Mary's in Sawbridgeworth to practise after school in daylight, then, some hours later finish an extended and deeply satisfying absolutely full organ chord (usually from the forbidden fruit of the Widor Toccata - banned by my wonderful teacher Michael Cubbage until I was ready) to find that it had got dark outside. I then had to close the organ, walk all the way across the (quite big ) church, turn ALL THE LIGHTS OFF and then walk in suffocating blackness the entire length of the (quite big) church, past all the memorials with their leering skulls and the past the ancient Leventhorpe tomb to let my poor trembling twelve year old self out of the chancel door.
At least I don't have to do that any more!
Happy New Year to you all. May 2017 bring health, happiness and wonderful music.
I'm delighted to be able to report that I have three forthcoming world premieres and a Radio 3 broadcast coming up over the next few months.
Dulciana Vocal Ensemble will be premiering "Come Away Death" in Dublin in October. The text is taken from Shakespeare's poem of the same name from Twelfth Night and is set for acapella female ensemble in six parts (SSMMAA).
In December London Concord Singers will give the premiere of "Thou Hast Made Me Endless", a new acapella SATB setting of a beautiful poem by Rabindranath Tagore, as part of their 50th anniversary concert at the Priory Church of the Order of St John, Clerkenwell, London. The piece is based on an Indian rag and reflects the cyclical nature of the text.
Further to the residency and recording of "Gustate et Videte" in Bristol earlier this year I was commissioned to write a larger scale choral work based on the Old Hispanic Office liturgy. This will consist of three short anthems, a Vespertinus, Sono and Alleluiaticum and also a set of Preces and Responses. Whilst the pieces are conceived a set the intention is very much that they can stand alone for use within the Anglican Liturgy. The first performance will take place at 5pm on Saturday 4th February 2017 in Bristol Cathedral alongside two other new commissions by the fabulous Euchar Gravina and Francisco Carbonell. I may be biased (!) but I think this will be an exceptional hour of new music......
And then also in February BBC Radio 3 will broadcast the recording of the premiere of JOURNEYS made with CYCO back in April as part of Making Music's (with SAM and PRS) "Adopt a Composer" scheme 2015/16.
So many things to look forward to!
I am also delighted to have started my PhD in Composition with Paul Mealor at Aberdeen. Not the logical choice when one lives in Hampshire granted, but too good to turn down and very exciting! Watch this space......
New Choral CommissionRead Now
I am delighted to announce that I have been commissioned by The Old Hispanic Office Project (Bristol University) in association with Bristol Cathedral Choir and Christchurch Cathedral Choir Oxford to expand my piece "Gustate et Videte" into a longer choral work for performance in spring 2017. It is likely that the new work will be made up of three or four short anthems based around Vespers inspired by the neumes of the Old Hispanic Chant.
The commission follows a fabulous weekend of music in Bristol and Oxford with twenty new works by composers from all over the EU, premiered by Bristol Cathedral Choir, Christchurch Cathedral Choir and Kokoro Ensemble, overseen by Michael Ellison, Neal Farwell and Paul Mealor.
The EU-funded Old Hispanic Office project, led by Emma Hornby, is focusing on musical, liturgical, theological, notational and historical aspects of the rite celebrated in medieval Iberia until it was suppressed in favour of the Roman liturgy with its Gregorian chant repertoire.
As well as presenting their work through conventional means (including conference papers, journal articles and a monograph), they are sharing their findings with composers within and beyond the project team. The composers are then responding to the historical findings in compositional form, capturing something of the aesthetic and purpose of the medieval material, in modern music for modern contexts.
It was fascinating to hear the wide range of different responses all derived from the same point of departure and an absolute privilege to be a part of such a creative and thought provoking residency. My huge thanks go to Emma and her team for making this happen.
Oh....and the beautiful photo is by the talented composer (and photographer!) Raphael Languillat.
I am really delighted to announce that the Juice Vocal Ensemble will be giving the first (and second) performance of "The Ballad Of The Harp Weaver" as part of their "Snow Queens" series of concerts.
The piece is a setting of the poem of the same name by Edna St. Vincent Millay, a poet definitely worthy of further investigation!
The poem tells of an impoverished mother weaving clothes for her beloved son with the strings of "a harp with a woman's head nobody will buy". I think it is probably fair to say that my other life as a folk musician has had some bearing on the setting!
The Juice Ensemble will be performing "The Ballad Of The Harp Weaver";
Tuesday, December 1st
Shoreditch Church, London
A concert to raise money for the charity work done by the church for the homeless and those with addictions.
Public Facebook event here:
Saturday December 5th
Thames Concerts, Kingston Arts
Why not come and listen to a fabulous ensemble and a jolly good story?
Two premieres coming up....Read Now
Ferio Saxophone Quartet will be premiering my new work "PIED PIPER" in a tour of the Channel Islands later this month.
The piece was commissioned as a performance piece but also as a piece to engage young listeners of all ages from Early Years to A level. It tells the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, using a simple and easily recognisable motif to represent the Piper (Huw on Soprano Sax), with the ungrateful Councillor being represented by the Baritone (Shevaughan).
The piece is about five minutes in total, split into linked movements RATS: PIPER: RATS II: PIPER II: CHILDREN: MOUNTAIN and uses elements of space and movement to help bring the story to life. Pre-tour workshops are taking place on November 20th in various schools in Basingstoke, Hants.
On Friday 18th December Dorking Choral Society (cond. Hilary Campbell) will perform "Those Things Three", my new choral piece based on a medieval poem sometimes known as the "Adult Lullaby" at St. Joseph's Church, Dorking. Six new pieces will be performed with a winner being chosen by Judith Weir, Master of the Queen's Music and Stephen Jackson, Director of the BBC Symphony Chorus.
Adopt a Composer 2015/16Read Now
I'm delighted to announce that I have been selected as one of the composers for this year's "Adopt a Composer" scheme.
I will be working with CYCO (pronounced psycho (!) but meaning Chiltern Youth Chamber Orchestra, conductor Peter Hanson (in the centre of the picture)) to create a new work to be premiered and recorded for BBC Radio 3 in March 2016.
Our project mentor is the composer Colin Riley (on the right of the picture.)
"Adopt a Composer" is run by Making Music in partnership with Sound and Music, in association with BBC Radio 3, and funded by PRS for Music Foundation and the Philip and Dorothy Green Music Trust.
It pairs six composers with six amateur ensembles to create six new works over the course of a year. The scheme is a unique opportunity for amateur musicians to work directly with a composer, be actively involved in the creative process and discover new music.
Find out more about CYCO
Find out more about "Adopt a Composer"
"Alleluia"! New choral piece to be recorded by Bristol Cathedral Choir....Read Now
Bristol Cathedral choir will be recording my new choral piece "Gustate et videte" as part of the Old Hispanic Office Project (Bristol University) in March 2016.
“Without music there can be no perfect knowledge, for there is nothing without it. For even the universe itself is said to have been put together with a certain harmony of sounds, and the very heavens revolve under the guidance of harmony.”
(Isidore of Seville)
This piece is intended to be sung during Communion to communicate spiritual communion with the angels through the repeated singing of groups of three Alleluias. Isidore of Seville (560 -636) suggests that singing "Alleluia" could help to achieve unity with the angels. "Gustate et Videte"develops this idea to create the spiritual and devotional elements of the Old Hispanic Rite in a contemporary setting.
Click for more information on THE OLD HISPANIC OFFICE PROJECT
September 04th, 2015Read Now
Hello! I have been composing for as long as I can remember, certainly since I was about six. Probably nothing Mozartian but I do find there are themes and ideas that I can trace back to my earliest experiments. The reason for starting this blog now is that exciting things are happening in my compositional world and I would like to share them with interested people....watch this space! Oh, and here's some pictures.....
Can't say any more until I'm allowed to.....
Alison Willis is a composer and musician based in the East of England.