A Composer in Lockdown

18 April 2020, Llandyssil

What strange times we find ourselves in! Not so much has changed for me though, it has to be said. I moved back to Wales (from The Netherlands) in July, to spend a year working on my own in the countryside. It’s been just what I needed. The only regular contact I have had is with my lovely students at Yorkshire Young Musicians, where I teach on Sundays. That loss of human interaction since Lockdown began has really been the only change to my routine. Well, that and the need to plan a lot more time to do my shopping. I have, like many, managed to incorporate a little more exercise into my week… I can’t stand running but I have started doing some lifting; I’m enjoying cycling again (an activity that is substantially harder in Wales than it is in The Netherlands!); and there are so many fantastic walks to rejoice in on my doorstep. I feel hugely fortunate to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery at this time; never before have I felt so grateful for the rural landscape that is my homeland. I do miss going to the pub though…

There were meant to be two premieres of mine in May: a song that was commissioned by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias to be programmed during the Wales International Piano Festival (WIPF); and a violin and piano duo that was to receive its first performance by Sulki Yu and Dominic Degavino as part of the Park Lane Group’s memorial concert for Robert Gerhard in London. Luckily, WIPF has been postponed to October but, the memorial concert has sadly been cancelled. This means I have a brand new violin and piano piece with no premiere… The piece – Datod – is a musical exploration of controlled freedom and is dedicated to Sally Groves. View score

Another concert that has sadly been cancelled is the BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert that was due to take place on 26 June at LSO St. Luke’s. Aptly titled, ‘Antoine Tamestit & Friends: with Colin Currie’, the concert was to feature pieces for viola (Antoine) and percussion (Colin) by Tristan Murail, Bruno Mantovani, Elliot Carter, Luciano Berio and me. This cancellation is especially upsetting as the piece I’ve written – Dog in the Moon – is dedicated to my late dog, Hettie. I really hope the BBC and LSO can find another date for this concert as it is a piece that’s especially close to my heart. You can read more about it here.

On a brighter note, there is something to look forward to that, conveniently, is not impacted by the need for physical distancing: the release of Panuknik Legacies III by LSO Live. The disk includes Scoot – an orchestral piece I wrote in 2015 – along with pieces by Patrick Giguère, Donghoon Shin, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Sasha Siem, Ewan Campbell, Joanna Lee, Ben Ashby, Alex Roth, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Patrick Brennan, Michael Taplin and Matthew Sergeant. It was recorded by François-Xavier Roth and the London Symphony Orchestra in April 2019, and is due to be released very soon.

Currently, I am working on a piece for Ensemble Musikfabrik that’s due to receive its premiere in Den Haag in November. It’s a sort of clarinet concerto scored for flute, oboe, solo clarinet in Eb, horn, trombone, tuba, piano & electronics. It is the first ensemble piece I have attempted that doesn’t include any bowed-strings, and it’s proving to be a rather steep learning curve as a result. I was meant to be travelling to Köln at the end of this month to workshop ideas but, of course, that is no longer feasible. Thankfully, the ensemble’s administrators are working hard to try and take as much of those sessions online as possible, which is fantastic, although I am going to miss the opportunity to try out some of the tutti sections. Be that as it may, I am enjoying the challenge of writing something Carl Rosman will actually have to practise… it’s “game on!” (his words not mine).

Anyway, thanks for reading. Stay safe everyone!

More soon.