Welcome to Bethan’s listening page. Recent releases include Gêmdis – for solo E-flat clarinet and ensemble – by Carl Rosman & Ensemble Musikfabrik (cond. Christian Eggen); Panufnik Legacies III – which features Bethan’s piece Scoot – by the London Symphony Orchestra (cond. François-Xavier Roth); and a new rendition of Liverpool Lullaby, recorded by Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano) and Alisdair Hogarth (piano).
Gêmdis with Musikfabrik
The title ‘Gêmdis’ combines the Welsh words for ‘game’ and ‘dice’, and like a desperate gambler, Bethan Morgan-Williams’ piece for E-flat clarinet and ensemble keeps returning for another roll of the dice. Each new start takes the music through a different set of emotional states, from playful to down and dirty, from the still voice of conscience to the horns of a dilemma. Or does it keep returning to the same place?
Are things out of control, then, or not?
Programme note: Tim Rutherford-Johnson
Photo credit: Janet Sinica
Panufnik Legacies III
Conductor François-Xavier Roth leads the London Symphony Orchestra on the third album in the Panufnik Legacies series. All of the composers featured on this recording are alumni of the LSO Discovery Panufnik Composers Scheme, which offers six composers each year the opportunity to write for a world-class symphony orchestra, guided by renowned composer Colin Matthews.
The Panufnik Legacies III disk contains world premiere recordings of compositions by Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ewan Campbell, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Donghoon Shin, Alex Roth, Matthew Sergeant, Patrick Giguère, Sasha Siem, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Michael Taplin, Benjamin Ashby and Joanna Lee.
A Love Letter To Liverpool
A Love Letter to Liverpool was recorded by Jennifer Johnston (mezzo-soprano) and Alisdair Hogarth (piano) in May 2019, and tells the story of Jennifer’s childhood and heritage against the backdrop of her home city. It features new arrangements of songs by ten composers that have a connection to Liverpool, including Bethan’s arrangement of Liverpool Lullaby.
Made famous by Cilla Black, Liverpool Lullaby has been through a series of transformations since being lifted from an early 19th-century folk song. The music that forms Robert Nunn’s Sandgate Dandling Song (composed ca. 1830) is the same music that Stan Kelly chose to base Liverpool Lullaby on (some 130 years later). In 1965, Liverpool Lullaby was recorded by Marian McKenzie (The Three City Four) and has since been covered by many musicians including Hughie Jones (The Spinners), Judy Collins, Val Doonican, the Ian Campbell Folk Group and of course, Cilla Black.
Bethan’s arrangement uses Nunn’s melody and Kelly’s text, while presenting a new accompaniment that tempts the music into the classical realm. Described as “a haunted miniature music-drama” [Richard Bratby, Gramophone], the new arrangement provides yet another adaptation of this deeply affecting song.
Photo credit: Helena Cooke
Ben Goldscheider & Pete Stollery at Sound Festival
A brilliant new audio-visual recording of In the Crypt – an interactive piece for horn & live electronics – is now available on Youtube. Realised by the marvellous Ben Goldscheider (horn) and Pete Stollery (electronics), this is a poignant performance of a ghosting piece. It stands out from any previous rendition because of the way in which it was put together. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, Ben was unable to travel to Aberdeen for the performance and so it was agreed that he would record his part in London, and the electronics could then be overdubbed. This meant sacrificing the live manipulation of the horn but actually, it doesn’t feel like it’s missing anything… what do you think?
Photo credit: Kaupo Kikkas
Datod at Concertini 10
Datod was commissioned by the Park Lane Group for a Robert Gerhard memorial concert at the Purcell Room (London) in May 2020. Unfortunately that event was cancelled due to the pandemic, but Musikfabrik members Hannah Weirich and Ulrich Löffler came to the rescue by programming the piece in the ensemble’s 2020 Concertini series in July.
Due to the restrictions regarding audience numbers at the time, the concert was performed twice. The second performance made for a particularly convincing rendition, and you can access Daniel Seitz’s recording of that via the Soundcloud player attached. Music video coming soon!
Photo credit: Janet Sinica
Quartet vs Quartet
In early November 2017, I received a call from Meurig Bowen, then Director of Cheltenham Music Festival, to talk about my Royal Philharmonic Society commission. I said to him, “So long as it’s not a string quartet!” and the line went quiet. I had one quartet already in tow for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO). Before they approached me earlier that summer, it had not even crossed my mind to write a quartet for many, many years. I really was scared to do it and didn’t feel I was ready for working with this form. It comes with so much demand and expectation and, being a string player myself, I knew the repertoire pretty well too. Were I to say yes to Cheltenham, I would then have to write two! I explained this to Meurig, who did offer me an alternative. But after a week of contemplation, I decided to take on the serendipitous challenge of double quartet writing.
First I tried an “if it doesn’t go in here, it might go over there” approach. But soon found this to be very confusing. Then someone suggested thinking of the two quartets as two movements of the same piece; but this became troublesome too. The RLPO quartet (aptly named, Double Double) already had strong ideas and I was engrossed in it, whereas the Cheltenham one needed persuading to emerge out of very thick mud – and its deadline was looming sooner too…
Ultimately I had to put Double Double on hold in order to finish the Cheltenham commission (Ghost Tongues, for the Ligeti Quartet), but returning to it several months later was surprisingly invigorating.
Here you can access a recording of Double Double‘s second outing with Equilibrium Ensemble – a new ensemble dedicated to performing works by women composers, comprising RLPO players Kate Richardson (violin), Kate Marsden (violin), Rachel Jones (viola) & Hilary Browning (cello). The recording is taken from the Liverpool Philharmonic Chamber Music Series, 10 February 2020, and was recorded by Thomas Rydeard.
Photo credit: Sally-Anne Anderson
In Kenopsia at St. Michael’s
In Kenopsia is a piece inspired by the experience of being present in a place that is usually bustling with life, but is now deserted. It is a duet between the known and visually-present trombonist and a violin. There is no violinist present though. Instead, all of the sounds used to comprise the samples in the electronics are taken from a single recording of a violinist improvising, and gradually over the course of the piece, the source of these exterior sounds becomes more apparent.
In Kenopsia was recorded live to video tape by Tony Boorer (trombone) and Bethan Morgan-Williams (electronics) on 5 May 2017 at Hallé St. Michael’s, Manchester.
Enraptured at St. Luke’s
Enraptured (2015) is a one-movement fantasy for viola and piano. It was premiered by Paul Silverthorne & Aglaia Tarantino on 30 January 2016, LSO St. Luke’s (London). This recording is taken from that concert.
“This is essentially rustic, cheeky music – energetic and entrancing, with a moment’s repose about two-thirds of the way through. The players work together initially, and then adopt a more conversational role.”
One, Two, Bakerloo…
Intended as an encore piece, this bagatelle for solo violin is a minimalist collision of additive melody and metamorphosis techniques. The title is derived from an unfinished poem that’s featured in The Little Book of Mornington Crescent. It reads:
Nursery rhyme (sixteenth century) – unfinished:
One, two Bakerloo,
Photo credit: Alejandro Tamagno
Neil in the hands of a fool
“Like a thornbush brandished by the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” (Proverbs 26:9, New Revised Standard)
A Thornbush In My Strength was written in 2013 for House of Bedlam percussionist Delia Stevens. It received its premiere in the October of that year and was recently picked up by Neil Percy (Principal Percussion, LSO). Neil’s version is striking and fun, and is available to watch via this post. The recording is taken from a Soundhub concert at LSO St. Luke’s on 15 February 2020.