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Royal Irish Academy of Music Composer Day

Solfa’s piece ‘Dystopia’, as performed by flautist William Dowdall, features as part of Royal Irish Academy of Music’s conference day on 24th March 2017.  The Irish salute to female composers comprises a series of free-admission events, to take place at the RIAM and Smock Alley Theatre 1662. Information below and here.

Cantata Dramatica

Solfa is currently working on two projects with UK-based Cantata Dramatica, the most recent of which is a commission for a church cantata to be performed in 2017.  Information about Cantata Dramatica and their work is available here.  Solfa is also editing a previously performed work ‘Little River’ to be performed at St John’s Smith Square, and has been commissioned by organist Richard Moore to write a solo piece for performance in autumn 2017.

Silver Tree Fanfare

I recently finished a piece by duo Illumina for trumpet and organ.  In preparation for composing this, I studied several pieces in the canonic organ repertoire by Duruflé, Stanford, Messiaen and others.  I was somewhat disheartened, particularly by the beauty and complexity of Duruflé’s compositions, but later learned from Simon Johnson (whose recital I attended at Merton College, Oxford) that Duruflé was a perfectionist who kept very few of his works.  I found this oddly reassuring, given that Duruflé is a particularly tough act to follow, or precede, in a concert setting…

Aside from availing of  Richard Moore’s clear and detailed advice on the manuals available and the registration on the organ which would premiere the work, I visited friends in Amesbury in Wiltshire, one of whom is a church organist.  There I was given brief lessons in playing the organ.  At first, simply manoeuvring pedals and manuals in tandem during a read-through of ‘Walking in the Air’ was enough to stress me out and provide comedy for all.  After two days, I was smugly sailing though Flor Peeters’  Aria.  Though not a technically demanding piece, I felt I’d achieved something simply by means of limb-eye coordination…

After reading numerous online articles about composing for organ, I decided that I would leave the registration up to the organist.  One particular article stated: ‘Composers, don’t bother specifying the registration, as you will be ignored’. Perhaps not always the case, but I wanted to give the organist the freedom to choose from a palette of sounds based on simple suggestions of timbre.  The score was annotated here and there with brief instructions as to how certain sections should relate.  Twee adjectives such as ‘sparkly’ and ‘ghostly’ made their way into the first draft.  Richard sent me some suggestions of registration to approve via email, but I was happy for him to make his own decisions about what sounds worked best in rehearsal, as I wouldn’t hear the piece until the initial performance.

Despite all my studying of organ playing and writing, I had written enough for the trumpet to feel confident that my writing for it was idiomatic.  Then it was Ellie who contacted me suggesting that the relentless passages of virtuosic trumpet writing in my score needed a few breaks here and there, for reasons of endurance (this piece would be the first in a 45 minute concert of challenging pieces)!  Although there were moments to breathe, there were scarcely a few bars’ rest to be found for the trumpet.  I reworked the piece accordingly, maintaining its development but keeping in the ‘fireworks’.  The resulting effect was conducive to the effect of the piece.   The texture, rather than being predominantly dense, was now broken up into antiphonal passages, larger solo sections and an eventual musical homogeneity at the conclusion, better pronounced by the thinning out of the part.  The brief I was given when commissioned to write this piece was, ‘Lots of fizz and bang, please.’  I hope that the musicians, and audience, find some of each in this work.

Illumina and Choral piece

Things have been quiet for the past couple of months as I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with doctoral study.  I’m looking forward to getting back into writing after a break.  I’ve recently been commissioned to compose four new pieces – three as part of a larger choral commission (more news to come) and one, a short piece for duo Illumina, based in London.  The duo piece is for trumpet and organ.  Having only written once previously for organ (and not in great detail), I will have to undertake some research into writing for the instrument.  I”ve not been very active in the Twittersphere lately, apart from some occasional re-tweets, but I will do my best to be disciplined and make note of exciting events to come.

Performances March

The piece ‘Dear, Dirty Dublin‘, for ‘Cello and percussion, composed and first performed in 2010 will receive another performance by the G Project on Thursday, March 5th at a non-classical event at the Cafe Royal, London.  Details of the event here.

Also on March 7th, Solfa’s ‘Two Joyce Songs‘ for SATB choir will be premiered at the Forte Festival in Cork, Ireland, along with the third performance of ‘Is Mairg an Te gan Cheol’ (2012).

The Exile

I’m currently completing ‘The Exile’, which I have been writing in collaboration with librettist Gillian Pencavel.  The piece is a chamber opera for four singers and Pierrot ensemble with percussion.

I was fortunate to take part in a workshop with the BBC singers at Maida Vale studios on May 2nd, where they workshopped a new two movement piece for choir I’d written, entitled ‘O Sun’ based on some writing by Irish poet Joseph Mary Plunkett.

I’m also working on a musical play  entitled ‘A Brief Engagement’, which is a fantasy inspired by the works of Jane Austen, with libretto by my father, Orison Carlile.

Orchestra of St Paul’s and Oxford Philomusica

I’ve just completed a piece for the Orchestra of St Paul’s, due to be performed on 2nd February at St Paul’s, Covent Garden.  ’Dagda’s Harp’ for Harp and ensemble, is based on the gaelic folk-tale about an enchanted harp.  This is in keeping with the theme of the concert, ‘Fairy Tales’.  Details of the concert are visible here.  It’s been a while since I composed anything for harp, so I had to reacquaint myself with the conventions of harp writing, including pedals, tuning and other practical techniques.  I recently revisited the Ravel – Introduction et Allegro for inspiration (and for the joy of it!), along with other pieces from the canonic repertoire.

I’ve also completed a piece for the Oxford Philomusica, entitled ‘Ithaca’, which will feature in a concert alongside Mozart’s Requiem.  Magdalen College Choir will also feature in the concert.  ’Ithaca’ will be conducted by Cayenna Ponchione a talented young conductor and friend and colleague from the Faculty of Music at Oxford.

Key Perfect Launch

Key Perfect Launch

I found this on YouTube the other day. It’s me and two other young composers playing our piano miniatures, as published in the ’Key Perfect’ books for miniature pianists.

Contemporary-Music-in-Action 2011

Last night was the premiere of ‘Six Vignettes’ at the Recital Hall, RCM. The musicians were: Will Oinn (Oboe), Victoria Stephenson (Violin) and Lydia Scadding (Piano).

the Contemporary-Music-in-Action project promotes collaboration between composers and performers at an advanced level, and involves a year-long partnership between ensemble/soloist and composer. We have a few meetings, workshops and a flurry of emails to organise both the piece and the rehearsal process.  Essentially, we create a work together. For my piece, there was no improvisational aspect – it was conventionally notated and planned, but the players contributed textural ideas, extended techniques, multiphonics, etc, which helped to enhance the work.

Six-Vignettes is a six-movement work, which I expected to be about 12 minutes in performance. In reality it was about 14’30, due to pauses and slight adjustments in-between movements (pianist uses inside-piano techniques for movements II and V for example). I had worried about the length of the work, but the fact that each movement is concise and varied (1-2 minutes in duration), made the piece easier to digest both aurally and from a performance perspective. I had quite positive feedback afterwards; strangely the favoured movement was the third, moto-perpetuo movement, which I had considered the weakest. I am actually just about pleased with the first and last movements, mainly because of the rhythmic drive which is essential to both. That said, the first movement did create some ensemble issues due to a rhythmic subtraction principle I developed, but with some rehearsal the players did amazingly. I will put one or two of the movements up on soundcloud or on here when I get the recording back.

BBC Singers Recording

Here is the recording of my piece ‘Breathe Shine Seek’ (ca. 4 mins) from the BBC Singers Workshop, on Tue 26th Oct. The recording was done by Jude Obermuller, also a participant in the workshop.

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