Author Archives: jennipinnock

Upcoming concert: Music of Starrs and Skies

On Saturday 11th May, several CNM members will have their music premiered by harpischordist Sara Stowe at her Music of Starrs and Skies concert. Premieres of music by Philip Joy, Peter Thorne, Laurence Glazier and Jenni Pinnock will be performed alongside a varied programme of music including other newly commissioned works.

The concert will be held at Old House Barn at the Pimlott Foundation, Colchester, Essex, CO6 4EQ, and starts at 3pm. Ticketing information will be updated here shortly (as well as on the Pimlott Foundation’s website).

Piano Project 2018: An afternoon of new music

Piano Project 2018 is the third Piano Project event run by Dylan Christopher and Colchester New Music. For each event, composers have been invited to submit scores for aspirant pianists – between the levels of grade 1 and grade 5, and no longer than 5 minutes in length – to be considered for the project.

This year Colchester New Music teamed up with EPTA Essex with the help of Sharon Goodey. After the submitted scores were analysed and discussed by a panel of three, they were distributed to EPTA Essex piano teachers, who let their students choose a piece (or pieces!) they would like to present at the concert.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon in June, students, families, teachers and composers descended upon Christchurch United Reform Church in Chelmsford. Sharon Goodey opened the event, inviting students to come up and sit near the performance space when they were ready to perform, creating a lovely relaxed atmosphere for the music to unfold in. Students were invited to say a few words about their pieces before they performed them – what they liked, or how they felt about the piece – which gave the audience a wonderful insight into the pieces, and it was fantastic from a composer’s point of view to hear how the performers had interpreted their work. Some students chose to perform more than one piece, and some of the composers’ works were performed multiple times (see below).

What was brilliantly unique about the event was not only was it a concert featuring purely new music, but that it was all performed by student pianists – of all ages. Not professionals, but students having that rare yet amazing opportunity to be among the first to perform a new piece of music.

During the all essential tea and biscuits an audience vote was taken as to the most popular piece. For Ellie by Dylan Christopher was the most popular with 41 votes, followed by New Boots by Theresa Chapman (34 votes) and In Autumn by Melanie Green (32 votes). Andrew Higgins from Alfred Publishing was also present at the event, with his favourite performances of the day being of Peter Thorne’s Little Boat and Dylan Christopher’s For Ellie.

Many thanks must go to Dylan Christopher, the brainchild of the Piano Project 2018 for all his work on Piano Project (2018 and in the past!), to Alex Blustin for all his organisational work on the CNM side, and to Sharon Goodey for all her organisation on the EPTA Essex side of things.

Pieces performed [number of times in square brackets]

New Boots by Theresa Chapman [3]
In Autumn by Melanie Green [3]
Sad Tale by Theresa Chapman [2]
Taking Turns by Mel McIntyre [2]
Largo by Mel Mcintyre [2]
Allegretto by Jenni Pinnock [2]
A Scots Saddhu by Tim Torry [2]
Ancestors Footsteps by Ian Wilson [2]
Sleepwalking by Anna Appleby [1]
Just Before Dawn by Paul Burnell [1]
Five Pulse Pieces by Paul Burnell [1]
Can my heart escape this sadness? by Theresa Chapman [1]
Rabbits by Theresa Chapman [1]
Elegy by Dylan Christopher [1]
For Ellie by Dylan Christopher [1]
Prelude by Dylan Christopher [1]
Simplicity by Dylan Christopher [1]
Waltz by Dylan Christopher [1]
Little Boat by Peter Thorne [1]

Piano Project 2018 – Details announced


Colchester New Music’s Piano Project 2018 concert in association with EPTA Essex will be at 3pm on Saturday 9th June at Christchurch United Reform Church, Chelmsford, CM2 0AW.

Teachers and students will be performing new music for aspirant pianists selected from Colchester New Music’s call for scores at the end of 2017. For details of the shortlisted works, please click here.

Three pieces by Mark Bellis selected for LFCCM 2018

Three works by CNM member Mark Bellis will be performed at the 2018 London Festival of Contemporary Church Music.

Hymn: Saints of God – Mark Bellis
Sunday 13 May, 10am: Choral Eucharist at St Pancras Parish Church, London NW1 2BA

Introit: In faith I quiet wait – Mark Bellis
Sunday 13 May, 6pm: Choral Evensong at Hampstead Parish Church, London NW3 6UU

Theme, Chorale and Prelude for organ – Mark Bellis
Sunday 13 May, 6pm: Choral Evensong at St Pancras Parish Church, London NW1 2BA

Theme, Chorale and Prelude for organ – Mark Bellis
Thursday 17 May, 1.15pm: organ recital by Douglas Tang at St Pancras Parish Church, London NW1 2BA


For the full festival brochure listing LFCCM events in London and beyond, see


Writing for everyone

This article is the second of two from Dylan Christopher, Colchester based pianist and composer who is running the Piano Project 2018 project in association with Colchester New Music.

Read Dylan’s first article – Playing the new stuff! – here.

When music is written for virtuoso performers, there are generally no limits.  Anything can be written and performed, so long as there is a message to be shared, an idiomatic practical application, and a legible score from which to read.  However, it is not until we are limited that we are truly tested as composers.

Limitations inspire adaptation, growth and discovery.  If a composer is limited to three note chords rather than six notes, they will make sure to use all three notes to get the best possible sound with what they have available.  If a composer is limited to a score with very little ‘clutter’ they will make every word, dynamic, articulation or general marking count to best illustrate meaning and intention.

These limitations foster efficiencies in engraving and orchestration, making the composer ask questions of themselves.  The key question here, always, is how can we write the same thing in the simplest of terms to achieve the same, if not similar result?  As composers, we are architects, planning each component of a composition for performers to interpret and then relay to our listening audience.

We must also consider that a large portion of musicians who will actively perform music on any given instrument are not professional, but amateur or hobbyist.  Unless existing in extremely fortunate circles, many composers will need to find performers to play their work; for the most part, it is likely to be music societies in one of the many churches or universities in the area.  If written for solo performance, many pieces are primarily performed in people’s homes, and not on the concert stage.

A composer looking for their music to be performed would be hard-pressed to find a seasoned virtuoso musician in this group, but what are found, are people who are genuinely interested in performing music as best they can, having a good time while doing it; that is providing the music and musicians are the focus of effort when writing it.

One of the many hurdles we encounter when writing for amateur performers (or for that matter, any performer) is simplicity.  Simplicity can mean many things, ranging from the level of detail we give via instruction all the way to how we convey pulse and metre throughout a piece of music.  The main consideration here is always: am I being clear enough?  If a performer has any questions about what they need to do with the music we provide, then we have not been clear enough.

Clear does not mean more instruction. Sometimes this can be illustrated by a well-placed slur, or an expression such as ‘Sempre legato’, ‘Forza’, or ‘Agitato’.  To put this into perspective, I have five editions of Beethoven’s Complete Piano Sonatas.  Despite this quintessential work being a transcendent staple in the canon of solo piano repertory, there are discrepancies between all versions.  The same piece of music is written five different ways, which vastly affects what the interpretation of that edition will mean.

Incidentally, I prefer the Henle Urtext, which has very little in terms of anything – articulation or cautionary dynamics – but is what Beethoven would have sent to his publisher after a once-over from a copyist.  It is worth considering that all of these editions have been thoroughly edited over the past two hundred years. The score seen today in the twenty-first century is the final result of refinement and reprinting; even then, there are still blemishes and some questions.

A problem that is faced when receiving contemporary music for performance is that it has often not been thoroughly edited to be considered and concise.  Many pieces suffer from what I consider ‘over-composition’, mainly due to music notation software being the performer during the composition process in place of a living, intelligent performer.  The result is often statements that do not need to be stated, inserted to facilitate an accurate ‘midi’ performance.

For a human performer, stating ‘Cantabile’, will mean to make the melody loud and smooth, while keeping the accompaniment quiet.  For music notation software, one would need to put separate dynamic markings for the melody and accompaniment, alongside excessive slurring.  If the programming of midi velocities is understood, this might not be the case.

If we can agree on the understanding that every piece of music written for performance by a living musician is read from the score in a first sitting, it changes how we write our ideas down.  From the performer’s perspective, rehearsal is not the first priority; that is secondary once we have understood what we need to do.  More often than not, a performer will give the score a once-over with the intent to understand what is expected of them; they then rehearse to make the ideas permanent and confident in performance.

From a composer’s perspective, thinking that a performer will simply practise it to ‘get it’ makes us lazy.  Even the best of performers, virtuosos, will be left confused by a score that has not been sufficiently refined to facilitate understanding.  A composer’s true mastery is being able to express musical ideas concisely, with consideration of their simplest form to facilitate understanding.  This understanding sets the trajectory for what is performed and later heard by our audience.