Julia studied composition under Richard Orton and Robert Sherlaw Johnson, in Cambridge and York; and later, qualified as a practising music therapist at the Nordoff – Robbins Centre in London.
She enjoys collaborating with with scientists and visual artists; several of her pieces have included electronic elements, and often incorporating natural and other environmental sounds in her music. She has written a number of Music Theatre pieces, notably The Orford Merman (1989) and Hope’s Perpetual Breath (1993, Purcell Room). In 2003, Metier Records released Sacred Physic: a CD of five of her major compositions.
She has been Composer in Residence on three occasions: first in 2002 to the Colchester Youth Chamber Orchestra; then in 2004 to the George Watts Museum in Compton, Surrey for the centenary celebrations, working with Timothy West and Prunella Scales. Most exciting of all was a year working with a number of departments at the University of Central Lancashire, including the Music and the Astronomy departments, on a series of events to mark the 2012 Transit of Venus. Her wind duet was played live throughout the Transit event itself, in the Church in Much Hoole where Jeremiah Horrocks first observed the Transit in 1639. The performance was uploaded to a NASA satellite in real time worldwide transmission throughout the night.
Since 1980 she has published her music, in partnership with Welsh composer Enid Luff; under the name Primavera Music UK. In addition, six of her solo chamber pieces have been on Examination Syllabuses, including A Reed in the Wind (oboe); three of these were commissioned for Faber’s Unbeaten Tracks series.
During the last 15 years, she has been involved in many community and arts projects in Colchester. She encourages adventurous approaches to making music, from composers, performers, and working through improvisation. She is also Musical Director of CoMA EAST Firewire, and has managed a number of community projects in East Anglia. As a long time supporter of CNM, Julia assists in developing performance projects, and new strategies for the group, in collaboration with the executive committee.
Key recent works include:
The Painted Lake: Reflections: 2011, solo Flute/alto flute, performed by Nancy Ruffer for Crossing Borders Project, Primavera Music UK: Cardiff and Colchester. Projected for London Wind Festival, October 2015.
Out There: 2011, Clarinet/bass clarinet, Projection and Multi track. Multimedia setting of a poem by Jamie McKendrick; performed by Sarah Watts, clarinet, and sound diffused by Stuart Russell. Jamie subsequently published his next book of poetry calling it Out There. CNM concert, Headgate Theatre.
The Transit of Venus: 2012, for Sop. Sax and Bb Clarinet. Year long composer residency with UCLAN, Lancashire to celebrate the 2012 Transit. The piece was performed in real time via a NASA satellite, uploaded from Much Hoole Church, Lancs.
Rumours of Cuts: 2013, Brass Quintet and multitrack electronics. Performed by Bespoke Brass, director Steve Drury; sound diffusion, Stuart Russell. With Multitrack. CNM concert in Headgate Theatre, Colchester.
BURNT LAYER: ALLCOMERS CHORUS, FOR BOUDICA PROJECT: 2014, instant “pop – up” SATB chorus: piano, gong and double bass, with projections. Words by JU. Performed by Equinox, as climax of Boudica’s Life sequence. Arts Action East. Headgate Theatre. Liaised with Colchester Archaeological Trust.
FABRICATIONS: 2014, Saxophone Quartet, commissioned by Saxshades, Yorkshire Saxophone Quartet.
The ART AND INDUSTRY OF PIPEWORK: 2015, for Organ and Electronics, commissioned by the Moot Hall Organ Heritage Lottery Project; performed twice at the opening Gala concerts for the reinstallment of the Moot Hall Organ, May 2015, in Colchester Town Hall.
Calculating Differences: 2017, a mathematical Duo for Viola and Recorders, Performed in Fitzwilliam College Cambridge Chapel, as part of the CNM Call for Mathematically influenced scores, by Paula Muldoon and Stephen Watkins.
For full list of works, go to Primavera website: http://www.impulse-music.co.uk/primavera.htm
Further details are available on:
See also CNM articles relating to Julia Usher.