Tickets on sale for two harpsichords concert

CNM 2-Hps poster 280418Tickets are now on sale here for CNM’s upcoming concert of new works for two harpsichords, performed by the Knights-Tidhar duo (pictured). The concert is at 3pm on Saturday 28 April 2018, at the Old House Barn, Old House Road, Great Horkesley, Colchester CO6 4EQ, UK; ticket price £8/£6 concessions. More information on the concert can be found here.

Francis Knights and Dan Tidhar

Advertisements

Announcing the Piano Project 2018 shortlisted works

We can now announce the shortlist of pieces for CNM’s Piano Project 2018, presented in collaboration with EPTA. These pieces, written by contemporary composers for learner pianists of ABRSM grade 1-5 standard, form the list from which students and teachers will select works for the final concert in Chelmsford in summer 2018. The shortlisted works are:

SleepwalkingAnna Appleby

RobotAran Browning

Five Pulse PiecesPaul Burnell
Just Before DawnPaul Burnell
Trying to RememberPaul Burnell
Soften Swords Paul Burnell

Rabbits Teresa Chapman
New BootsTeresa Chapman
The Lonely ChickenTeresa Chapman
Can my Heart Escape this Sadness?Teresa Chapman

For EllieDylan Christopher
SimplicityDylan Christopher
ElegyDylan Christopher
WaltzDylan Christopher

Minor sadnessMartin Devek

Prelude in C MinorLaurence Glazier

In AutumnMelanie Green
MusingsMelanie Green

SeeSaw 45Mel McIntyre
Taking TurnsMel McIntyre
The Jolly SailorMel McIntyre
LargoMel McIntyre

Reminisce Jenni Pinnock
AllegrettoJenni Pinnock

RodeoRoger Sciachettano

Little BoatPeter Thorne

Tonal tunes and modal melodies 2: Variations on a wistful tuneTim Torry
Tonal tunes and modal melodies 5: A Scots SaddhuTim Torry
Tonal tunes and modal melodies 6: Variations on a Sea Song, The Drunken SailorTim Torry

Ancestors’ FootstepsIan Wilson
 

Composer biographies

Anna Appleby is an award-winning, Manchester-based composer and the 2016/17 Rambert Music Fellow. She has written for artists including the Royal Northern Sinfonia, the Cavaleri Quartet, the Hermes Experiment, the BBC Singers, Manchester Camerata, Jonathan Powell, Het Balletorkest and A4 Brass. Collaboration is at the heart of her creative practice.

A composer from the Lake District, Aran Browning (b. 1994) recently graduated with First Class Honours from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland under Rory Boyle and Gordon McPherson. Since coming to Glasgow his collaborators have included Live Music Now, Red Note Ensemble, Inclusive Creativity, BBC SSO, Drake Music Scotland, Ensemble Modern, Leeds Lieder and Strathendrick Singers through Adopt a Composer.

Paul Burnell (b. 1960) is a composer and musician based in London. His compositions can be heard on his albums, including ‘Leaving the Party on Pluto’, ‘Cabbage Heads’, and ‘Acute Suites’. An album with pianist James Bacon was released in 2016 and ‘Accompanied Readings Vol.2’ is due for release in 2018.

Theresa Chapman is a Colchester-based Piano Teacher, and also works as a Music Tutor for Essex Music Services. She holds both a B.Mus degree from the University of Cape Town and an Honours degree in Music from Stellenbosch University.

Dylan Christopher (b. 1987) completed his music studies with honours at Colchester Institute, where he studied piano with Australian pianist Lesley Young, and composition with Dr Mark Bellis. A promoter and advocate of contemporary classical music, Dylan joined the membership of Colchester New Music in 2014.

Martin Devek (b. 1979) is a multidisciplinary artist, creator of original music, film and fine arts. Born in Buenos Aires (Argentina), he is currently working in Northern Ireland and England. His compositions for dance & theatre pieces include ‘Knowing the dance’ performed at Brian Friel Theatre (Belfast), Dance Ireland (Dublin) and Down Arts Centre (Downpatrick); ‘IReflexes’ performed at R-Space Gallery, (Lisburn), The International Meta-Body Symposium (Brunel University, London) and Black Box (Belfast); ‘A Spoonful of Jelly’, performed at the Belfast children Festival 2014, the Banbridge Box and the Down Arts Centre; ‘Bubbleloon’, performed at the Belfast Children Festival (2013) and the Crescent Arts Centre (Belfast). Martin holds a BA in Music, from CONSUDEC (Argentina), a Masters Certificate in Composing music for Film and TV from Berklee College of Music (USA), and an MA in Computer Music from Maynooth University (Ireland).

Laurence Glazier studied mathematics at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. After lessons in composition from Chris Sansom, he studied Harmony and Counterpoint at the City Lit in London, where one lecturer was Colchester composer Alan Parsons with whom he later undertook many years of study.

Melanie Green (b. 1977) works as both a music tutor and a maths tutor in Cambridgeshire. She studied in London: Music at Royal Holloway; Ethnomusicology at the School of Oriental and African Studies; and Community Music at Goldsmiths College. She plays cello and Balinese gamelan.

Mel McIntyre (b. 1957) is a writer, musician and composer living near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Originally from Canada, Mel has been living in the UK since 1983. He began his career as a music teacher and has written lots of music aimed at helping people learn to play.

Jenni Pinnock is a composer, teacher and arranger based in Cambridgeshire, UK. She studied at Kingston University (BMus) and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (MMus), and has had her music performed by a variety of ensembles across the UK and worldwide. For more information about Jenni and her music, please see her website jennipinnock.com.

Roger Sciachettano (b. 1947, Heliopolis, Cairo, Egypt) is a retired primary teacher and an amateur composer who started taking lessons with Peter Thorne in January 2016. He very much enjoys composing and arranging.

Peter Thorne (b. 1955) has been composing music since the age of about 12. He read music at Oxford and the UEA, where he took a master’s degree. Over the years he has written in many different styles and genres but most recently he has been writing for wind instruments and piano. Peter’s music often features influences from various kinds of jazz and pop and is often colourful and rhythmic. He has written two piano sonatas and other pieces for the concert pianist Peter Seivewright who is in the process of recording them for a CD. Peter’s music for wind ensemble is published by http://www.soundthetrumpets.com and music for wind and piano by http://www.warwickmusic.com.

Born near Chelmsford, Tim Torry was educated at Colchester Royal Grammar School (where he later became Head of Music), York University and the RAM. During the 1970 and 80s he was well-known locally as a baritone/bass soloist, and also as a composer-member of CNM. Severe ME symptoms cut short his career in 1992, but treatment for mercury amalgam poisoning led to his full recovery and, eventually, a return to solo singing in 2007. Encouragingly, a work of his was accepted onto the SPNM Shortlist in 2003 and his song cycle The Face of Grief received four festival performances in July 2015 from Roderick Williams (baritone) and Susie Allan (piano); the ‘Three Choirs’ one was broadcast on Radio 3, a broadcast that was repeated in 2016.

Ian B. Wilson (b. 1967) is a music graduate of Durham University, where he received composition lessons from Robert Casken. ‘Come and Rejoice in Jesus’, an album containing songs written for his church, is available online. The Dunblane Chamber Orchestra performed his ‘Three Songs from A Shropshire Lad’ in May 2012 and his compositions have been performed by, among others, the St. Bonaventure’s School Choir and the Colchester New Music Group. Ian is a secondary headteacher in London.

Results announced for CNM two harpsichords call

CNM 2-Hps poster 280418We are delighted to announce the results of CNM’s call for scores for two harpsichords, which attracted 27 entries in a fabulous range of styles from composers around the world. Having worked through all of these, Francis Knights and Dan Tidhar have chosen to perform the works listed below at an April afternoon concert in the beautiful setting of the Pimlott Foundation‘s Old Barn in Great Horkesley.

These pieces have been selected as they are well-suited to the specific sound and playing technique of the harpsichord (rather than the modern piano), are technically feasible on the available instruments, and are of suitable duration and level of complexity to be well realisable within the available rehearsal time:

A prelude and two fugues – Mark Bellis

A thousand pines, one moon (movement 1) – Ivan Božicevic

Conversations – Theresa Chapman

daybook – D. Edward Davis

Elements – Janet Oates

Spring Rounds: Agon – Randall Snyder

Looking back – José Jesus de Azevedo Souza

Dap dap da da dap – Peter Thorne

Passacaglia – Low water – Stephen Watkins

Tarantella – Ian Wilson

Counterfeit – Rasmus Zwicki

CONCERT DETAILS

3pm, Saturday 28 April 2018 at the Old House Barn, Old House Road, Great Horkesley, Colchester CO6 4EQ, UK; tickets £8/£6 concessions, available from Eventbrite.

COMPOSER BIOGRAPHIES

Mark Bellis studied at Cardiff, Durham and Cambridge Universities with Dr David Wynne, David Lumsdaine & John Casken. In 1985 he was awarded a PhD in Composition from Durham University. He has had performances at the Purcell Room, London, and on Radio 3. He composed a large-scale orchestral work for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and more recently, much choral music. Since 2005, Mark has been Course Leader for the BA Music programme at Colchester Institute, Essex.

Ivan Božicevic (* 1961) is a composer, organist, pianist, arranger and jazz musician in Split, Croatia. His output encompasses orchestral, chamber, choral and soloistic works, as well as electronic compositions. He is interested in a variety of genres (early and baroque, electronic, jazz, world music) and the possibility of “cross-fertilizations“ between those genres, always aiming for the stylistic amalgamation on a deeper level. http://www.ivanbozicevic.com

Theresa Chapman is a Colchester-based Piano Teacher, and also works as a Music Tutor for Essex Music Services. She holds both a B.Mus degree from the University of Cape Town and an Honours degree in Music from Stellenbosch University.

D. Edward Davis writes music that engages with the sounds of the environment, exploring processes, patterns, and systems inspired by nature. He is currently based in Connecticut, USA, where he is a Practitioner-in-Residence at the University of New Haven. sound.warmsilence.org

Janet Oates has a PhD in composition from Royal Holloway, University of London, and is active in various composers’ and contemporary music groups around London. She also sings (early and contemporary music), teaches and conducts.

Randall Snyder was born in Chicago in 1944 and attended University of Wisconsin earning a DMA degree in 1973. He has taught at colleges in Illinois, Wisconsin and for several years at the University of Nebraska. He currently is a free lance musician living in Lincoln, NE. and adjunct professor at Peru State College.

José Jesus de Azevedo Souza studied in England at the Purcell School with a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. He then studied at the Trinity College of Music and the University of Sheffield. His music has since been extensively performed in Europe, Asia and the United States as well as recorded on Sarton Records and Dux.

Peter Thorne has been composing music since the age of about 12. He read music at Oxford and the UEA, where he took a master’s degree. Over the years he has written in many different styles and genres but most recently he has been writing for wind instruments and piano. Peter’s music often features influences from various kinds of jazz and pop and is often colourful and rhythmic.
http://www.peterthornemusic.co.uk/composing

Stephen Watkins studied trombone, piano and recorder as well as composing at the Guildhall School of Music. Currently he is involved in writing large scale pieces for recorder orchestra. His own composition style very much reflects the wide range of music styles. He is published by houses in Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, USA and at last UK!

Ian Wilson is a music graduate of Durham University, where he received composition lessons from Robert Casken, and is currently a secondary head teacher. An album, called ‘Come and Rejoice in Jesus’, containing songs written for his church, is available on iTunes. The Dunblane Chamber Orchestra performed his ‘Three Songs from A Shropshire Lad’ in May 2012. ‘The Sleep’, a setting of an Elizabeth Barrett-Browning poem, was performed by members of CNM in June.

Rasmus Zwicki is Danish born composer currently residing in London, where he studies with Laurence Crane at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His music is stylistically multilingual, often mixing the specific elements of various musical genres and traditions that best communicate the core ideas of a particular work. http://rasmuszwicki.com

Composing for two harpsichords: some tips from the workshop

Several useful points for composers to consider came out of our recent workshop of new music for two harpsichords:

  1. Who wants it?

There is no significant professional market for new music for historical instruments. No-one (currently) makes a living from principally performing new pieces full time.

In the professional context, a new work usually appears as an added extra – perhaps as a commission inserted into an otherwise baroque programme. This immediately reduces the ongoing scope for any new work requiring a special set-up, tuning or equipment beyond that available for a baroque recital.

Very little new music for two harpsichords has made it into the repertoire, and even the solo contemporary repertoire (more than ten thousand pieces) contains few that are well known by players (the three virtuoso works by Ligeti are a good example, on grounds of their outstanding quality).

  1. First impressions count

Avoid putting the performer off by a work’s presentation before they’ve had a chance to form an opinion on the music itself.

  • Scores should normally be in portrait orientation. Landscape scores cause problems in filing and binding, especially if performers are playing from print-outs in a ring-binder (which they often are).
  • Use 6mm minimum staff size, and be aware of page turning issues.
  • Enharmonics: accidentals must be expressed in the most straightforwardly understandable way possible. Unnecessary barriers to understanding may put performers off. Don’t only rely upon the Sibelius plug-in to make the most appropriate enharmonic choices.
  • A score must give the right instructions for a human performer to achieve the desired result – avoid littering it with markings which appear solely to facilitate Sibelius playback.
  • Clarity is critical. If a performer has to spend too much time deciphering unnecessary obscurity on a first reading, they may not bother with a second one. See also Dylan Christopher’s useful article on this topic.
  1. Consider the performer

Bear in mind the comfort zone of harpsichordists. The harpsichord is not the piano, and someone who has chosen to play it has by definition not set out to reproduce pianistic effects and techniques. One particular bugbear is left-hand octaves – common on the modern piano, but less comfortable (although sometimes quite effective) for a harpsichordist.

It’s worth remembering that the usual baroque repertoire of harpsichordists tends to a limited range of key signatures. Anything beyond three-four sharps/flats will be rather less familiar for a harpsichordist than, for example, a pianist or organist.

  1. Consider the instrument

Perhaps fewer than a quarter of existing harpsichords are double manual, and those instruments tend to live in institutions, concert venues, or are owned by baroque professionals. Composing a piece specifically for two-manual instruments therefore cuts out most of the amateur market.

For compositional purposes it is best to assume a single manual, GG-d3 compass (see wikipedia article for info on ranges) with two 8′ stops and buff. These are widely available, and access to a full-size professional five-octave double manual harpsichord should be regarded as a bonus not a norm.

Real instruments vary so much that it is usually best not to specify particular stops. Give instead a dynamic marking, or a mood or tone colour which the performer can then implement appropriately with what is available, given the voicing, tone, acoustics etc.

  1. Consider the context

Why two instruments – what is added that can’t be done with one? Is it a dialogue between two voices, a soloist-accompanist scenario, or perhaps a competition between the two players? Does it allow for a particular expanded formal structure or certain types of repetition-dialogue?

Also, what is the piece for? Is it a virtuoso set-piece to sit within a public Bach recital, or a ‘social’ piece for harpsichord-owning friends to play in private? Is is an encore utilising the somewhat-neglected humorous aspect of the harpsichord, or an experimental ‘paper piece’ designed for coursework submission?

These all feed into rehearsal time constraints. If, for example, a complex piece will take as long to learn as several simpler works, it’s unlikely to be feasible for a recital involving a lot of new material. It would be far more likely to appear as a single new item in a programme of known repertoire.

 

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.