2018 has been a year with many highlights and I must express my huge thanks to the many people who have made it all happen over the course of the year. I’ve been able to realise a number of long-term ambitions during the past twelve months – and also had a lot of fun!
The first bit of good news came early in the year when I received news that I had been awarded a commission to write a large-scale piece for Oxford Harmonic Choir, for a performance in Oxford Town Hall in June 2019. That piece, ‘Of Trumpets and Angels’ – setting powerful words by John Donne - is now complete and ready to go in the post as I write. I can’t wait!
There were a number of superb first performances too, notably ‘Grotesques’ (a woodwind quartet) which was performed in April by members of the super-talented Atéa Wind Quintet, and the first complete performance of my ‘Trakl Songs’ given by the Fairfax Ensemble. ‘Jump Cut’ – a short clarinet solo – was premiered by Zoe Fagerhaug and also presented in an online broadcast by Emily Mehigh.
It has been great to work with the Delta Saxophone Quartet on the fabulous Bowie, Berlin and Beyond album which includes ‘Swan’. The reaction to the recording has been great and it’s taken my piece all around the world, with superb live performances in York, London and Manchester - and more to follow!
In July, thanks to a research grant from York St John University, I was able to bring together a performance of ‘Music of a Thousand Breaths’. This was a huge project inspired by the extensive medieval wall paintings which adorn the walls of the parish church in Pickering, North Yorkshire. I had seen the paintings a few years earlier and asked poet Abi Curtis to create a text: poetry to give voice to these silent yet vividly dramatic images. The grant meant that I was able to bring together a large group of performers to present the work in the church, amongst the paintings, and to include David Power’s atmospheric soundscape and the beautiful dancing of Lydia Hennessy an addition to the five stunning solo voices and resonant brass quartet. The production was everything I had wanted it to be; I can only hope that it wasn’t a one-off performance opportunity and that one day we’ll be able to do it all again!
I’m very pleased that we were able to mark the 50th anniversary of the massacre at Tlatelolco with a Late Music performance of my setting of the epic poem ‘Tlatelolco: a song for three voices’ by Marcela del Rio, with all three characters delivered superbly by soprano Anna Snow, but the failure to secure funding for the planned London performance was one of the few real disappointments of the year. Also at Late Music we marked the 100th anniversary of Debussy’s death with a series of new piano pieces inspired by a composer who still exerts a strong influence today; my contribution to the project was ‘Snow/Dance’ and pianist James Willshire gave a sparkling performance.
And continuing with the wintery theme, it has been wonderful to be reunited with the fabulous Juice Vocal Ensemble in December to be a part of their Snow Queens project, with several performances of my little piece ‘Confound Winter’ around the country and a wonderful new CD recording which has again attracted great critical acclaim.
So my sincere thanks again to everyone who has been a part of a wonderful year. 2019 has a big act to follow!