I am looking forward to the premiere of my new piece ‘Nothing and Everything’ as part of the ‘Shame Chrous’ this month. It will be great to hear the other composers’ pieces too. The brief was very unique. We were asked to read anonymous interview transcripts and write a piece based around the material brought up in the interviews. I have never written a piece in this way before, and I think that it will make for a very diverse and moving concert.
I have just finished working on a very worthwhile and interesting project. In partnership with GDance and Ballet Cymru, the fantastic choreographer Jürg Koch was asked to produce a DVD for dance teachers to use as a reference tool for teaching dance to people with movement restrictions. Usually music exists before it is used for choreography, however in this case I was asked to compose as the dancers learned and rehearsed their exercises. This meant that the process was immediate and energising. The dancers (Krystal Lowe, Robbie Moorcroft, Vicky Malin, Suzie Birchwood) were amazing and made me feel very unfit sitting down for most of the day! The DVD is in production now and I will put up more information about it when it is released.
So it’s fair to say that I was a little more than excited for the premiere of ‘Cinderella’ with Ballet Cymru on the 8th this month. I had been working hard to complete the score and finish the production on time. I had not really had chance to watch much of the dancing until the week before the production. I was absolutely stunned watching the final performances. Everything worked together brilliantly, and the critics agreed. Jemma Beggs in the Wales Art Review called the score ‘wonderful’. Mike Smith, writing in the Western Mail, gave the show a 5-star review and comments: ‘The dance is swept along by an instantly accessible atmospheric score, so catchy that it seems familiar as if it has been accompanying this ballet for decades rather than a fresh piece of writing’. I feel particularly proud of this comment, since it validates the hard work I put into creating a score that had to be traditional and innovative in the same respect. Similar praise is awarded to the choreographers and collaborative partners in this review: ‘This Cinders is the complete package. The dancing is full of character and style while Darius James and Amy Doughty’s choreography is packed with pulsating invention melded with traditional elegance and refinement’. And above all the dancers should feel amazingly proud of what they have achieved. Cinderella continues to tour next month. Check out http://welshballet.co.uk/whats-on/tour-dates for a complete list.
I have been very impressed this evening watching a run-through of ‘Cinderella’ with Ballet Cymru – wow guys, you were amazing! Darius James and Amy Doughty have done an excellent job of telling this magical and timeless story. I also watched as James Doyle-Roberts of Citrus Arts worked with the dancers on perfecting certain circus skills in the piece. The aerial work is looking especially impressive and fitting well with the overall narrative. Tickets for the opening performances are nearly sold out so be quick if you want to be at the Riverfront next week for the premiere!
It was great fun to see some of the advertising that is being conducted around Ballet Cymru’s new production of Cinderella. The first performances in the Riverfront Theatre will be on the 8th and 9th of May this year. I notice that there is already 12 more venues around the country booked after this initial production! I have been composing the music from the end of last year and think that it will be quite an experience watching it set to ballet. If you are thinking of joining us for the performances my advice is to act quickly: Saturday night’s performance has nearly sold out already. If you go to http://welshballet.co.uk/productions/cinderella/ there is a complete list of performances with links to the tickets.
It has been a pleasure to work with the Welsh writer Rachel Trezise for the last project I undertook (www.racheltrezise.co.uk). I met Rachel when we both had pieces of work produced for the centenary of the Park and Dare theatre in Treorchy two years ago. The aim of the last project was to write a small collection of pieces using literature from Wales and Norway. Since I was setting a Norwegian folktale I thought it would be a nice counterpoint to work with a contemporary Welsh writer: and it was. Rachel took inspiration from a Norwegian folktale ‘The Cat on the Dovrefjell’, which in its simplest form is about trolls being scared away from a family home by a polar bear. What is beautiful and clever about the story that Rachel produced is the interweaving of this idea with a touching and intriguing snapshot of a scene in the life of a Welsh family. I recorded Rachel reading the text and then started working on a piece of music that would paint the scenes within it. The piece that was written was for solo vibraphone and electronics, performed at last week’s concert in the Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay. If you click on the picture above, you will be taken directly to a recording of the piece on Soundcloud.
The start of March saw two concerts in Manchester and Cardiff with Norwegian Percussionists ‘The Pinquins’ (www.pinquins.no). This was exciting because it was the first time the group had performed in the UK, and also because I had three pieces premiered at the concerts. ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ is a folktale known throughout Scandinavia. I wrote a brief outline of my aims for the piece:
“Setting this Norwegian folktale I wanted to use the structure and imagery of the tale to give a sense of the main character’s journey. It was my intention to highlight the sexism common to many folktales of the past, and use it for dramatic effect within the work. I recorded the tale in English, Welsh and Norwegian and then worked out where these sounds would work best within the piece. I also used sounds gathered on my last trip to Iceland. At its simplest level it is a story about finding love. At its most complex it is about the importance of questioning your relationship to the world and asking difficult questions. To this effect I wanted to guide the audience through the work with textual cues, leaving space in the music and electronics to create the images in their own imagination.”
There are a few pictures from the concerts below, and if you click anywhere on them you should be taken to a recording of this piece on soundcloud. Or alternatively, follow the link on the ‘Music’ tab above.
The Pinquins, (left to right) Ane Marthe Sørlien Holen, Sigrun Rogstad Gomnæs and Johanne Byhring are pictured in the first image below. Two students pictured further down, Diogo Gomes and Hikaru Nakanishi from the RWCMD also premiered my piece ‘Cloc ar y dŵr’ (a setting of Menna Elfyn’s poetry), at the Cardiff concert.
I recently returned from Spectra Light Festival in Aberdeen. I had scored the soundtrack for Andrew Brooks’ Immersion film of Icelandic landscapes. The festival was very well attended and I felt proud (if not a little bit guilty because of the cold!) that people were queuing to watch the work in its entirety. I was pleased to meet some of the other artists at the festival in particular Ulf Mark Pedersen and Kathy Hinde (www.kathyhinde.co.uk), whose work you should definitely check out for its inventiveness and magic.
I have recently finishing working on the soundtrack to Andrew Brooks’ ‘Immersion’ film for Spectra Festival in Aberdeen – http://spectraaberdeen.com – I will be attending the festival (19th-22nd February) and look forward to seeing all the other exhibits there over the weekend.