Tag Archives: composition

Summer Singing Day 2016

Following the success of last year’s summer singing day, Peter Nickol and Anna Matthews are once again holding a gathering of singers in Exeter to work through some of their own choral compositions. The date is set for Saturday 3rd September. We are on the look out for keen singers in all voice parts – please get in touch if you are interested in joining us.

New: Carmichael setting for double choir

Waverley Turner Carmichael was an African-American poet born in Alabama in the late 19th century. His poem ‘Keep me, Jesus, keep me’ has an attractive
call-and-response structure which lends itself ideally to song and particularly to a setting for double choir. Indeed, a collection of Carmichael’s poems was published in 1918 under the title, “From the Heart of a Folk: A Book of Songs”.

 The repetitive use of language in this poem is almost meditative. This new setting reflects this in the serenity of the majority of the music: openly spaced harmonies, calmly lilting time signatures and frequent pauses to hear the voices resonate and fade. In this respect, the work is particularly suited to cathedral performance. The same music is used to set the two strophes, with recurrence of the line, “Keep me, Jesus, keep me,” forming an imploring refrain. Preview the score.Carmichael's "From the heart of a folk"

Gembird – new work for chamber ensemble

Introducing Gembird: 7! For 6, written in December 2012 in response to a call for scores by Kokoro and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for their South West Composers Day. A return to instrumental ensemble writing, this is a sextet which organically weaves colour and texture around a skeleton of musical patterns, which happen to be inspired by the number 5040 (which mathematicians will know as 7x6x5x4x3x2x1, or 7! for short). It is scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion (xylophone and tambourine, 1 player). Preview the score on the Portfolio page. Audio coming soon.

Gembird

By dosvidania on deviantart.com

Book review: Behind Bars by Elaine Gould

When preparing a score, I constantly come up with queries about conventions and layout. Where should ties and slurs start and end when there are lots of accidentals in the way? What’s the neatest way to notate pedal markings? Registration changes? …Extended technique? I use Sibelius and it does a lot to arrange the score for you but it doesn’t do everything and you will not have a professional looking score without good knowledge of the conventions of notation.

Whenever I got stuck in the past, I would spend a long time on Google, usually without luck. I have a music copyists’ guide book but it really only covers the basics. But I have finally found my bible.

“Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation” by Elaine Gould is exactly that. Published by Faber Music (2011) this book is my new best friend and has so far answered every question I’ve had. It has 6 pages on word division – possibly my most frequent query. Gould explains: “The general principle is to divide words so as to assist the singer in word recognition: both to understand what the text says, and to pronounce the correct sounds at the correct time. It is essential to divide the words according to an accepted convention” (p441). She then follows on with many examples and explanations. For example, when setting the word “flower”, do I write flow-er or flo-wer? The answer is the former, because “when consonants modify preceding vowels in exceptional ways, they should not be separated from them (laugh-ter, plough-ing). This group includes w and y when they represent the second part of a diphthong” (p443).

There is a wealth of information that 21st century composers should not be without: a chapter on electroacoustic music and another entitled “Freedom and Choice” which covers rhythmic independence, time-space notation, approximate pitch notation and choice in performance.

Not only is it an incredibly useful (essential) book for composers, I also find it beautiful as a book lover. Hard-back blue cover with 676 high-quality cream pages, logically laid out chapter by chapter, clearly engraved examples and with a foreword by Sir Simon Rattle. I would highly recommend this book!

Behind Bars by Elaine Gould

Find out more at www.behindbarsnotation.co.uk

Song for St. Therese

My latest piece has been wrapped up and sent to its commissioner, Devon County Junior Choir. Written for a July evensong in Exeter Cathedral which coincides with the 2012 Majesty Flower Festival, I was drawn to the idea of nature as a reflection of God’s love and a metaphor for His power. Bringing passages from across the Old Testament together with the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower of Jesus”, I explored this theme through folk-inspired modalities.

It is written for SSA with keyboard accompaniment, intended for junior choir but equally suitable for an all-female chorus. You can see a sample of the score in my Portfolio. Catch the first performance at evensong in Exeter Cathedral on Saturday 7th July 2012.