Tag Archives: score

Time to start planning for Christmas!

Thinking about what to sing in your Christmas concerts and services this year? In the centenary year of the start of the First World War, sheet music of the new Christmas carol From Flanders is now available to buy online from Recital Music or Spartan Press.

From Flanders scoresFrederick Niven’s poem tells the story of Christmas in 1914. On Christmas Day, a truce was spontaneously enacted by the two sides fighting in Flanders in World War One. This was five months into the war, which until this point many in Britain had confidently believed would be over by that time. When the two sides lay down their weapons in the name of humanity and met in the middle of no-man’s-land, they would not have realised the bloodshed that was to come as the war dragged on for a further four years – a conflict so atrocious that it came to be known as ‘the war to end all wars’.

This carol conveys the unknowing innocence of those men and the joy of Christmas, yet explores the sinister context in which they met and the future which was to come. Ultimately, the events of the 1914 Christmas truce came to symbolise the universality of hope and peace at Christmas. This carol brings this message into the twenty-first century.

Performances have already been confirmed by Exeter Philharmonic Choir and the choir of St. Paul’s Church, Wokingham.

A Carol from Flanders published – available soon

Great news: A Carol From Flanders is to be published by Recital Music and will soon be available for purchase. The work, for SATB choir and organ, has been written especially for the centenary of the First World War ‘Christmas Truce’ which famously took place on Christmas Day 1914. If you are starting to think about planning the winter concert programmes for your choir or choral society, this carol would be the perfect way to mark one hundred years since the outbreak of WW1. Do get in touch for more information, as we can provide audio and score samples before you buy, or visit Recital Music.

Christmas Day Football

News round-up

Devon County Junior Choir

© Maggie Tamblin/DCJC

Amazing how a bit of sunshine focuses the mind! It’s been a while since I updated the website properly and, unsurprisingly, there’s been quite a bit happening since last summer. 

I have spent a lot of time “absorbing”. Most inspiration came, I think, from the CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) summer school in Bangor, North Wales, which I wrote about on 31 July 2012. Soon after that week, where I spent valuable time hearing new music and refreshing my canon of compositional techniques, I spent a week at Dartington International Summer School. This was a rare week dedicated to playing (composing being inhibited by IT problems – more below). Always a joyous experience, I met some lovely people as I played flute and piccolo in various chamber groups including a salsa band. I’ve put a few photographs into the gallery. These were two weeks to blow the office-job cobwebs away!

During the summer I wrote a new piece for harpsichord, Monsters Under the Bed. I am very grateful to Rolf Basten for sharing his knowledge of the instrument while we were at Dartington. However, the piece was somewhat thwarted by the fact that my computer hard drive went into meltdown and so ended up remaining a prelude. Download your own copy from the Portfolio page.

In the autumn, my choir was rehearsing Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and I was inspired to write an arrangement for handbells. I’d love to hear from any handbell groups who’d be interested to try it out!

Lastly, I wanted to mention the performance of Song for St Thérèse that Devon County Junior Choir so ably gave, way back in July. It was a special concert for them, having been invited to sing the Evensong service at Exeter Cathedral for the first time, and Song for St. Thérèse was commissioned to mark the occasion. The children did an excellent job. The photos above and below show the choir during and after the service with their musical director Rachel Smith. Find out more about the piece and preview the score on the Portfolio page.

DCJC with Anna at Exeter Cathedral

DCJC with Anna (far right). © Maggie Tamblin/DCJC

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.