Website update – Sunday 14 June 2020

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2014 part one…

Okay, well, it seems as though I am not very good at updating this very often, so when I say “2014 part one” the suggestion that there may be a part two, or even three or four may turn out, in the end, to have been misleading!

However, the start to 2014 has been an exciting one, with the world premiere of The Pohutukawa Stands in its wind orchestra scoring by Memorial University of Newfoundland Wind Ensemble, conducted by Jason Caslor, as part of the Newfound Music Festival. Their performance, originally scheduled for the 29th January, was put back a couple of days due to the weather conditions, so was premiered on the 31st. Which is a nice segue in to…

this is my houseThe 31st January saw Aaron Tindall release his new CD “This is My House”. Aaron is a brilliant tubist, and a very good friend, so when he asked if I could re-work These Mist Covered Mountains for tuba and piano, I had no hesitation, and he has released it on his new album.

The University of Saskatchewan High School Select Band performed Apex last week, conducted by Darrin Oehlerking with U of S Professor of Trumpet, Dean Mcneill. Was great to see all the local high school kids come together for such a great weekend of music making – and Dean, Darrin and the band gave a great performance of Apex – many thanks guys!

Steve Mead commissioned Requiem Paraphrases nearly 10 years ago, so was delighted to hear that he had programmed it once more, this time in Russia with Brandt Brass in the city of Saratov.

This coming weekend (7-9 Feb) sees the first Origins Festival here in Saskatoon at the University of Saskatchewan. Featuring new music for wind orchestra, jazz orchestra and brass band, the weekend features guest soloists David Thornton and Jens Lindemann, alongside the weekend’s guest conductor, Gillian Mackey.

The UofS Wind Orchestra are performing my concerto for euphonium, Origins, on Friday 7th, with Dave Thornton as guest soloist. Dave and I have known each other for 15 years and worked on more projects together than either of us are likely to be able to remember (!), so it is great that he has been able to head up to Canada and for the audiences here to hear such an amazing musician. And speaking of amazing musicians…

The festival will be joined by Jens Lindemann (who I am currently writing a new concerto for – to be premiered in April by Reed Thomas and the MTSU Wind Ensemble) on Sunday 9th who will, amongst masterclasses and other activities, be performing with the combined forces of Saskatoon’s two brass bands – Saskatoon Brass Band and Bridge City Brass Band. Conducted by Will Martin, the band will perform Epitaph (for Hillsborough) as well as a new version of Starlight, arranged for Dave and Jens.

And finally, to complete the set of performances in really cold, snowy, places, Tomra Brass Band, conducted by Nick Ost, will give the first Norwegian performance of The Legend of King Arthur this weekend and the NM contest. You can watch this live on the internet at 730am (GMT).

Okay, that’s enough from me for now….I do intend to write more on here, but experience tells me that I shouldn’t make a promise out of that!

Sword Pulling (Legend of King Arthur)

One of the questions I am asked the most is about the sword pulling noise in The Legend of King Arthur.

When I wrote this, instead of putting specific directions as to how to create the sound, I thought it better to allow the percussionists to be creative and come up with their own method, that suited them and their imaginations.

However, I thought I’d share with you a note I received from Michael Bach, who commissioned and premeiered the piece, as to how he created the sound.

  • 1x Glissando on Tubular Bells with rear end of Hammers (using both arms starting with crossed arms) => sounds “shreeeeeng”
  • 1x Roll on a double Cymb (2 cymbals, probably crash, of the same size directly put on top of each other, played with Hard sticks) => Sounds “shhhhhh”
  • 1x glissando on tubes ( !) of Vibraphone, using wooden sticks, both hands , sounds “krrrrrrrong”
  • 1x glissando on tubes of Marimba

A lucky life

A couple of weeks ago, February 14th (I know – am such a romantic!) the Band of the Coldstream Guards, conducted by their Director of Music Darren Wolfendale, gave the world première of a work they commissioned to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Coldstream Guards Association. It was the first work I had written for them as their Composer in Residence.

The band gave a very moving première of “Hougoumont”, and after the concert, and throughout my train journey back from London to Manchester was feeling very privileged to be involved with such a band.

manchester_cathedral_dvd_largeWaiting for me on my return home was a newly released DVD of the Foden’s Band in concert at Manchester Cathedral, recorded last November. It featured a couple of my pieces, Epitaph (for Hillsborough) and Starlight (with Jens Lindemann as guest soloist) were the original works, and I had also arranged Faure’s Requiem for the concert, which also has been included on the DVD.

So as if I wasn’t already feeling like the luckiest composer alive after the performance by The Coldstream Guards band, I now had the finest brass band in the world (Foden’s) and one of the finest musicians you could ever wish to hear (Jens) on my TV screen playing my music!

A week later, Mark Wilkinson (the brilliant Principal Cornet of Foden’s), recorded my new cornet concerto, commissioned by Mark, for his soon to be released solo CD. The piece is called Milestone – in recognition of his 21st anniversary as Principal Cornet of the band.

The recording session was immense – Mark played brilliantly, the band did too, and am looking forward to hearing the first edits.

I’m not too sure if I would ever daydream about what my perfect week as a composer would be, but am sure that if I did, it wouldn’t be too far from those 7 days in February.

Really, being a composer is a very privileged, fortunate life.

The I.S.S. in Saskatoon…

…well sort of! Last week, the University of Saskatchewan Wind Orchestra, conducted by Darrin Oehlerking, gave the world premiere of a new work, titled I.S.S. Flyover. The piece came about following my visit as a clinician to the University last year (and also a few drinks with Darrin at the Midwest Clinic last December! Mineral water, of course!), and commissioned by a consortium of Canadian bands and conductors, headed up by the UofS and Darrin.

I had a great week at UofS, working with conducting students, composers, giving a lecture on creativity (which in itself ended up being a bit creative – lost my way in the notes half way through, and then students started asking questions….shouldn’t they have been on a playstation or something?!) as well as working with the band on rehearsals and recordings. They also premiered a little piece of mine for wind orchestra called Autumn Falling – two world premieres in one concert makes me a very lucky composer!

I don’t know what you can ask for from a group when they give the first performance of the piece, the glass half empty side of me asks that they don’t mess it up (a good piece played badly on its first performance becomes known as a bad piece pretty quickly!), but the more positive side of me would ask for commitment, energy, dedication (and to not mess it up!) – and that is exactly what I got with Darrin and UofS. Such a brilliant time – any composer would be fortunate to have a performance such as this.

About the piece….

I.S.S Flyover was written in August 2012, when the International Space Station (I.S.S.) was visible in the sky over my home town of Manchester, UK. This is not an uncommon occurrence ( is a useful tool to help you find when the orbit of the I.S.S. passes over), but what was unique about this particular pass was that there would be astronauts carrying out repair work on the outside of the station.

The idea that something that seemed to pass so quick in the skies above us juxtaposed with what must have seemed a slow, dangerous journey for the astronaut is what lead me to write this piece.

The opening passage is a fast, ostinato driven section; the speed and energy that the I.S.S is perceived from earth. The middle section is desolate and sparse; the astronauts looking down on earth as they slowly orbit around the globe, the loneliness of space. The final section is a return to the original material – this time with even more momentum and drive, provided by the percussion.

I.S.S. Flyover was commissioned by a Canadian consortium of: the University of Saskatchewan, Brandon University, the University of Calgary, Harmonie Laval, Memorial University of Newfoundland, the University of Prince Edward Island, the University of Toronto and Anthony Reimer, Calgary, Alberta. The work is dedicated to Darrin Oehlerking who organised the commission consortium.

Recent Residencies

Over the last few months I have been on a few different trips to mainland Europe to attend performances and give lectures as well as produce a CD! Here are a few more details…

Koninklijke Harmonie Ste-Cecilia Zele are a brilliant band from Zele in north Belgium. Their conductor, Bart Picqueur (himself a fine composer), invited both myself and Teo Aparicio-Barberán to attend their concert which would feature music by all three of us. We also gave a lecture/presentation of our music to local conducting students and assisted with rehearsals, as well as enjoying some fine food, fine beer (Duvel is my Belgian tipple of choice!) and great company.

Zele have performed several of my works before, although I have never actually been to one of their concerts; they gave a brilliant performance of The Legend of King Arthur – producing such amazing power and drama – and it left me wondering why I hadn’t been before!

A few weeks later and I headed to Lucerne and the fabulous KKL concert hall to hear another performance of The Legend of King Arthur, given by Brassband Bürgermusik Luzern, conducted by my great friend Michael Bach. This was a special performance for me – BML and Michael commissioned the work, and whilst I had heard them perform it in their national competition and at the RNCM, Festival of Brass, this was an opportunity to hear it in my favourite concert hall given by the commissioners – this is not something that will happen very often in a composer’s life!

The stunning KKL Concert Hall

Again I was fortunate enough to receive a brilliant performance, but this was a performance with a difference. Firstly there were plenty of lighting and smoke effects (I like that kind of stuff), but between us we adapted the piece to include a narrator. Now, I don’t speak a word of German, but from the audience’s reaction, it seemed to go down well!

The day before I also gave a lecture to Jean-Claude Kolly’s class at Conservatoire de Fribourg on my music. It’s always nice to have that kind of opportunity. I was tempted to try and give the lecture in French, but figured that they would speak much better English than I could speak French!

I headed back to Belgium a week later to produce for a couple of days on a CD recording by Harmen Vanhoorne. We have been friends for many years and, in my opinion, he is one of the finest cornet players in existence – and he ably backed up my point with his stunningly good playing in the recording sessions. He recorded my Manchester Concerto (he was one of the three people who it was written for) and Apex, and I think it is fair to say he didn’t make one mistake in any of the takes! It was great to work with Brass Band Buizingen and Luc Vertommen again (they commissioned B of the Bang from me in 2005), and am really looking forward to hearing the final product – am sure it will be one of the solo CD’s of the year.

(L to R) Luc Vertommen, Nigel Clark, me, Harmen and Stan Nieuwenhuis
Myself, Nigel and Stan all have pieces featured on the CD

Recording of the première of Origins (concerto for euphonium)

My new euphonium concerto, titled Origins, was premièred on May 6th 2012 in The Haidian Theatre, Beijing, by Marco Schneider (euphonium) and Dunshan Symphonic Wind Orchestra, conducted by Adrian Schneider, who commissioned the work.

This is the live recoding of the premiere, and there is further information about the piece below.

Origins is in three movements, with each movement having a different subject matter, all linked by the idea of origins: the first movement refers to musical origins; the second to the origins of life; and the final movement to the space exploration – the research of all origins.

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The first movement is based on a short motif, heard in the first three notes the soloist plays. These three notes cover the interval of a minor third (an interval that often plays a crucial role in my music) on which the whole concerto is built. The soloist and accompaniment interplay freely throughout the opening section, before an ostinato accompaniment appears in the woodwinds – over which the soloist sounds a long legato melody. A short cadenza follows and a return to the opening material leads the movement to an end.

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The second movement, titled Harry’s Song, is – as tradition dictates – a slow movement. Happy and reflective in nature, the main melody was written on the evening that my closest friend, Mark Bousie (a fine euphoniumist himself), and his wife Jayne, had their first child – Harry Bousie. It seemed only fitting that this song should be written for Harry in celebration.

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The final movement brings me back to a lifelong fascination with space, and in this particular movement, the Space Shuttle Discovery. Having completed 39 missions (including flying the Hubble telescope in to orbit), and spent a total of 365 days in space, SS Discovery made its final voyage in 2011 and was taken to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. in April 2012. This final movement, titled Discovery, pays tribute to the great shuttle whose missions inspired millions across the generations.

Origins was commissioned by Marco Schneider, Adrian Schneider and the Dunshan Wind Orchestra, Beijing, China.