Author Archive

Summer Round Up

September 12th, 2020 Comments off

I haven’t updated my website for quite a while (five months in fact), this being for two reasons: firstly, as I am in the process of transferring all this information to a new, all-singing-all-dancing website and secondly that not an awful lot has happened in these joyous months of 2020. However, some things have happened since April, so I guess I should do a sort of round up. Not many performances to mention, plenty of cancellations and rearrangements, but very little live music. However, one short piece I wrote for the pianist Duncan Honeybourne has been performed online, recorded and will be premiered and released on CD in October. This is a short ‘deconstruction’ of the English folk tune The Turtledove which was my contribution to Duncan’s ‘Contemporary Soundbites’ project that featured short pieces written during lockdown. It forms part of a small collection called Three Folksongs that also features two other arrangements that have been performed this year. The piece will be released on the Prima Facie label very soon. As well as the piano, I’ve been writing for the organ with, two hymn-tune preludes I composed late last year recently being released in a collection of new organ pieces by Oxford University Press, alongside works by several leading composers. Read more…

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On Artists and Isolation (or Composers and the Coronavirus)…

April 17th, 2020 275 comments

In the UK we are entering the end of our fourth week of ‘lockdown’ in which families and individuals are asked to stay in the their houses, to try to work from home and to avoid contact with other people at all times – you don’t need me to tell you about how unprecedented, challenging and destablising the whole situation is. But it is what it is, and it is for the safety and health of the nation, if not the world, that we isolate ourselves. Much will be written about this period, I’m sure of that, with the challenges to society, to the economy and the fate of institutions, states and nations all to be discussed in the years following this pandemic. Alongside the grander narratives there will be the human stories of loss, love and hope and no doubt all of these will be woven together to create the communal mythos of Coronavirus and all that entails. Maybe at some point someone will ask about artists, about writers, painters, filmmakers and composers – ‘what were they doing during this unprecedented period of introspection, time and freedom?’ Well, let me give you an answer from North East Scotland…

Very little.

Read more…

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American Premiere of ‘Ave Maria, mater Dei’

February 3rd, 2020 410 comments

I was very pleased to find out recently that my motet Ave Maria, mater Dei (2017) was one of the winners of the ORTUS competition run by the Khorikos choir in New York. Out of 500 submissions, my work was one of 10 chosen entries. The premiere will take place on the 02 May, at the Shrine Church of St Anthony of Padua, Manhattan, New York, USA.

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The Month Ahead

January 23rd, 2020 169 comments

January is a busy month of performances to begin the New Year, in fact it begins on New Year’s Day with the Irish premiere of my Fourth Service (2018) at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. The 14th sees my new work The Mystery of Light (2019) performed at a special graduation service at the University of Aberdeen to honour HRH Princess Anne, performed by the university chamber choir. Staying in Aberdeen, the organist Jonathan Clinch will perform three of my organ pieces in an all-British contemporary music programme on the 20th, followed on the 26th by a quick trip to Manchester for a 70th birthday concert for my old tutor John Casken (featuring a short, new piano piece of mine). The month ends with a further Scottish performance of Ave Regina Caelorum (2019) performed by Northern Voices and Tobi Wolf. Looking slightly further ahead is the Amercian premiere of the Fourth Service, more performances of The Mystery of Light and the Dutch premiere of The World on Fire (2015).

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Review of 2019

January 2nd, 2020 256 comments

2019 was a busy, exhilarating, but often stressful year with lots of highs and lows. In my day job I continued as Head of Music at the University of Aberdeen and made some useful contributions (I think!) and tried to do my best for academic music-making in the ancient institution. My research was overwhelming focused on the publication of The Music of James MacMillan that was released in June to good reviews (so far!). There were three successful book launches and some good times with the great man himself. I also gave a paper on his music in Stirling in May and wrote a chapter for the forthcoming MacMillan Studies. Read more…

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On Morten Lauridsen’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium’…

December 21st, 2019 498 comments

Another year flies by and Christmas is upon us again with its gaudy mix of over-indulgence and introspection (with a cheery dose of political uncertainty added for extra measure). Each year I try to fashion a festive blog entry on a piece of Christmastide music that I find appealing, or interesting, or irritating, or something that solicits some sort of emotion in the run up to this most busy of holiday periods. Each year it becomes just a little more difficult as the pool of pieces becomes ever shallower, and this time is no different especially as it is the tenth year of writing one of these blogs. Where does the time go? Anyhow, I cast my mind to thinking of Christmas music and it didn’t take long to settle on a piece, mainly because I’ve been to several performances of it in the past month – Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium.

Now, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast early on – I’m not a huge fan of Lauridsen’s music – but that is a different story for a different day. What I will say is that I am a fan of this piece and if anything, the over-familiarity of this well-worn carol has somewhat dimmed its impact and the very fine piece of composition that it represents. For if any piece embodies the beginnings of a whole generation of composers, or a whole style or school of composition, then it may well be O Magnum Mysterium – arguably without this piece a whole American ‘sound’ of modern music may never have come into being. Perhaps I’m over-egging the Christmas pudding a little, but there is probably some truth in it. Read more…

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The Month Ahead

November 29th, 2019 83 comments

There are a few performances (that I know about…) coming up in the Christmas period, some of which I will able to make. The first of which is the London premiere of my recent Salve Regina (2019) given by the City University Chamber Choir, conducted by Rory McCleery. This will take place at St Clement’s Church, Finsbury, London, on the 04 December. Later in the month, I will be at Keble College, Oxford to see Jubilate, conducted by James Potter, give the English premiere of I sing of a maiden (2016) on Friday 13 December. This will be a special night as we present the winner of the choir’s twenty-fifth anniversary composition competition in the same concert, for which I was a judge. On the 18 December, I’ll be in London with The University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir for a performance of There is no rose (2013) in the university’s annual ‘Celebration of Carols’ at St Marylebone Parish Church. Then I’m off to the Lake District and Oxfordshire for Christmas!

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On Forgetting How to Write Music…

October 1st, 2019 182 comments

About a year ago I wrote a blog entry entitled ‘On Not Writing Music’ where I discussed how little music I had written that year and how strange it was for a ‘professional’ composer not to be composing. And I was left wondering how and when I would get back on the compositional horse. It was a classic. Well, it wasn’t, but it generated some discussion and got me thinking about the process of writing music and when I might look forward to creating something new again. Well, fast-forward to the tail-end of 2019 and I have recently tried to mount that horse and I can tell you neither me nor the horse is currently enjoying this ride (I am however, enjoying this horse-riding analogy), so I thought it a good opportunity to write down my thoughts again before they race off to the next hurdle (I’m quite good at this…). Read more…

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The Month Ahead

September 15th, 2019 66 comments

Autumn is a busy time for performances and premieres across the world (and it isn’t that often I can say that!). The 22 September sees the American premiere of my song cycle Lakesongs (2011) by Ellen Scholl, Matthew McBride-Daline and Kevin Bylsma in Toledo, Ohio with further performances in October. The 05 October sees a further Dutch performance of the Fourth Service (2018) by the Schola Liturgica Leeuwarden and Geke Bruining. The 06 October is an amazing day with three world premieres: Cappella Nova will give the first performance of Ave regina caelorum (2019) in Aberdeen, the Novantae Singers will give the premiere of Salve Regina (2019) as part of The Cumnock Tryst and Douglasville First United Methodist Church Choir will give the premiere of When in Our Music (2019) in Georgia, USA. The month finishes with the world premiere of a new song cycle Thistles and Roses (2019) by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams in Quebec, Canada on the 25 October.

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‘Fourth Service’ in The Netherlands

September 7th, 2019 595 comments

It was really nice to hear that the Schola Liturgica Leeuwarden will be giving the Dutch premiere of my Fourth Service [St Pancras] this Sunday (08/09) at the Grote Of Jacobijner Kerk, Leeuwarden, conducted by Geke Bruining. It’s been great to see so many performances of this work in the 18 months since its premiere, and fantastic to see it cross the North Sea to Holland. This is the fifth choir from the Netherlands to perform my music in the past three years.

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