Programme Notes – Magnification X

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Programme Notes – Magnification X
This short setting of a poem by the Tasmanian poet Sarah Day was written as a 70th birthday tribute to the composer Anthony Gilbert for his 70th birthday in 2004. The quirky instrumentation of soprano solo, sopranino recorder, cello and harpsichord is the most bizarre I have ever attempted, and I hope helps towards conveying a feeling of minute detail and tropical humidity so vividly portrayed in the poem. Incidentally the title should read ‘Magnification times’ as opposed to the twenty fourth letter of the alphabet!

Programme Notes – Anya17

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Programme Notes – Anya17
Composer’s programme note

I have wanted to write an opera for as long as I can remember. I have been stage struck from a very young age, and performances of Die Meistersinger, Peter Grimes and Tosca made an enormous impact on me in my very impressionable teens. For many years after graduating from university I worked in the theatre as a musical director and repetiteur before concentrating on concert composition, but the opportunity of working in the theatre as a serious composer (with the notable exception of a ballet for the Rambert dance company in the 1990s) has eluded me. Of course writing an opera is a deeply collaborative process, and not having the talent or facility like Wagner, Tippett and Sondheim to write my own words I floundered until I was introduced to the librettist Ben Kaye to discuss a project for a work for bass solo, chorus, brass quintet and organ. The result in 2007 was ‘Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall’, a ‘protest cantata’ based on the experiences of the political prisoner John McCarthy. Following this in 2010 we collaborated on ‘Eternal Voices’, a commission from the Royal Marines on the subject of war in the 21st century.

Ben and I had been talking about writing an opera together almost from the time we met. After many lengthy conversations as to the subject matter we eventually decided, for our third collaboration against basing a new piece on any existing literature and chose to focus on a contemporary issue that needs bringing to people’s attention. Details of the horrors of human trafficking and sex slavery can now easily be accessed in books and on the internet. Ben [...]

Programme Notes – Quarrel

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Programme Notes – Quarrel (2005)
Commissioned by Stephen Montague, Artistic Director of COMA (Contemporary Music Making for Amateurs) Open Score Project 2004-5 with funds provided by the Esmee Fairbairn Fund.

Programme Notes – Silk Impressions

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Programme Notes – Silk Impressions (2005) (Premiere)
Having moved to Cheshire from London some years ago I thought it would be an enjoyable challenge to try and write a work inspired by events from local history and folklore. Some of the ideas behind this piece are local legends; for others I am indebted to a book by Doug Pickford: Macclesfield Mysterious and Macabre, which is full of vivid and bizarre stories and anecdotes, all of them apparently true.

Silk Impressions is in five movements:

1. Maggotty Samuel ’Maggotty’ Johnson is said to have been the last court jester in England. He worked for most of his life in London, then lived at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield and is buried in ‘Maggotty’s Wood’ in Gawsworth. He died in 1763, and it is said that if you walk three times round his grave his ghost will appear. The opening of the piece pays mock homage to the pompous 18th century ‘French Overture’ style of many suites by Bach and Handel with prominent dotted rhythms. This is soon rudely interrupted by a cry from the wind and brass. The movement is an eccentric burlesque that respects no particular style.

2. The Dark Lady The lady in question is Mary Fytton of Gawsworth Hall, who may have been the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s 152nd sonnet. She is alleged to have fallen in love with the young William Shakespeare and followed him to Stratford-upon-Avon. They had a passionate affair then she left him. He expressed his feelings in the heartfelt and embittered sonnet: To the Dark Lady. This movement is a subdued swaying waltz, enshrouded in mystery.

3. Pex Hill Otherwise known as ‘The Hill of the Pixies.’ There have [...]