New music at the Anthony Burgess Foundation

I’m very happy that two of my pieces will be included in tomorrow nights programme a part of the Kinetic concert series. You can read more about the concert here:

https://www.anthonyburgess.org/event/concert-kinetic/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/1760274300952984/

Daniel Portal will be playing the fourth movement from my piano cycle, Five Pieces/Colour in Water. The colour in the title refers to melodies and their subtle ornamental variations which form the basis of the musical narrative, they appear at first like drops of dye in water which gradually dilute to become part of a whole. Pitch cycles swirl and dance around parallel to this process, creating a paradoxical moveable stillness. The combination of these two layers of material in motion over time creates the effect of a kaleidoscopic contrast in colour, combined with time which is stretched and irregular.

After that, Charlotte Badham and James Girling will be giving another performance of my piece …and wisdom comes quietly which you can read about here:

https://josephshawsite.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/93/

Autumnal

Ahead of tomorrow’s concert, I’m excited to announce a new piece of my own which will be featured as part of the programme. It will be performed by Jenny Whittaker (soprano) and myself.

Autumnal began simply as an attempt to compose a work inspired by my love of the landscape surrounding my home in the Autumn time. I asked my friend John Anstie to write three short haikus which would describe an Autumnal scene. He responded with these wonderful lines:

rainbow hues turning

chill air low sun (but) warm hearts

beauteous day-long dawn

pink light (on) timeless trees

yield a golden fleece and warmth

(for) aching Mother Earth

sleeping beauties wake

from enduring frozen night

in Spring refreshing

I began working on the piece by setting this short text to music, testing out melodies on the violin. The vocal line centres around the Dorian of Ab, which to me (in an old romantic and quasi-synesthetic way) suggests the dark yellow colours which leaves become in the Autumn. ‘Folk-like and with little vibrato’ is the instruction for the vocalist regarding the expression of the lines, which Jenny achieves beautifully. Beneath the vocal line there are electronic samples of leaves and piano chords suspended in time which provide a kind of aural canvas for the vocal line to make its mark.

Autumnal was written especially for tomorrow’s concert, in memory of John Hirst. Find out more here – https://josephshawsite.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/the-music-of-john-david-hirst-24-11-41-21-06-11/

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Tickets

Tickets are now available! Please contact Anna Day at anna.day26@gmail.com to purchase them.

There are only 100 available at £6 each, but the concert will be filmed and all the music recorded for a separate DVD of the event. Sales from this will also go to the Stroke Association and Cancer Research UK. So if you don’t manage to purchase a ticket in time, or would like a DVD of the concert regardless then they will be available at a later date during the Summer (tbc).

I look forward to seeing you there!

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Sketch

A very rough sketch of my new piece for Meera Maharaj and James Girling, playing alto flute and prepared classical guitar. It will be the first piece in my new cycle Incendiary Colour, for various chamber ensembles and an added installation element also.

Each colour and shape represents a different set of ideas/materials which have yet to be pieced together into a functional work. Until then, at least the colours are pretty!

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The music of John David Hirst (24.11.41 – 21.06.11.)

I’m very excited to announce a concert which will take place on the 8th April in Stocksbridge, Sheffield. The programme of the evening will focus mainly on John Hirst’s original compositions, interspersed with other items from a variety of performers and genres. All proceeds will go to both Cancer Research and the Stroke Association. I’m very lucky to have the help of friends and family in putting this together, which so far is going very smoothly! This concert which I hope will be the first in a series will be an ideal opportunity for his work to be performed and recorded in the local area.

I feel a special connection with his music because he was the only other person in our family (so far!) who attempted serious composition for instruments and voices throughout his life. Although our approaches are very different, I can’t help but feel part of a lineage somehow and being influenced by the sounds he created which is really inspiring. I’ll be writing more information on the background to his life and music very soon.

So far I’ve catalogued 30 of his works for mainly chamber ensembles with a few larger scale works too. Music for solo piano, violin duet, string quartet, piano quartet, chorus and orchestra is all there waiting to be heard. I would describe his music as romantic in style with hints of more modern ideas as well. His level of craft as a composer has produced pieces with a wonderful sense of melody, harmony and structure that are a joy to listen to.

Keep an eye out for the regular updates I’ll be posting about the concert and his music in this section of my blog, including how to purchase tickets and donate to both charities.

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Night Sky Partials

I’m very excited to announce that my piece Night Sky Partials for SATB acapella chorus will receive two performances this Summer. The first will be at Victoria Hall in Sheffield in a concert which I’ll be able to say more about in a future blog post. The second will be in Tuscany, sung by members of the Fox Valley Voices for whom the piece was written and directed by myself.

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The original version of this piece was for female voices (SSAA), and was written for my partner Emily Needle as a Birthday gift. Over Christmas I had the opportunity to revise it for SATB acapella chorus and expand on ideas in the first version.

I’ve included the programme note and text below:

This piece takes its name from the title track of an album by Freelance Whales, an American indie rock band whose lyrics (similarly to the text of this piece) explore dreamlike explorations of nature and the universe.

Text (extracts from Constellations by Ian Pindar, Nocturnes by Will Kemp and Wild by Ben Okri):

A summers day of images,
a field of fire.

The blue, beautiful morning.
The morning so clear.

The world is rich, with great love un-found,
set it free.
River, flow to the sea.

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(Working with the Angeli Che Cantano on the original version of the piece in 2013)

 

Wentworth Cantata

I was very excited and proud to be involved in a concert back at the beginning of October with local volunteers, in celebration of a very beautiful landscape and its design.

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http://www.wentworthcastle.org/whats-on-at-wentworth-castle/

I was commissioned by the Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust’s community’s officer Peter Clegg, to produce my piece Wentworth Cantata. The commission was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund as part of the CB300 festival. It was premiered at Wentworth Castle on the 16th October as part of the Voices of the Landscape project in collaboration with the Barnsley writers and the Penistone Poets.

The concert itself featured a storyboard of wonderful poetry and narrations, punctuated by extracts of my score for bass guitar and bass voice.

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My ideas for Wentworth Cantata began as visual sketches rather than musical notation. An interest in the Capability Brown inspired modelling of the landscape and the architecture of the building itself led me to an alternate way of displaying material for the performers.
The score consists of lines and shapes traced directly from large scale maps of the area surrounding Wentworth Castle. The performer is free to create their own journey through the hypothetical landscape using the 14 ‘micro’ pieces which can be manipulated in various ways and played in any order.

Just as the architecture of the building is made up of multiple wings which were built at different times over recent centuries, several of the sections are taken from musical works of the past which correspond to the dates of the buildings. The voice part consists of both spoken and sung material in ballad form which gives a narrative consistency to the work. I commissioned the text from John Anstie (https://poetjanstie.wordpress.com/) who was also the vocalist for this project.

You can see the individual fragments from the various compositions labelled adjacent to each module on the score, as well as an example of how the landscape is abstractly translated onto the page.

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Future extensions of Voices of the Landscape will hopefully include more performances at Wentworth Castle itself (perhaps in the gardens… weather permitting!) a published book containing poems from the project along with my score and finally, a project involving the software ‘Google Maps’ to pin audio to areas of landscape for the public to explore digitally.

This project was hugely rewarding and being able to stand beside my work after the concert rounded off the achievement.

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Photo credit: Emily Needle