Ecchoing Green

2017

any 3-6 singers

2′-4′

commissioned by CoMA for the CoMA Partsong Book, published by CoMA in partsongs, March 2018

to Howard Skempton, for his 70th birthday

A set of canons on William Blake’s The Ecchoing Green (1789).

Video performance by CoMA Singers (and the composer)

Durham

2017

solo piano

3’30

for Howard Skempton, on his 70th birthday

commissioned by Tempo and published in Tempo vol.72 no.284, April 2018 (CUP)

One for the Album

2014

any number of vocalists with camera-phones

1′

View score (may be freely copied and distributed)

One for the Album is a vocal fanfare written for CoMA’s 21st Birthday Gala at St John’s Smith Square on 25th October 2014, and dedicated with admiration to Chris Shurety and all CoMA staff and volunteers, past and present.

Düsseldorf

2017

flute, clarinet in Bb, violin, cello, tubular bells, transducer speakers inside piano
or
2 flutes, 2 clarinets in Bb, tubular bells, transducer speakers inside piano

12′

Ave maris stella

arrangement of medieval plainsong hymn

2003/2017

8′

mixed or upper voices, violin, organ

f.p. (2003) Choir of Thetford Grammar School/Jane Huntington, Basilica di S. Marco, Venice, July 2003
f.p. (2017) CoMA Summer School participants/James Weeks, St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney, 29 July 2017

View score

Programme note
I first made an arrangement of this famous plainchant melody (‘Hail, Star of the Sea’) for a school choir to sing on tour in St Mark’s, Venice; fourteen years later I decided to come back to it as an equally apt choice for Orkney’s great medieval cathedral. A little like Monteverdi’s setting in his 1610 Vespers, the six verses alternate between choral presentations of the plainchant and more soloistic verse sections, with static organ interludes representing the distant clarity of the Star of the Sea, which is the North Star, Polaris.

Bee Haven

2017

any number of orchestral string instruments (at least 12)

15′-20′

f.p. Participants of CoMA Summer School, Kirkwall, Orkney, 28 July 2017

View score

The latest in a series of pieces written for CoMA string players, Bee Haven is a sound environment, an imaginary outdoor space populated by plants, flowers and bees. The sound of honeybee humming is the main focus of the work; around this, the bees’ ‘haven’ (a living environment, free from agricultural poisons and habitat destruction) is created through quiet air noise and gentle brushing of the instruments. There are no events in the piece save one brief flurry of rain; placing themselves within it, listeners become part of the imagined space for the duration of the work.

Performance Archive 2017

20/1/17
February ’11
Phaedra Ensemble
JuJu’s Bar, London

21/3/17
Complainte
Irene Kurka
Cafe OTO, London

1/4/17
Libro di fiammelle e ombre wp
EXAUDI
Wigmore Hall, London

8/4/17
Orlando Tenebrae
A Tear
Sacred Muses

Leicestershire Chorale/Tom Williams
Holy Cross Priory, Leicester

10/6/17
Primo Libro (excerpts) wp
EXAUDI
Aldeburgh Festival

2/7/17
Complainte
Irene Kurka
Kunstraum Dorissa Lem, Köln

28/7/17
Bee Haven wp
CoMA Allcomers Strings
CoMA Summer School, Orkney

29/7/17
Ave maris stella wp
CoMA Summer School participants
CoMA Summer School, Orkney

30/9/17
Saenredam
An Assembly/Jack Sheen
BBC Open Ear
LSO St Luke’s, London

7/10/17
Primo Libro (wp)
Ekmeles/Jeffrey Gavett
Crypt of Church of the Intercession, New York

15/10/17
Sint lumbi
Gelders Bach Collegium
Apeldoorn, Netherlands

27/10/17
windfell (wp)
Mira Benjamin (violin)
St Mary-at-Hill, London

6/11/17
windfell
Mira Benjamin (violin)
Durham University

Libro di fiammelle e ombre

2017

6 solo voices SMCtTBarB

24′

to EXAUDI on the occasion of the ensemble’s 15th anniversary

Libro di fiammelle e ombre (‘Book of Little Flames and Shadows’) is a set of 12 short madrigals exploring the ‘poetry of sound in the sound of poetry’: using texts from Arcadelt’s Primo Libro de’ Madrigali (1539) I reimagine the musico-literary aesthetics of Pietro Bembo’s Petrarchism (an important inspiration for the early development of the madrigal genre) for the present age. The text itself, and its many transformations within the music, is of primary importance: one of the features of the piece is the use of speech and singing together, the one blending with, shading or colouring the other in various different ways. Rather than set each text completely, however, I treat it as a found object, distilling the emotional and semantic content of the poetry into a succession of single sound-images (or sound-conceits). Thus, for instance, ‘Il bianco e dolce cigno‘ becomes bianco, alluding to the oblivion of death (in both of the poem’s senses) through a focus on vowel colour (in particular the whiteness of the open ‘a’ vowel in ‘bianco’) and the relationship of solo soprano to the trio of lower voices. In alloro (‘laurel’), the poem’s pervasive piacevolezza is reflected in a flowing canonic continuum, spreading symmetrically out from its central note like the branches of a well-shaped shrub. In velo the female voices’ whispered murmuring evokes the rustling fabric of the lady’s veil whilst literally veiling the lower voices’ interjections…and so on.

Libro di fiammelle e ombre can be performed either with or without madrigals by Arcadelt: a suggested sequence, in which the piece emerges gradually out of Arcadelt’s music, is given in the score.

f.p. (excerpts): EXAUDI/James Weeks, Abbaye de Royaumont, 4 September 2016
f.p. (complete work): EXAUDI/James Weeks, Wigmore Hall, 1 April 2017

Excerpt from Royaumont performance