Post archive

Microchips, warped fairytales and a basset horn

Lots of plans building up right now for the coming year 2018... working with microchip designers at Cascoda, exploring unknown territory with a basset horn, and finding a role for the modern girl in the misogynist world of fairy tales.... 

Triptych 2 - for theorbo

Oh - so - excited to be planning the next piece in my Triptych series - for theorbo (bass lute) with the exquisite lutenist Matthew Wadsworth - taking the next canvas in Dora Williams' painting as our inspiration.... 

Autumn Inspiration

Well, the last few weeks have been a fascinating melting pot of new ideas new plans and inspirations... planning a new live electronics version of my epic Clarinet Quintet, with electronics whizz James Dooley and clarinettist Jack McNeill, ...a big new set of solo percussion pieces inspired by the talents of contestants for the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2018 (which I was lucky enough to be a judge in Round 2) ...and a proposal for a new adventure discovering a new instrument for me - basset horn - with my trusty clarinet pyschopomp Ronald Woodley.


Since February 2017 I have been working closely with artist Dora Williams on a collaborative project CREATIVE SYNERGY in which we spent three sessions creating side by side, leading to a range of new images, sounds, paintings and music. 

New work we have created is being shown on Friday 29th Sept in an interactive performance. Violist Adam Römer is an amazing mix of a top classical virtuoso and traditional Hungarian folk fiddler, and I have composed a new work for him that takes him to the extremes of both worlds in Credo

The music is in three parts. Credo 1 Love/Loss explores the ancient Credo chant of the Latin Mass, along with sounds transcribed from traditional Middle Eastern musicians and music from my Colwall Requiem for Aleppo (2017). Credo 2 Fire/Ashes was composed in direct response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, with the names of two victims of the fire worked into the musical score: one a Syrian refugee and the other the daughter of a Gambian healer. In Credo 3 Home/Lost the player has to morph from traditional folk tunes into abstract music - using one of Dora Williams' paintings Requiem to guide the improvisation.

Poet Nina Lewis has been invited to perform some of her poetry as part of the evening and she has created a new body of work inspired by the themes that emerged from the Creative Synergy project, namely: the plight of refugees, seeking refuge, migration and displacement.

The evening will include discussions on the creative process, with opportunities for the audience to ask questions of the composer, performer, artist and poet in the Creative Synergy project.

The next phase of the Creative Synergy project will be to fundraise and organise a series of interactive creative workshops involving composing, art-making and poetry with vulnerable adults. For more information go to 

Colwall Requiem for Aleppo

'Colwall Requiem for Aleppo' has been commissioned by the choir of my local church in Colwall. It is a setting of the Requiem Mass with some additional movements taken from the Psalms and other religious texts. 

The music encompasses a range of influences: the original Requiem chants, melodies created from the names 'Colwall' and 'Aleppo', English folk music, the English and French choral tradition, gospel, and contemporary choral music. 

The adult choir is accompanied by organ and piano, and the children's choir are accompanied by hand chimes and bells.  The choral movements are interspersed with instrumental music inspired by the sounds of traditional Middle Eastern music, played by a solo viola and a group of young musicians. 

The piece is written to raise awareness of the plight of refugees, not only from Aleppo but from any place where home has become a place to escape from. 

Living as I do in the rural beauty and comfort of Colwall I was struck by the strong contrast between my life here and the lives of those caught up in the destruction of a city.

The music is hopeful for the future - but also questions why these things happen.

Here are a couple of clips from rehearsals with the young people involved in the project:

There is more info on our FaceBook page... please like and share! Thank you.

we're all in the same boat

'We're all in the same boat' is an event happening on Sunday 11th December 2016 at 2-3pm on Millennium Bridge, London. Artist Fion Gunn, choreographer Sarah Rubidge and composer Liz Johnson will be walking, dancing and singing our way across the bridge starting from the St Paul's side.

'We're all in the same boat' raises awareness of the plight of refugees forced to flee their homes in search of a safer life. In 2016 over 4000 people lost their lives attempting such a journey by boat. We will carry boats across the bridge, including a huge boat shoe worn by artist Fion Gunn, and celebrate the refugees and immigrants who make this country a richer place. Liz Johnson is the granddaughter of an immigrant.

TRIPTYCH I for BAROQUE VIOLIN inspired by the art of Dora Williams

Triptych I received a spine-tingling premiere performance on Wednesday 5th October as part of the Elements Exhibition at Elmslie House in Malvern. Baroque and contemporary specialist Lucy Russell gave two performances of the new piece, alongside works by Bach and Telemann. As part of the evening, Lucy and I discussed the creation of the work, inspired by Dora Williams' beautiful and enigmatic painting Triptych - a scarred series. A wonderful collaboration.

SEA-CHANGE, mindfulness and the poetry of David Hart

I'm still floating on air since our amazing week of recording the new clarinet quintet Sea-change, which features five different clarinets for one player, with string quartet. 

There were so many unknowns which might have been stalling points, but clarinettist Ron Woodley and the Fitzwilliam String Quartet took everything in their stride and played like angels/devils/swallows/seals/etc accordingly. The premiere performances will take place in May 2017 in London and Birmingham (more details to follow).

Sea-change is a single movement piece, lasting about 28 minutes. The music starts as a meditation, focussing on the breath, moving mindfully around the five clarinets. My own experience of meditation is that it is easy - at first - to maintain concentration. But the mind easily drifts away into thoughts and fantasies.

The music begins centred and composed until images and thoughts begin to dominate. The poetry of David Hart's Crag Inspector (2002) takes hold, and fragments of text permeate the score.

                 'By candlelight I sing
           to be a poet through the night,
      I sit and wait,
a bird named Gwennol calls
      and speaks to me in a language of loops and shines...'

from Crag Inspector by David Hart Five Seasons Press ISBN 0 947960 29 5

New Song for Loré

Watching Medusa - a new unaccompanied song for voice and shaky egg - inspired by the voice and talents of singer Loré Lixenberg, setting words by poet Jo Shapcott.

Five clarinets; one player - contra, bass, Bb, D and Eb. Just spent two days with Ron Woodley exploring each instrument in depth for the new clarinet quintet - working out a choreography of instruments. All sounding amazing and the finished piece will be recorded in July with the Fitzwilliam Quartet. 

Ronald Woodley and Andrew West's first rendition of Wild Man Dances in the Adrian Boult Hall inspired a new poem from Worcestershire poet laureate Heather Wastie - go to the News page to see it...

Wild Man Dances

Only a few days to wait before Wild Man Dances explodes onto the stage - two huge pianos sparring… it should be very exciting...

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