The end of the first week of the New Year seems as good a time as any to review the previous one. Not only does it serve as a good Janus point but the 1-7 of January 2012 can be seen as the microstructure to the entirety of 2011’s macro. Much has happened and even more has changed over the past 12 months. Despite a number of sizeable tumultuous life changes the work has been good and I have an awful lot to be thankful for.
For the entirety of 2011 I was BCMG/SAM Apprentice Composer in Residence which was one of the more remarkable experiences of my life and afford me many, many notable opportunities that I otherwise would not have received, but more on this anon. January saw the premiere performance of Stabat Mater which in February traveled to Stockholm in Sweden, affording me to opportunity to visit this beautiful city and meet some wonderful people. This piece really meant a lot to me and it was humbling to have such brilliant performances of it several times by Hannah Davey, Jack McNeill, Paul Norman and Sebastiano Dessanay.
In March I had a number of performances including Tout va bien by the Birmingham Conservatoire Wind Orchestra conducted by David Purser which was a great learning experience. Additionally, my first BCMG commission Rückstände was performed by the fantastic Julian Warburton, one of the finest musicians I have worked with and a great way to start my residency with the group.
In April I travelled to Dublin for the premiere of Basso Continuo by the wonderfully exuberant Crash Ensemble conducted by Gavin Maloney. This was a very fine performance indeed and a wonderfully programmed concert, one of the best I had attended all year. Also in April I see Now Why People Hide was performed in Birmingham by Decibel at Laurence Crane’s 50th Birthday concert. Again, this was a fantastic performance by an extraordinary group of musicians and a truly memorable concert for all in attendance.
In May my piece Das Lied von Anderen was selected for the Dublin Literary New Music Trail in celebration of Dublin’s designation as a UNESCO city of Literature and it was an absolute honour to have been selected. Additionally I met with David Lang for the first time as part of my BCMG/SAM residency. David is such a fantastic composer and one of the most insightful people I have encountered. This was a brilliant first meeting and so influential on my subsequent path as a composer.
June saw my piece Irreversible represent Ireland at the UNESCO International rostrum of composers in Vienna, this piece was subsequently broadcast on national radio in Ireland and in Serbia. The same month saw the premiere of my piece 40 Chromogenic Colour Prints in London performed beautifully by Hannah Davey and Paul Norman who subsequently gave a marvellous performance of it in the Royal Festival Hall in November. This was my first piece based on the work of Gabriel Orozco, who has become an influential figure on my practice as an artist.
July was largely spent working on my large piece for BCMG but also saw a performance of Ursatz by Ciaran Crilly at the Hilltown New Music Festival in Ireland (which sadly I could not attend). In addition my piece Basso Continuo was selected as part of the national submission for ISCM World New Music Days 2012, in Belgium.
A large part of the month of August was spent at the Dartington International Summer School where I had the absolute privilege of working with Gerald Barry and Richard Baker, one of the most fortunate experiences I have had to date and one which really made me reflect on my work as a composer. Furthermore my piece Lullaby (For Howard Skempton) was premiered in the Great Hall at Dartington. Additionally, August saw my piece Basso Continuo being that month’s feature at the CMC.
In September I had one of the most brilliant experiences of my life which came about through my BCMG/SAM residency. I travelled to New York City to work with my mentor David Lang. It had been my first time in NYC and was such an incredible opportunity to work at length with David as well as experience everything the city has to offer. Moreover, it was a brilliant chance to catch up with some very dear friends whom I had not seen in a number of years. I will treasure this trip till my dying days…
October saw me completing my BCMG commission Findetotenlieder, probably my most extensive work to date based on the work Obit by Gabriel Orozco. This piece was workshoped in November by BCMG conducted by Clement Power with Susan Narucki as soloist and was truly a breathtaking experience. I was completely enamoured by the musicianship by all involved and it afforded me the opportunity to make any necessary changes before the premiere in February 2012.
As the year came to an end in December, Paul Norman performed expertly in the premiere of Au Milieu d’ un demi. I was also awarded one of two RTE Lyric FM/IMRO composition bursaries enabling me to write an orchestral piece for the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, before travelling home to Dublin for the Christmas season. 2011 concluded in the most fittingly chaotic way possible by performing with the experimental rock group The Nippons on the 30 December.
I have much to be thankful for in 2011. As well as having many, many beautiful performances by fantastically talented and gifted musicians, I have had the confidence to grow as a composer enabled by the wonderful support of my PhD supervisors Joe Cutler and Howard Skempton. Moreover, I have been able to travel to places and meet some extremely influential people which has been facilitated by both the Composition Department and the Research Department at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Finally, through my year long residency as BCMG/SAM apprentice composer in residence I have had many opportunities that I otherwise could have only dreamed of; including attending many informative rehearsals, meeting numerous notable composers, conductors and musicians, travelling to New York to work with one of my most respected composers, David Lang in addition to being afforded the opportunity to write what I consider to be my most cherished piece, Findetotenlieder. For this and more I am eternally grateful to Sound and Music and BCMG for selecting me for the position for this past year.
2012 seems already to be an extremely busy year. I am currently finishing a chamber orchestra piece entitled White Paintings for an exciting new group in Birmingham called Toy Sound Circus to be premiered in March. February sees the world premiere performance of Findetotenlieder by BCMG conducted by Clement Power with Susan Narucki as soloist. Additionally the first number of months will be taken up writing my orchestral piece for the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. This is on top of completing my PhD at Birmingham Conservatoire which I plan to submit in July.
It’s going to be a busy and interesting year, but I look forward to and embrace its challenges and all that it has to offer…