Yesterday was my graduation ceremony for my Masters in composition – I got a Masters with merit, I’m pleased to say. The University have chosen Jeremy Irons as their new Chancellor and so I got to shake his hand and exchange a few words. It was, as it happened, his very first graduation ceremony for Bath Spa University and he spent a while talking to every student as we came past. In consequence the ceremony rather overran. A nice man and a memorable ceremony.
Tonight is the first Apple Wassail in the Bradford on Avon Community Orchard and I’ve been commissioned to write a new wassail song for it. Even better the group I sing with, Eagle Alley, are to sing it at the wassail. It’s called the Hens’ Orchard Wassail We’ve been practising hard for it and I’m very pleased with it.
Well it’s a bit hectic right now because I’m approaching the end of my Masters course and there is a requirement that everything I have composed for the course must be performed – an excellent requirement, in my opinion, but hard work!
My investigations into Ellacombe Chimes paid off and yesterday there was a performance of several of my works at St Mary’s Church, Bitton, near Bath. What all these works had in common was the use of church bells played using the Ellacombe Chimes, with accompaniments from a group of singers and musicians playing in the open air by the church. The weather was good and there was a good sized audience and the music was lovely. Here is one of the pieces played, named Minimal Chimes:-
You can hear contributions to the music made by passing birds and an airliner. It all helped to enrich the sound, in my opinion.
This is a new song cycle I’ve written for soprano, tenor and string quartet, setting words written by Keri Hendy, the current Bard of Bath and tonight it receives its first performance as part of a concert in this year’s Bath Fringe Festival. Exciting, I have to say, but also scary since the soprano singer has completely lost her voice and I think I shall have to sing in her place! Still, we have a good conductor in the shape of Jeff Boehm from Bath Spa University who will pull us through, I’m sure.
UPDATE: we had a very good audience and a great welcome for the piece. Very gratifying.
Tonight the White Doves Peace Choir of Trowbridge sing one of my songs called All In Harmony. Looking forward to hearing them sing it. One of my most treasured possessions is a letter from Pete Seeger saying how much he liked this song.
Well we didn’t have a procession with bellringing in the end because bellringers prefer not to play much out of their comfort zone – understandable when you consider they’re trying to control many hundredweights of metal safely. However my investigations into the world of church bells is leading me towards something called Ellacombe Chimes, a way of playing church bells melodically. This could prove very interesting. More anon.
It’s that time of the year when we gird up our loins for Christmas carols. Mind you, we’re not talking about the carols you sing in churches nowadays but the old carols, the gallery carols that were sung in the 18th and early 19th centuries and still survive in places like the pubs around Sheffield. We sing them in pubs around Bradford on Avon and it’s my job to organise and lead the band that plays for the carols. More about what we do here.
I’m now starting the second year of my Masters Composition course at Bath Spa, and the University marks this with a small party for all their Masters music students. Isn’t that nice of them?
Shhh, don’t tell anyone but I have plans to compose something with church bells and brass instruments and maybe even a procession. It could happen in a town near you … if that town is Bradford on Avon then it almost certainly will!