Christopher Churcher in the Divisions has just been specially commended in the Royal Philharmonic’s Society’s Young Classical Writers’ Prize. His essay is on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, the piece which initially drew him to classical music.
Over the Easter holiday, I was thrilled to be pronounced the winner of the under-18 category of the Benslow Young Composers’ Competition for my composition Very Early Spring. With a choice of five poems centering around Spring, applicants from across the United Kingdom were tasked with writing a five-minute-long song for soprano Sarah Leonard and pianist Stephen Gutman. My composition was heavily inspired by the colours and harmonies found in the French art song tradition of Fauré, Debussy and Boulanger. By contrasting floating, wintry piano arpeggios with recurring rising piano lines underpinned by warmer harmonies, I ventured to use the music to illustrate the relationship between the lingering squalls of winter and the ‘golden fingers’ of the sun in the poem by Katherine Mansfield. The final workshop of the competition was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, as the five shortlisted composers were able to hear each other’s works and receive comments and advice from the judge of the competition and Master of the Queen’s Music, Judith Weir. To win the competition was such a pleasant surprise, and I look forward to hearing my composition performed as part of the Benslow International Concert Series in August.
Christopher Churcher, Divisions
You can read more about the competition here.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Symphony no.9 op.125 (1824)
text by Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1809)
KES/KEHS Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
compiled by Oliver Clarke, Dhiran Sodha, and Martin Leigh
For many music has always been a way to deal with adversity and now during a third national lockdown is once again an important method to help with these growing pressures. There have been several studies that show the beneficial impact of listening to music of whatever genre on mental health and in reducing stress. And we would like to share our experience of making music and how it has helped us through this difficult time.
Sung by Junias Wong
I think, especially during the national lockdowns that we have been facing and are currently in, continuing with as much music as possible has been a way that I have been able to relax but also feel like it has been productive at the same time. I have been struggling with not being able to take time away from working as there has been no clear-cut end of the school day whilst being at home and so going away from my computer to play piano and lose myself in the music has allowed me to build that structure back and take control of my time. With everything else in my life grinding to a halt music and music making, even if alone, has been one of the things that has allowed me to move through this difficult time.
Maybe the ancient Greeks were getting somewhere by making Apollo in charge of both medicine and music. It’s no secret that music affects our brain, mood and stress through the function of neural networks which slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones. Yet, these clinical observations might not glean the full extent of music’s effect. Perhaps dramatically put by the poet Robert Browning, “He who hears music feels his solitude peopled all at once”. In many ways this holds true, as personally music often provides a solace and respite. Small things like putting on a good tune whilst washing the dishes are exceedingly therapeutic activities! However, above all, playing and listening to music is plain fun. I’ve spent countless hours browsing through many eras of music just appreciating the little quirks and characteristics. To stop there would be a shame, so I’ve tried my hand at emulating my favourite works on the piano and even an acapella voice. So, whenever the tiring online school day gets to you, remind yourself to have a break and immerse yourself with some music!