A PDF is posted here: Christopher Churcher’s ‘Always the Bridesmaid’
On the 4th of August, I arrived apprehensively with around 60 other composers from all across the UK at the Purcell School in Hertfordshire. We were all there to attend the annual week-long Summer school run by Sound and Music, the UK charity for new music. Having applied last April, I was lucky enough to be given a place, and was allocated to the ‘Vocal composition’ group (there were also others, including Film, Instrumental, Jazz and Cross-Cultural). By the end of the week, there were over 60 brand new compositions written, performed and recorded!
In the vocal composition group, I was able to work with six professional singers, after several days of exploring different types of vocal music, from the madness of Cathy Berberian’s ‘Stripsody’ to the comparative minimalism of Laurence Crane. We then had just 3 days to compose and rehearse our compositions until the recording session and, finally, performances.
As the creative process began, I took a newfound interest in Swedish folksong, something with which I was unacquainted beforehand, but which I found really haunting and bewitching. With the help of one of the tutors, who was very knowledgeable about the techniques used in Swedish folksong, I learnt about specific techniques such as Kulning, as well as traditional Swedish vocal ornamentation and the modes that Swedish folksong traditionally explores.
Struck by fleeting inspiration, I decided to combine a Swedish folk-inspired vocal line with the singing bowl (a type of bell that vibrates and produces a rich, deep tone when played) which one of our tutors had brought with them. This constant drone created the illusion that the singer’s line was almost suspended in mid-air, yet always in relation to the drone, which the voice slowly materialises out of at the start of the piece and disappears back into at the end.
I absolutely loved the Sound and Music Summer School and would fully recommend it to any composer looking to gain experience working with professional musicians or hoping to expose themself to a really wide range of intra-classical styles.
Christopher Churcher, Fifths