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
It’s been another amazing summer for Notebenders, the Ladywood based community big band. First, a main-stage slot at the Moseley Jazz Festival in Moseley Park, a hidden gem just off the high street. It was a slightly nerve-wracking, but exciting feeling looking out over the crowd; I’m glad we were all in it together.
Next, the Birchfield Jazz Festival, a smaller, friendlier event with delicious, home-made Jamaican and African food in a local church. The acoustics were incredible and the reception genuinely warm.
Finally, the renowned big band afternoon at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth, an annual gathering of rowdy jazz fanatics. As well as awesome music (check out the incredible jazz flautist, Gareth Lokrane), there was a ready supply of great food and, for those of us playing, a free bar!
The best thing is being part of the music-making and coming together with some brilliant musicians to have fun. Roll on next year!
Owen Swanborough, Removes
Huge thanks to David Ash @ https://www.davidashphotography.org/ for lovely memento of our spring concerts.
It’s been a very special year for The Notebenders Big Band, with many events celebrating what would have been the 100thbirthday of its founder, the jazz saxophonist, Andy Hamilton. We’ve performed at a concert for Andy at the Town Hall, done our monthly gigs at Symphony Hall, taken part in the Big Band Day at the Spotted Dog and played for a day with Birmingham Conservatoire jazz students at the Eastside Jazz Club.
In October we cut our first professionally produced CD at the Conservatoire Recording Studio. It was an incredibly exciting, hectic and truly exhausting day, and my first experience of the fascinating world of recording and music tech. The day started with a sound check where we had to try out a few phrases of our choice. Then we worked our way through the tunes, often having several goes to get each one right; one required ten attempts – not one I was in, fortunately!
I also learnt how to while away the hours when you’re not needed with the help of great friends, pizza and highly-competitive rounds of UNO!
Now we just have to wait while all the mixing and other magic is done – can’t wait to hear the finished product and find out what they’ve done with my solo!
Owen Swanborough (Shells)
There is still time to enjoy Lauren Zhang’s triumph in BBC Young Musician 2018. The final is available on the BBC’s iPlayer, which you can visit by clicking on this link:
We are very proud to announce that Lauren Zhang, a pianist from KEHS, is a finalist in BBC Young Musician 2018. She has elected to play Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto, and will perform with the CBSO conducted by Mark Wigglesworth.
You can see the final on BBC4 television at 1900 on Sunday, 13 May and hear it on BBC Radio 3.
We wish her well in this great adventure.
You can read more about the finalists in BBC Young Musician at:
Tom Coult: St John’s Dance (BBC commission: world premiere)
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 3 in C minor
John Adams: Harmonium
Igor Levit, piano
BBC Proms Youth Choir
BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Edward Gardner, conductor
Richard Franklin, Haine Hock, Abhinav Jain, David Millross, and former King Edward’s boys sing Adams’s extra-ordinary Harmonium as part of the Proms Youth Choir in the first night of the Proms. The performance is a celebration of John Adams’s seventieth birthday this year.
The concert is in the Royal Albert Hall, and will be broadcast on BBC television and radio. You can read more on the BBC Proms website.