BBC Radio 3 & BASCA conference on Diversity in Composition

I was invited to speak on a panel about diversity and inclusion in composition. The conference was held at RNCM and hosted by the BBC and BASCA. The panel was chaired by Tom Service and the other contributors were Susanna Eastburn (chief executive of Sound and Music), Rob Adideran (executive director London Music Masters) and Jeffrey Mumford (composer). It was a lively discussion with lots of really important issues coming to the fore and I felt very glad to have been a contributor. 

Listen again...

 

The discussion was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and you can listen to it here

Performance of Look Up at Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Utrecht

Look Up for four voices, viola da gamba and electronics will receive its second performance as part of Gaudeamus Muziekweek, in Utrecht this September.  Performed by the wonderful Silbersee Vocal Ensemble and electronics by Wouter Snoei .
 

8.15pm, 9th September, 2016 , Pieterskerk, Utrecht, Netherlands

Premiere At York Late Music with Lemn Sissay

York Late Music commissioned me to set some poems by Lemn Sissay as part of a concert event in conjunction with York Literature Festival.

These new songs, for soprano and piano were premiered yesterday by Ana Beard Fernandez (soprano) and Kate Ledger (piano) at St Saviourgate Chapel, York.

Click here to read more about the event.

The evening began with a pre-concert conversation between me and Lemn. Lemn then read a selection of his poems and this was followed by a recital beginning with my new songs and including works by Nicola Lefanu, Steve Crowther, Benjamin Britten and Peter Reynolds.

Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay




Trailer and Programme notes for The Journey Between Us

Having spent a large part of the last 12 months working on The Journey Between Us, I would like to share a bit more information about the work on here. 

For a quick introduction, here is the trailer:

And for more detail about the process of composition read on...

The Journey Between Us

Lost Things (Narrator and Flute solo)

A Temporary Matter (Narrator)

Reflection I (Ensemble)

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Narrator)

Reflection II (Ensemble)

The Silence of Mrs Iln (Narrator)

Reflection III (Ensemble)

© Elena McDonough

© Elena McDonough

 

 

The Concept

The Journey Between Us is a music-theatre piece conceived as a dialogue between music and narrative stories. The music forms an imaginative framework and response to the stories; without being merely a soundtrack, it provides points of reflection within the performance. The music encourages the audience to make connections between the stories and their shared themes. Both the music and the stories have their own separate coherence but by inhabiting the stage together the audience is taken on a journey that traverses both worlds: the literary and the musical.

Beginnings

The idea behind this work was borne out of a love for the short story form. After attending several short story readings I was struck by the beguiling and nostalgic experience of being read to. To sit and listen to a story being read aloud took me back to childhood. It is such a wonderful experience so why do we stop doing it as adults? It is markedly different to the telling of a story through visual means such as television or film; a story read aloud puts the onus on the listener to create the world of the story in their imagination. Our modern day equivalents can be found in radio and podcasts, forms that I love dearly. However, the essential act of one person sitting and reading a story has an intimacy and immediacy that can be utterly mesmerising.

The experience of listening to a story or listening to a piece of music are not dissimilar. They both require a certain presence of mind in order to find and follow the threads of meaning and of sound. In The Journey Between Us I weave together these narrative and musical threads within the scope of an evening’s performance.

The Stories

Each of the stories I have selected, examines the interactions that occur within relationships and the complex emotions we experience when communication breaks down.

I was drawn to the work of Lydia Davis, the author of Lost Things and The Silence of Mrs Iln, for its brevity and sheer potency given such economy of means.  She is known as a very short-story writer: Lost Things is only a paragraph long. To be able to create a fictional world with so few words is a wonder and raises the question of what defines the short-story form.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver is also written in a spare style, but in a very different way to the stories of Lydia Davis. The prose is distilled down to the essential information and much of this is communicated in dialogue. Whilst the text is understated and the situation it describes is quotidian, Carver manages to address some of the ‘big’ questions: what is the nature of love and how do we begin to articulate it?

A Temporary Matter drew me in from the first line. Jhumpa Lahiri beautifully describes how the simple act of turning off the lights can give two grieving people the licence to reveal what they found impossible to say in daylight.

The Music

I have composed 4 movements in response to the stories. Three of these, entitled Reflections, are heard in between the stories. These movements could stand alone as well as acting as points of reflection and connection between the different narratives. The first movement is an introductory flute solo which is called Lost Things and is conceived as a partner piece to the short story of the same title.

Small fragments of the movements are heard within the readings providing the audience with traces of a musical thread throughout the whole performance.


The Journey Between Us

The Journey Between Us is a music-theatre piece conceived as a dialogue between music and narrative stories. The music forms an imaginative framework and response to the stories; without being merely a soundtrack, it provides points of reflection within the performance. The music encourages the audience to make connections between the stories and their shared themes. Both the music and the stories have their own separate coherence but by inhabiting the stage together the audience is taken on a journey that traverses both worlds: the literary and the musical.

Samantha Fernando: New work (World premiere)
Short Stories:
Raymond Carver: What we talk about when we talk about love
Jhumpa Lahiri: A temporary matter
Lydia Davis: The silence of Mrs Iln
Lydia Davis: Lost things

 

Personal, compelling and deeply powerful, four short stories traverse the challenges of personal relationships in modern life.

A new work by RPS award-winning composer Samantha Fernando intersperses the words, giving space for a different kind of listening. Retreat inside your own world and let the musical interludes add depths of meaning to the stories.

#BlueTouchPaper

Samantha Fernando’s work has been commissioned by London Sinfonietta Entrepreneurs Michael & Patricia McLaren-Turner and an Elliott Carter legacy.

Blue Touch Paper projects are supported by London Sinfonietta Entrepreneur Anthony Mackintosh and the Garrick Charitable Trust.

Thursday 11 – Friday 12 February 2016

7.30pm

Southwark Playhouse

Performers

London Sinfonietta
Geoffrey Paterson conductor
Lisa Dwan reader

Tickets here

Trailer: