My piece Land Cycle was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Wednesday 25th January at 9.30pm, together with interviews with the choir and myself about the piece. Listen on the iPlayer (from 2:06:54).
I wrote the piece with and for La Nova Singers, getting to know the group through workshops, conversations, and listening to their regular rehearsals, learning about what they enjoyed and what was special about their sound - then experimenting with fragments, trying out larger ideas with the group, and developing the finished piece.
There's more about how I wrote the piece in my blog article for Making Music.
This very rewarding composition process came about through the Adopt A Composer project, run by Making Music UK with Sound and Music, working with BBC Radio 3 and funded by PRS Foundation.
The piece is in three sections, each one exploring how a different season affects the land.
WINTER ENDING uses words the poem Thaw by Edward Thomas, a war poet who wrote much of the countryside;
SPRING BURSTING sets the poem Invocation by Shaun Gardiner, a writer and artist living in Orkney with whom I have collaborated for several years;
SUMMER HEAT is adapted from Li Po's In the Mountains on a Summer Day. Li Po was an 8th century Chinese poet.
PART 1: WINTER ENDING
(Edward Thomas - Thaw)
Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass.
PART 2: SPRING BURSTING
(Shaun Gardiner - Invocation)
The garden has been sown with dragon’s teeth;
Summer brazens through the mulch of spring,
Itself the chewed stuff of autumn. Beneath,
The flowers draw their blades. Trees cast leaves, fling
Upon the lower world their cuckoospell
Of shadow, shuddering the pollen; warm snow.
Thousand-coated, million-mated world, swell -
For the year’s yolk is in its overflow
And over-golden, too big for any shell.
PART 3: SUMMER HEAT
(Adapted from Li Po - In the Mountains on a Summer Day)
Gently I stir a white feather fan,
With open heart sitting in a green wood.
I take off my cap and hang it on a jutting stone;
A wind from the pine-trees trickles on my bare head.
Land Cycle was created in collaboration with La Nova Singers, commissioned by Making Music as part of Adopt a Composer, in partnership with Sound and Music and PRS for Music Foundation, and recorded by BBC Radio 3. The piece is dedicated to La Nova Singers.
By the way, I'm currently working on a new version of the piece for mixed choir. Please do get in touch if you're interested in performing it!