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Blog Archive: August 2007

Composer’s Legacy

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Categories: british composers
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I cannot even guess how long it is since I wrote a blog – too busy writing for everything else but something happened this week which nudged me into scribbling a note today! I heard at the beginning of the week that a friend and colleague of mine the composer, Graham Whettam had died last Friday. I first got to know Graham in the 1980s when I was performing a series of concerts featuring British Music and one of those pieces was the Whettam Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano. There were some tempo markings in the music which I did not think made sense. As a performer, I have never been able or even tried to compose music but I have always been deeply immersed in the performing of music as a creative art. Perhaps this needs a bit more explaining – I mean that the composer envisages what they think the music should sound like but the realisation of the composition only comes to fruition when it is performed. Many composers with modern technology can indeed get a very clear picture of how it should sound but adding the individual performer is what is the final part of the composition (I suspect some composers may disagree with this!) The final bit of the jigsaw (for the peformer) is communicating the work with the audience – the ambience of the hall, the acoustic, the instruments being used and the audience will all influence that. And so it was, back in the 1980’s that I came across the work of Graham Whettam and rather than play the music at a tempo marking which for me seemed far too fast for the interpretation, I gave him a call! That call led on to me performing the Sonatina frequently from Music Clubs to the Wigmore Hall and recording it for radio 3 and this in turn led to two new commissions – Impromptu for solo clarinet and Graham whettam’s second clarinet concerto which was dedicated to me and written in memory of my sister Jennifer who had tragically died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 33. I also performed and broadcast Graham’s first clarinet concerto as well as giving numerous performances of other arrangements of his music. As I have mentioned previously my performing career then came to an abrupt halt in 1993 when I had a road accident which stopped me performing professionally.

Hearing that Graham had died brought an era to a close but as his widow Janet said to me – he has left his music legacy for us to enjoy. Try listening to Caroline Clemmow and Anthony Goldstone in their recordings of Graham Whettam’s music for solo piano and piano duet for sale on tutti.co.uk.

Geraldine Allen

passionate about singing

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Categories: eclectic music
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What is it about the human voice that captivates in both composition and performance? Yes, I know, I am trying to deflect your inevitable comment that I was supposed to have written about the Summer Sing two Wednesdays ago, that’s two whole Wdnesdays or 8 days – a lifetime to the dedicated blogger. My defence as always is that life got in the way, and really there can be no better impediment to writing about life than life itself. Hmm, this is clearly going to be one of those philosophical ones! OK, you ask (or maybe you don’t!) which bits of life? Diary says (that’s an oblique reference to Little Britain for the uninitiated) Norfolk – and it would be right! Norfolk is a hideaway which belongs to my brother Nick who is an equestrian (not a note of music in his entire being, bless ‘im) and deeply involved with the 2008 para-olympics in Hong Kong. Norfolk is so utterly different from what our lives constitute most of the time that it is always a glorious and most welcome entr’acte. We live simply, eat simply, drink simply too much, walk miles, visit some of the most extraordinary churches these Isles have to offer and even bird watch. Well here’s a thing. While walking from Hardley to Chedgrave and back, a distance of a little more than 8 miles (that’s nearly 13 kilometres to our continental neighbours) and visiting St Margaret’s Hardley which is little changed from its Norman beginnings and All Saints Chedgrave which provided a welcome cuppa, we dropped off at the bird hide by Hardley Flood. What do you think we found there? You would never guess so don’t even try . . . A memorial plaque to Olivier Messiaen. The inside of the hide has a row of little brass plaques which commemorate all sorts and conditions of men and women who liked the locale, were ardent bird-watchers, had made an impression on the dedicator’s life or were simply nice people and in amongst them all was one Olivier M. to whom bird song had meant so much as a composer. I took a photograph and felt warmed! I know this started out as a eulogy to the human voice . . . it has got lost somewhere along the way and turned out to be not so philosophical after all. Bird song, human voice, creative inspiration, memories – there are bound to be 101 connections. Much to my surpise, we have not a drop of Messiaen on tutti, neither sheet music nor recordings, BUT we do have a rather good work for meultiple double basses, called, Bird, Lake, Stone, River by composer Michael Hynes . . . “atmospheric stillness and calm. An ethereal soundworld . . .” saith the blurb.

Sarah Rodgers

passionately preparing

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Categories: live performance
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Well, I’m still sharpening pencils and today I have managed to tie up a lot of loose ends which would otherwise niggle away while I am trying to get down to the heart of the matter. I actually managed to create the Finale file where the Impulse Edition of the new work will be published – that is a statement of intent! Tomorrow evening I’m going to lead a ‘Summer Sing’ with the choir who are commissioning the work – the Islington Choral Society. This is a great idea, (which could only be put into action by those completely passionate about their singing), whereby, those unfortunate souls left behind while others prance about en vacances, gather together under the batons of guest conductors to explore some new repertoire. This is particularly good from my point of view as it gives me a chance to get acquainted with the musicians for whom I am writing and their ways of working. I also get to hear something of their strengths and weaknesses, abhorrences and passions, too! I’m going to work with them on breathing, articulating, listening and feeling (well that will all get done in 30 minutes, won’t it!!) and then lay on them a little gem of a choral piece by Grieg which I heard performed a couple of months back by the choir of St George’s Chapel, Windsor – entirely captivating. It is Grieg’s setting of Ave Maris Stella, edited by my good mate, John Rutter.

Now I absolutely cannot write today without referring to an experience about which I feel intensely passionate – last night’s Prom concert. Anybody out there hear it? A chunky programme full of promise with Brahms, Elgar and Strauss (Richard) on offer. The band was the RPO, but I cannot believe what was done to them in rehearsal to produce such extraordinarily inappropriate interpretations. The playing was fine and heartfelt but to my ears, completely off the interpretative radar: Brahms, whimsical and over-sweetly full of vibrato and this was the St Anthony Variations for goodness sake – variations on a theme by Haydn. I hoped for better in the Enigma Variations, but the performance was so precious and placed and saccharine, I could barely listen; as well as the tempi being up the shoot – Nimrod was so slow I thought he’d fallen asleep – so much for the mighty hunter. Regrettably, so much of this had stuck in the craw to the extent that I couldn’t hang in there to listen to the Strauss Oboe Concerto – my loss I fear. I’ll make myself feel better by giving you a link to all the oboe music we have on tutti.

Sorry to moan, but really, Brahms and Elgar are Saxons, not Siamese (no offence to anyone oriental intended!) I’ll let you know how I get on with the Islington bunch, but not ’til Wednesday.

Sarah Rodgers

no pain, no passion

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Categories: composing today
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So, today is the day after the day on which I should have started a new commission and I promised myself, come August 1st, I would put pencil to paper. It didn’t happen and I could give oh so many reasons why not – visitors (composer Ian McQueen and pianist Clive Swansbourne ) – distractions (Clive was stung by a wasp on his finger – not good for a pianist) – indulgence (too much amber nectar; well – cava, malt whiskey, wine and cognac actually, but don’t tell my doctor!) – over-exercising (had a work out session with personal trainer at the gym – my those sumo squats are something else!) – passionate thoughts about restructuring tutti. Long enough list? Enough of the obfuscation! If truth be told, it’s the same old, never goes away, dare I start? Of course I do, but how? I know, I’ll sharpen my pencils – that would be something like 300 so that should take an hour or so. Hmm, thirsty work – time for a cup of tea. Oh look, the acer is thirsty too, must water it. That reminds me, have I fed the orchid recently. Talking of feeding, what are we giving Ian and Clive for a dessert? and SO it goes on. This is the painful bit, but without it I won’t get to the passionate bit! Should I tell you what I am about to write? No, I think I had better wait until I get started – probably later today if all the pencils are sharp . . .

Sarah Rodgers

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