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Living on Paper – a Question for Composers

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This week I have heard a couple of excerpts from the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week – “Living on paper”: Letters from Iris Murdoch 1934-1995.

It led me to think about the art of writing both words and music and how much technology has influenced the way that it is done today, quite possibly changing the resulting creative work.

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Silence Speaks

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Just a few seconds before 11am on Wednesday 11 November 2015, I was descending the steps into Kings Cross Underground Station in London when a voice came over the tannoy asking that we join with the staff of London Underground in 2 minutes silence to honour those people who had been killed in two world wars and more recent hostilities.

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Young Composer Voices in Cambridge

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10th November saw An Evening of New Music curated by young composers Jay Richardson and Alex Woolf, under the aegis of Young Composers’ Network*. Jay is reading Music at Pembroke College, Cambridge and Alex is in his final year at St John’s College, Cambridge. Both already have impressive CVs which include performances with national orchestras and broadcasts on national radio.

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Apple’s total immersion is good for classical music

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Announced this week is Apple’s music streaming service. Apple’s announcement was inevitable, and composers and songwriters have been predicting the dominance of streaming over downloads for years.

This could be very good for classical music. Not so much in the sense that classical music will be available in the same way as other genres, just as it is now on spotify, but looking rather more to the long term benefit, in the sense that classical music, with its distinctive characteristics, could become a stronger, legitimate and viable alternative music.

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Standing up for the BBC

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The Beeb, Aunty or just plain BBC has once more been at the heart of hot topics in press and other media.  In advance of charter renewal, due in 2016, Parliament has been conducting a review of how well the BBC is doing and has invited contributions from listeners, programme makers and competitors, alike.

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Remembering Benjamin Britten

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Although we are now firmly in 2014 and have left the Britten centennial year behind, I didn’t want to head in to the Richard Strauss 150 years, or indeed even the William Lloyd Webber 100 years celebrations without a final reflection on arguably the UK’s greatest and certainly the most influential 20th century composer.

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A giant among composers

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That’s an epithet that can apply in so many ways to Sir John Tavener – a giant of stature, a giant of thought, a giant of spirituality, a giant of musical concept and, apart from his own self-confrontation where he could be brutally judgmental, he was always a gentle giant.

I say was, of course, because he died only a few days ago on 12th November.  “Peacefully at home” is recorded in the public obituaries, but he was still writing with full force and I somehow think that he will not necessarily have gone gentle into that good night.

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Apples and Pears

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I was responding recently to a composer whose beef was that the Establishment (do we still use that term?!) continues to favour musical styles which are dissonant, complex and impenetrable and continues to disregard musical styles which are consonant, discernible and accessible.

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a beautiful autumn Norfolk morning

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It’s a beautiful autumn Norfolk morning with the mist rolling off the fields.  I’m in the mood to talk about music.  You might think that sounds strings and harps but today it means trombones!  Fields – hunting – horns – trombones – I got there somehow, so please read on. tutti has nearly 300 pieces of sheet music for trombone or bass trombone.

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Last Night in the hands of a woman!

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“The sound of a glass ceiling breaking.”  This is how the BBC Proms website describes the innovation of a woman conductor being appointed to take charge of the iconic The Last Night.  Marin Alsop, Chief Conductor of São Paulo Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, first made her name in the UK as Principal Conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.  I remember attending a performance by Alsop and the BSO of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony when she drew an exhilarating performance from the players.

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Operatic Opportunities

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Summer is here and open-air opera is upon us – Glyndebourne, Garsington and W11 to name but a few, but let me cast back a little – nominations in the ‘Best new opera production’ category for the UK’s Olivier Awards were announced just before Easter this year and it’s interesting to observe that three of the four nominated works were ENO productions. One of the three, Caligula, was by a living composer – Boosey & Hawkes published, German composer, Detlev Glanert.  The fourth nomination, also by a living composer, was staged at The Barbican – Philip Glass’s, Einstein on the Beach.

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Baroque Spring

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In one of my early tutti talks, I mentioned the BBC Radio 3 blockbuster series Baroque Spring, which was presented throughout the month of March.  This was such a dynamic and comprehensive overview of a period of music which has underpinned and nurtured so much which followed that I felt it was deserving of an entire tutti talk to itself.

When I say Baroque music has fed into the repertoire that followed it, there are great examples in 20th and 21st century music of how inspiring the baroque composers have been.

To take just a few random examples –

in jazz, the Jacques Loussier Trio and the Swingle Singers; in popular music, Procul Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale and more recently, a marvellous arrangement of Let it Be, written for Lesley Garrett and recorded on her CD The Singer.

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RIP – RRB

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tutti talk is our latest email strand and this is the first edition.

We know music is your passion – it’s our passion, too which is why we want to share with you the thoughts, ideas, events and opportunities that we hope will interest you.

The first thing to let you know is that tutti has just launched a facebook page.  It’s really easy to find but here’s a link for your first visit – www.facebook.com/tutti.co.uk.

Just in this first week, we have gained nearly 500 followers and are connected through our friends to nearly 15,000 people.  We’d love you to visit the tutti facebook page and like us.

Looking back to 2012, we saw the loss of three immensely fine composer – Elliott Carter at 103, Jonathan Harvey, 73 and Richard Rodney Bennett at 76.  They all made unique contributions to 20th and 21st century music and I’m pleased to say we have examples of their work at tutti.

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Beck’s ground breaking move

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I was fascinated recently to hear on BBC Radio 4 an item which was giving rise to much comment in the pop and rock world  because a 90’s Indie- Rock Musician, Beck, decided to make available some of his music only as sheet music with no sound recording.

Jen Chaney in an article for Celebritology in the Washington Post,commented “That’s right, Beck has written 20 new songs and if you want to listen to them at a party or while you exercise, you will have to get out a bunch of paper and read them. This is your punishment for all those free downloads. Music should not be so accessible and easy. It should be hard to get, and Beck’s here to remind you of that, okay?”

For a classically trained musician this has been intriguing, particularly when in the radio interview, the rock expert being interviewed explained that rock composers rarely write down their music and many rock musicians cannot read music.

For many years as a clarinettist, I specialised in performing new music and the joy of receiving scores that had never been performed before and of exploring new musical landscapes was only ever exceeded by the point at which I rehearsed it with other musicians when we were creating a performance together.

OK – so Jen Chaney is correct – it is not easy but it is hugely rewarding, not only individually but as a group of people creating music together!  I will be interested to see the development of the response in the pop world to Beck’s ground breaking move.

We are going to continue to introduce new music and new composers to the tutti.co.uk catalogue in 2013 and I hope that all those people who enjoy performing from sheet music will continue to explore  this “brave new world” with us.

Geraldine Allen

Women Composers in the Minority

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An interesting statistic came to light recently which claimed that of the 75,000 music-writers – composers, songwriters and lyricists – that are members of the UK royalty collecting society, PRS for Music, only 14% are women.

I think that this could relate to other genres rather than contemporary classical where there is a lot of exciting new music being created. Part of it was even discussed in breakfast time on radio 4 and there, it was emphasised quite correctly I think, that it is not so much whether they are women composers but whether they are good composers.

I remember quite vividly being told by my professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London, that he felt it was more important for his male students to succeed as they had to support a family where as most of the women when they left would give up anyway, get married and have babies. Well not this person! Incidentally, I was also told that I would have a much better chance of succeeding as a classical clarinettist, if I did not speak with a Derbyshire accent and if I went to an Anglican Church rather than a Methodist Church – but hey that was a long time ago!

It did not deter me because in the end it was the playing of music that was important to me and let’s face it to the listener as well. I suppose what can make it more difficult is that not enough women get in at the highest level in order to influence decisions.

I am still one to support good compositions and good performers whether they are male or female. However, what is important to us at tutti.co.uk and on the impulse music website is to support composers and performers so that they are at least seen and heard. Just to even the balance a bit here is a link to women composers of a great range of styles on the tutti website.

Geraldine Allen

A spark has been lost from the world of opera

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I was very sorry to hear today that Marie Hayward Segal has passed away. Whenever I think of Marie I think of her laughter. She was on several musical committees with me and we would meet at various events and I would always be glad to see her as she would brighten up every occasion that she attended. Marie was a dramatic soprano and distinguished opera singer performing at the Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne and in Europe. She has died at the age of 72 and the music profession will greatly miss her. She is survived by her son Benjamin and her grandson George who was born just after her death.

Geraldine Allen

Exciting British Music

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I have been listening to music by composers who won British Composer Awards in 2011 and it is great to get a flavour of what is being written in the UK now.
There is so much inspiring new music around but it is not always that easy to know where to begin.

All of the compositions for the British Composer Awards had to have a performance in the UK in the year before the Awards take place.

Have a look at some of these extracts by winning composers not of the winning works themselves, apart from the Sorensen which is the actual winning composition. I think there is some really exciting music here.

Outreach category won by Graham Fitkin
An extract from Log for 6 electric pianos

Vocal category won by Huw Watkins
An extract from his Violin Concert – a stunning performance by Alina Ibragimova

International category won by Bent Sorensen
An extract from the Piano Concerto, La Mattina

Wind Band or Brass Band won by Lucy Pankhurst
An extract from Wired for Brass Band

Stage Works won by Orlando Gough
An extract from Ariel Songs performed by Shout

tutti has CDs of music by many past and present British Composer Awards winners including from the above, Huw Watkins and Graham Fitkin. Well worth hearing more of. Hope you like them as much as we do.

Geraldine Allen

Remembering a great clarinet player

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Categories: british performers, clarinets, women in music
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It seems like ages ago now that I was asked to write a biography on my fellow clarinettist and friend Georgina Dobree for the online edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. It has been published this month at www.oxforddnb.com. The stuff of biography is by its nature the achievements of a lifetime but somehow you cannot convey the friendship and the laughter and the kindness of a person in such a formal setting. As well as being a terrific clarinettist, editor and publisher, Georgina was known by people in the clarinet world for her parties. Whenever there was a visiting clarinettist or bassett horn player in London there would inevitably be a party in her home to which all the clarinet fraternity would be invited too. Georgina in the 50’s and 60’s at the Darmstadt Festival intriduced more ground breaking contemporary music with composers such as Peter Maxwell Davies, Oliver Messiaen, Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez than most players will do in a lifetime. She was meticulous in researching editing and performing early music as well as commissioning new works. She died in 1998 having greatly enriched the clarinet repertoire and having been a wonderful supporter of music and players alike.

Geraldine Allen

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