PREVIEW: Trish Clowes / BBC Concert Orchestra. (Queen Elizabeth Hall. EFG LJF. Tues 18th Nov)

Clark Rundell, Trish Clowes
BBC Studios Maida Vale. September 2014

Trish Clowes, BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, looks forward to premieres of works this Tuesday 18th November, to be performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Clark Rundell, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival. Trish writes:

Tuesday will begin with a Question Mark… An invitation into an exploration of sounds and textures.

My good friend Graeme let me compose on his Steinway at his house over the summer. The first scribblings towards the end of July very quickly became the main themes of my BBC commission The Fox, The Parakeet & The Chestnut. I drew on all sorts of places for inspiration… I had to provide a title before I’d written the piece which was a new one for me - and so eventually I decided I would dedicate it to Blythe Hill Fields, the park near me in South East London. The views are incredible and I often go there for solace or reflection. (Incidentally I walk through this park to get to Graeme’s!)

I decided it would be fun to pick some characters for the title as the park is brimming with wild life, notably the green parakeets and the foxes. The trees play a vital role in the park, whispering away in the wind, providing shade in the summer, homes for animals. I once saw a parakeet taking food to her chicks in a nest inside one of those trees… And a lot of them are horse chestnuts. With three characters I realised I had the title of a musical fable! And so the story goes… a little fox who, after naughtily littering Blythe Hill Fields, makes amends by helping a little parakeet to learn to fly. Then together they tidy the park. The wise old chestnut tree provides wisdom and guidance throughout their tale.

A quirky first movement encapsulates the mischievous, playful character of the fox. The second movement aims to create a sense of the wind whispering in the horse chestnut trees, handing out tacit wisdom to anyone walking nearby. To do this I use a strings technique of bows being pulled across the bridge (whilst the strings are dampened) - I picked it up a while ago from cellist Louise McMonagle who was performing Pression by Helmut Lachenmann at the time. And the main melody of the third movement is the parakeet flying!

My commission will actually come at the end of the concert. At the beginning I will celebrate the release of my new album Pocket Compass (Basho) by performing two quintet tunes and a third with the BBC Concert Orchestra. Then we’ll hand over to Guy Barker and the orchestra for Guy’s premiere of his Soho Symphony.

Then directly before my commission in the second half, the fabulous Norma Winstone will grace the stage, performing three tunes, two arranged by Guy and one arranged by me. We’ll actually be performing Enjoy This Day which Norma and I performed together earlier this year with a string quartet - so this time we’ll have an entire string section!

It’s been an incredible opportunity to work with the BBC Concert Orchestra over the past year or so… writing the music for my album, recording it with them at Air, mixing it, integrating it with the small band music, planning the commission, workshopping with them… and getting invaluable input from conductor Clark Rundell. I’ve learned so much, and the orchestra have been so incredibly supportive - the players, their management (notably Andrew Connolly and Neil Varley), the stage crew and sound engineers - they are all there to facilitate creative music. So a big thank you to them.

And finally - I bought a new (old) saxophone this week (which is currently being fixed up so I can play it on Tuesday!) and I have called her Shirley.


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