Adopt A Composer – February update

Last week I met with the orchestra again! My mentor David Horne was able to come to this rehearsal, which was very useful.

I now have the first 2 or 3 minutes of the piece pretty much completed the way I want them, and a plan for the rest. The piece is developing into a tone poem based on a baby elephant growing up – she’s born, finds her feet, finds her voice, flees a forest fire, and finds her family again afterwards. I might be a little biased here as I’ve got two young daughters – as I said to the orchestra, you work with what you know…

At first I hadn’t mentioned the programme of the piece to them, and the first few minutes of the rehearsal were a bit stop-start. But as soon as I started talking about that, there was suddenly a “click” in the sound of the orchestra as they knew what they were portraying, and the reasons I’d written what I had.

There have been a few changes in lineup for the concert – we now have 2 trumpets and 1 trombone instead of vice versa, rather more French horns than I thought, and more percussion instruments available. The number of clarinets and flutes has meant I’ve ended up using each section as a homophonic block quite frequently, and the brass also form a block. This has meant a lot of five-note chords emerging as I’m estimating we have 5-6 of each (maybe 7 brass), which I’ve built on quartal harmony. A four-note quartal chord sounds a bit empty (A-D-G-C) but add an E to that and suddenly you’ve got a C major with a couple of notes added, or an A minor chord with a couple of notes added, depending on how the listener wants to hear it. We have three saxophones to contrast with that, as well.

I met with David afterwards (for info, the Stamford Bridge pub in Barrow does a lovely lunch) and we were able to talk about how the piece is going.

Journeys were a little chaotic again, still due to the same floods! There’s a bridge washed out between Edinburgh and Lockerbie, so trains are replaced by buses – ugh. Fortunately I’d travelled over the night before, so the unexpected 2-hour delay on the way didn’t matter.

I have a lot of work to do over the next few weeks, so I’d better get back to it!