Programme notes for Janya

A general update on #AdoptAComposer, and the programme notes that I’ve given to JMCO for “Janya” – these may not be exactly what appears in the programme, but hopefully you’ll all find them interesting. The performance is on 9th July, at 7.30pm in Caldy Valley Church, Chester – if you’re coming along please get in touch! Tickets are reasonably priced, but I can probably arrange a couple of comps if necessary.

“Janya” was written for JMCO through Making Music’s Adopt A Composer
scheme. It’s been great to get to know the orchestra personally, and have
time to try out several drafts and sections of the piece before finalising
them; everyone in the orchestra has been really enthusiastic about having
a new piece written for them, and I couldn’t have done it without them.

The genesis of the piece came from my first visit to Chester, back in
December; after meeting with the orchestra and hearing them play, we went
for lunch in Chester Cathedral, and outside the cathedral I encountered
the statue of Janya by Annette Yarrow (who sadly died in November 2015).
This little elephant made a big impact on me! The celebratory opening
fanfare of the piece came to me a few days later, and everything launched
from there…

Working with this orchestra has been a great experience too. The makeup of
the orchestra is unusual – with 5 or 6 flutes and clarinets, a saxophone
section, and rather fewer strings than usual, but that has also driven the
development of the piece; you’ll hear the flutes and clarinets playing
multi-part chords and imitating flocks of birds, which I couldn’t do with
only two of each, and the saxophones add an unusual tone colour.

The piece is essentially programmatic, or a tone poem. Our little elephant
Janya is born, finds her feet and learns to walk, finds her own voice and
learns to sing with her herd – and then there’s a forest fire and the herd
has to flee! Finally, after swimming a river to escape, the family are
reunited, and a new life begins – maybe Janya’s own child?

(Janya is an Asian elephant – they often live in forests, so fleeing a
forest fire is sometimes part of their lives.)

The piece is also more personal than it might appear. I have two young
children (born in 2012 and 2015) and the process of raising them has been
wonderful but hectic. “Janya” is partly about a little elephant and her
journey – but it’s also about my children, everyone’s children, and the
journey of life, whether you’re a human or an elephant.