I have just had a wonderful and intense weekend working with French conductors on my music. The weekend was organised by la Fédération Musicale de Franche-Comté organised by their inspiring Artistic Director and conductor Miguel Etchegoncelay. Congratulations to conductors’ Antoine Salvi, Antoine Rabut, Laurent Silvant and Celine Pellmont for their professional and enthusiastic work on my pieces (Earthrise & Tilbury Point). The weekend was held in two locations, Befort in the Franche-Comté région and Strasbourg where all conductors worked with the Conservatoire Strasbourg Brass Band. We also had much time to discuss repertoire and the roll of conductor as communicator and musician as well as how to ensure the future of our musical heritage both in France and elsewhere. It is always a joy to learn how others make music – Thank you to one and all!!
I am in the final stages of completing my musical collaboration with Malene Sheppard Skaerved (Words) and Reed Thomas (conductor). “A Richer Dust” is subtitled Symphony No.1 for Speaker & Wind Orchestra and is written and dedicated to Dr Reed Thomas and the Middle Tennessee State University Wind Ensemble. The work is just short of 50 minutes in duration and deals with the subject of mans inhumanity and bigotry to his fellow man – for me personally, this is a heartfelt project, poignant in an age of populist politics, xenophobia and negative-nationalism.
Here are several of the opening lines from Malene Sheppard Skaerved’s powerful words:
soldiers missing too
horror terror violence war
if only it was someone else’s son –
listen to me –
war is the health of the state
dirtied bloodied stinking
The title `A Richer Dust’ comes from a line in Rupert Brooke’s famous poem `The Soldier’ – `In that rich earth a richer dust concealed’. .
“A Richer Dust” will receive its world premiere in the spring of 2015 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, USA.
Just received a wonderful CD Box-Set of the Banda Sinfonica Municpal De Madrid conducted by their brilliant, brilliant conductor and Musical Director Rafael Sanz-Espert. I am very proud that my `Samurai’ is one of the works that Rafael has recorded for this collection and that I was lucky enough to be in the audience in the National Concert Hall Madrid for this performance earlier in the year – Many thanks to all that made this wonderful set of recordings possible!!!
`Samurai’ is published by Maecenas music
`Where A Scarlet Flower Will Blossom’ performed by Belgian Flugel Horn player Sebastien Rousseau. This piece is written as a short epitaph to WWI nurse Edith Cavell who was shot by firing squad in Brussels in 1915. `Where A Scarlet Flower Will Blossom’ is taken from a larger work for Flugel Horn and String Orchestra entitled the `The Scarlet Flower’.
The writer and poet Martin Westlake wrote this poem to go with this work.
THE SCARLET FLOWER
The priest leaves and the guards lock the door, shaking their heads.
Matron Cavell sits straight-backed on the wooden chair
(So recently an altar) and tidies her nightgown.
She places her hands on her knees, stares down at the herring bone parquet
And frowns in momentary calculation.
Six hours remain to her – six hours.
Her life’s little day is ebbing swiftly to its close.
Her affairs are in order, her letters are written,
Her clock is bequeathed, her soul is prepared.
There will be no fear or shrinking and certainly no weeping;
For the gas light burns all night and the guards check regularly.
She smiles at the flowers her girls had sent her,
Now faded and wilted in the cell’s enamel jug.
She kneels, joins her hands,
And gazes at the crucifix on the wall.
Cast thy heart firmly on the Lord,
And fear not the judgment of men.
If it be Thy will I should be in darkness
Be Thou blessed.
The guards’ voices echo in the prison corridor.
She raises a trembling hand to the stern, pale brow
Where a scarlet flower will blossom
Later that same morning.
The joy of my life is continually thanking musicians for the performances that they give of my compositions. Saturday 18th October saw the UK Premiere of `Storm Surge’ given by Maidstone Wind Symphony under the excellent direction of Jonathan Crowhurst. What made this occasion also special, was that the poet Martin Westlake read his wonderful and evocative poem at the start of the composition. I also found the imagination behind the performance impressive and brave with a dry-ice machine, and strobe-lighting as well as other artistic effects deployed. `Storm Surge’, is a musical representation of the devastating North Sea storm surge (in Dutch, Watersnoodramp) of 1953. This has to be one of the most ambitious ensembles as far as new material is concerned in the UK – Long may it continue!!! Other work in the concert included Gustav Holst: Hammersmith, Johan de Meij: Symphony No 1 and Torstein Aagaard Nilsen: Arctic Funk. I look forward to the next visionary experience in Maidstone.
Short Clip from the `Storm Surge’ recording session at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag, Netherlands 12/11/13 with the band of the Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine under the baton of Peter Kleine Schaars.
Diana Mathews (Viola) gave an earth-shattering performance of Nigel’s solo Viola work `Flashpoint’ in St John’s Church, Spencer Hill, Wimbledon last week (14/10/14). Diana had been helping Nigel update and edit `Flashpoint’ which dates back to 1990 and was originally written for Jane Atkins.
`Flashpoint’ is published by Peter Edition.
Diana Mathews’s live performance from last week in Wimbledon
Congratulations to the Marian Catholic High School Marching Band from Chicago Heights, USA. They have yet again had another wonderful season of musical achievements. The band on Saturday 27th October finished in first place in Class 2A in the Bands of America Regional Championships in Indianapolis, and placed third in the finals behind two Class 4A schools from Indiana.
The wining performance included a special arrangement of my wind orchestra work `Earthrise’ along with work by composers John Mackey (Frozen Cathedral) and Michael Giacchino (The Kronos Wartet).
The next big challenge for the Marian Catholic High School Marching Band will be on the 12th November in the US Grand Nationals, in Indianapolis.
Good Luck to all participants!!!!
Peter Sheppard Skaerved performs `Loulan’ while on tour in Estonia with the `Prairie Home Companion’ – August 2014
Nigel Clarke ‘Loulan’
PETER SHEPPARD SKӔRVED (Violin)
Filmed by Daniel L Johnson
14. august 2014 kell 13 Väravatorn
Gate Tower, Tallinn, Estonia
Concert presented by Eesti Kontsert
with thanks to Madis Kolk & Tiiu Valper
Thank you to all the students, musicians and organisers of the Corazon Verde Festival of Music (the Green Heart Festival) in Paraiso, Costa Rica. I had a fantastic time working with you all and of course giving the world premiere of my ‘Old World Overture’ – a special thanks to Mauricio Solano and Dr Reed Thomas who made the whole week world-class!!! Many new friends (Manuel, Adrian, Gabriel, Jose, Evelyn, Sol, Jo, Valeria, Presilla, Fiio and of course Mauricio plus many others ) and many great memories from Costa Rica!!!!!!
27 marching bands took part in this year’s marching bands competition in the Corazon Verde Festival, and a one-week music course was organised bringing together students to form the Corazon Verde Festival Wind Orchestra under the direction of Dr Reed Thomas (Director of Bands at Middle Tennessee State University). Much of the landscape of Costa Rica is covered by spectacular rain forest which is also home to 5 percent of the world’s total bio-diversity. To highlight environmental concerns, the entrance fee for each band wishing to participate in the festival was 5000 aluminum drink cans which were to be re-cycled after the festival.
I wrote a new work called `Old World Overture’ which was written as a musical gift from the Old World to the New World and is dedicated to Mauricio Solano and the musicians and organisers of the Corazon Verde Festival. I based this piece on traditional Balkan folk music heard while holidaying on the banks of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia in the summer of 2013.`Old World Overture’ is energetic and dance-like in style, with contrasting moments of eccentricity and humour. I look forward to ‘passing forward’ my positive experiences in Costa Rica by writing a work based on their musical culture gifted to another part of the world in the future!
The world Premiere of `Old World Overture’