Appalachian Octet wins best performance of a NZ work

Appalachian Octet I am so proud of the Appalachian Octet from Diocesan School for Girls who has just won the National Award for the Best Performance of a New Zealand Work at the 2014 NZCT Chamber Music Contest with my piece Kiwi in Appalachia.

The musicians are:

  • Gwyneth Nelmes, violin
  • Debbie King, viola
  • Breeanah Mcbain, flute
  • Christine Li, violin
  • Rachel Sun, clarinet
  • Rebecca Brimble, bassoon
  • Clarissa Wei, bass clarinet
  • Hannah Kang, piano

As I briefly talked about in this post, it's a standalone piece commissioned for this group but it's also to be used in conjunction with my arrangement of Copland's Appalachian Spring. My programme note says:

Kiwi in Appalachia is derived from the chamber version of Aaron Copland’s seminal work, Appalachain Spring. It has been re-scored and sections from the original have been arranged to create the first part of the work. The second part is a new work composed for this group as a response to Copland's work. It is inspired by and uses motifs and ideas from the original in a new way.

They have worked so hard and have done an incredible job, so a very well deserved award for them. They will now travel to Christchurch and perform it at the National Finals of the NZCT Chamber Music Contest on the 1st - 2nd August. Gosh I might just have to book a flight too!

Here's a video of the piece, recorded at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre on Sunday 8th of June at the Auckland regionals. 0'00" - 6'46" is my arrangement, 6'47" - 11'16" is my original work. You'll get better audio if you watch it in HD.

According to the Chamber Music NZ website, during June 2014...

...507 secondary school ensembles of between three and eight musicians including 19 octets and involving close to 2000 students, took part in the District Rounds of the 49th NZCT Chamber Music Contest.

You can see all of the award winners here.

Amazing stuff, what a great festival.

A premiere unwrapped

SMCOUnwrapped This afternoon the St Matthews Chamber Orchestra gave a superb premiere of my new work for orchestra, Unwrapped, in a packed St-Matthews-in-the-City here in Auckland.

Peter Thomas, conductor, did a sublime job bringing the work to life. Here's what the reviewer had to say:

We were privileged to hear the first performance of a brand new work for orchestra composed by the Auckland–based composer Ryan Youens. Titled “Unwrapped”, the programme notes indicated that the work was intended to explore the range of emotions that are experienced when unwrapping a gift - it did not require a vivid imagination to appreciate how much the orchestration conveyed this. This composition was tuneful and the orchestration skilfully managed and well balanced, so that every section of the orchestra had its moment of glory.

I wrote it in a short but intense space of time, it's a short piece (5mins) and I only had a short time hearing the orchestra play it in rehearsal - so it was such a thrill that it was so well received, was such a great interpretation and of course in such a stunning acoustic.

This year the St Matthews Chamber Orchestra have asked several composers to write works for their subscription series - others include Alex Taylor and Louise Webster.

SMCOUnwrapped1

The St Matthews audience are not exposed to a lot of contemporary music so it was important to me to strike a balance in style while retaining musical integrity and weighting. Challenge accepted and perhaps succeeded as shown by one lady who spoke to me after the concert. She said it was:

One of the most listenable pieces of contemporary music I have heard in a long time!

If you missed the concert I am not surprised. Unfortunately the orchestra has not yet included any of the composers or their new works on promotional material or social media posts advertising the concerts. Incredibly sad for me as a composer and of course as a lover and proponent of new music. Embrace new music and give it the respect it deserves!

If they were worried about scaring away their audience then one lady made me smile by saying:

I really wasn't looking forward to it but I thought it was absolutely fantastic!

Thank you to Peter Thomas and the players of the St Matthews Chamber Orchestra for a fantastic premiere.

"Broken Record" film

Broken Record Screen Shot 1 Morgan's best man tries to help him fulfill his destiny on his last day of freedom.

I always look forward to the Rialto 48Hour Film Competition and the chance to work with the guys at Sideways Productions.

After getting through the ongoing nightmare that we may be tasked with a 'musical' - I was relieved that the team got given 'film within a film' as the genre.

They did a really great job and ended up getting the audience choice award at the heats -  but unfortunately no further successes this year.

I had fun exploring an assortment of VSL strings, a shaker or two and a "tweed picked synth" for good measure.

Here's how the music looked at my end:

Broken Record Music

I arranged the 14-or-so cues from the soundtrack into a single piece of music which you can listen to here:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/146068564" params="color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_artwork=true" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

And here's the film. WARNING: it's not for the faint-hearted...:

Starring:

  • Greg Stubbings as Morgan Foster
  • James Wells as Jeff Tyler
  • Christina Cortesi as Park Manager
  • Andy Nicholson as Frank Waldo
  • Jonathan Riley as Gary Mooney
  • Edward Newborn as Terry Bean
  • Astra McLaren as Lauren Bean
  • Gracie Taylor as Bridesmaid

Crew:

  • Directors: Allan George and Greg Stubbings
  • Writers: Allan George, Greg Stubbings and Ben Fowler
  • Producers: Ben Fowler and Allan George
  • DOP: Allan George
  • 1st Assistant Director: Aleksander Sakowski
  • Production Manager: Maha Albadrawi
  • Camera Operator/Grip/Gaffer: Ben O'Hanlon
  • Art Direction: Maha Albadrawi and Marcel Vidot
  • Boom Operator: Craig Macintosh
  • Lighting Assistant: Isaiah Vaega
  • 2nd Unit Camera Operator: Nate McKinnon
  • Make Up: Kerri Thomassen
  • Editors: Ben Fowler and Allan George
  • Colourist: Allan George
  • Audio Post-Production: Adam Peri
  • Music: Ryan Youens

Merry Christmas

christmasAnd just like that, another year is coming to an end. Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me in some way this year - that may have been with work, with ideas or just with conversation.

It has been an incredible time of music making for me with many wonderful opportunities, inspiring people to work with and some stunning ensembles and musicians to bring the music to life. Some of these include:

Auckland Philharmonia, New Zealand Symphony, Auckland Symphony, Christchurch Symphony, Auckland Youth Orchestra, St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra, Manukau Concert Band, Victoria Kelly, Neil Finn, NZTrio and Horomona Horo, Tecwyn Evans, Michael Norris, Leonie Holmes, John Rowles, Ben Hoadley, Val Landi and Scott Hunt (USA), Bluebird Avenue, Fatcat & Fishface, Alexandros Pappas (Greece), Sideways Productions, Elizabeth Mandeno and David Kelly, the Polkadots, the KBB Music Festival and The Big Sing.

Next year is going to be a big year and absolutely business as usual so get in touch to get me involved with your projects - either as a music preparer, typesetter or editor, or as an arranger and orchestrator.

Over Christmas and New Year I'll be fishing and eating too much near here, chill-axing and probably still eating too much here, and then tramping and working off the Christmas food here. I'll be back working full-time on Monday 6th January, but feel free to get in touch over the break.

To leave you with some music, earlier this year I received the New Zealand Symphony recording of my original work, Rakaia. Auckland Symphony commissioned it in 2007, the NZSO workshopped it in 2008 and then this is their recording from 2010:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/5080029" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Enjoy, and have an absolutely wonderful Christmas!

Shorts and Suites - a concert of NZ vocal music

Shorts and SuitesLast week I finished my new work for soprano and piano, Papatūānuku - based on a stunning NZ poem by John Waterman. I am hugely blessed to have written it for Elizabeth Mandeno (soprano) and David Kelly (piano). Here are the details...

The Committee would like to invite you to our final concert for the year: 'Shorts and Suites'. This will be an all vocal concert featuring new and recent song cycles (with piano accompaniment) by Auckland composers, plus a selection of vocal microscores. It will take place on Friday 22 November at 7.30pm, and the venue will be the Maclaurin Chapel on Princes St (next door to the ClockTower). With funding from Auckland Council Arts Alive, we have been able to engage some very fine local performers for this concert.

THE WORKS Helen Bowater, A Rough Sea for the Crossing, Claire Scholes (mezzo) Anthony Young, Night swimming, Te Oti Rakena (baritone) David Hamilton, No Other Heaven, Steven Rapana (tenor) Ryan Youens, Papatūānuku, Elizabeth Mandeno (soprano)

Plus a selection of vocal microscores (1 minute works), recently commissioned by The Committee in a 'call for scores'.

THE PERFORMERS Elizabeth Mandeno - soprano Claire Scholes - mezzo Steven Rapana - tenor Te Oti Rakena - baritone David Kelly - piano

THE DETAILS Shorts & Suites Maclaurin Chapel, University of Auckland, 18 Princes St Friday 22 November 2013 at 7.30pm Tickets: $17/$10 on the door only

Listen to Anthony Young from The Committee talk about the concert on Upbeat:

Please invite your friends and and family - the more the merrier!

"Tiraki" steps out into the world

Hamish McKeich applauses A week ago today my new work for organ and orchestra, "Tiraki", was premiered by the Auckland Philharmonia.

It went fantastically well, I was very happy, as was my fantastic organist, Nick Forbes. The overall structure worked, we developed an exciting organ part and the orchestrations were exactly how I envisioned.

Tiraki organist Nick Forbes taking applause

Thanks to everyone who came to the concert or tuned in live on Radio NZ and provided us with such positive comments about the piece.

Congratulations also goes to the wonderful David Hamilton, Anthony Young, Robbie Ellis, Ben Hoadley and Chris Adams for their superb premieres.

Here is an interview from Radio New Zealand's Arts On Sunday programme on 26th May with Hamish McKeich, Kerry Stevens, Nick Forbes and myself talking about the collaboration and concert (recorded before the concert, broadcast after the concert).

[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/94380327" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Auckland Philharmonia to premiere "Tiraki"

I am super excited to have my work for organ and orchestra, "Tiraki", premiered next week by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with the superb Nick Forbes on organ. APO Organ

Organ Spectacular - 8pm, Thursday 23rd May, Auckland Town Hall, BUY TICKETS HERE

CONCERT PROGRAMME

  • David Hamilton, Chimera, John Wells
  • Anthony Young, Theme & Variations for Organ & Orchestra, Rachael Griffiths-Hughes
  • Robbie Ellis, Relish in Immature Bombast, Timothy Noon (+ Jono Sawyer drumkit)
  • Ryan Youens, Tiraki, Nicholas Forbes
  • Ben Hoadley, Huia, Indra Hughes
  • Chris Adams, Mahuika, Nicholas Sutcliffe

Here is a collation of various details about my work:

PROGRAMME NOTE

'Tiraki' is a verb meaning 'to clear the sky of clouds'. In it I have explored the different layerings and textures created between the organ and orchestra, illustrating the nature and behaviour of the clouds. The work is structured in three sections and focuses entirely on the programmatic meaning of 'Tiraki'.

The first 'rather angry' section is very dense and fast moving with surprises along the way - representing a storm. The middle 'mysteriously calm' section is the calm after the storm - the music empties out but retains a slightly ominous feel to it. It finishes with a 'pleasantly refreshing' section where the music, and the clouds, gather life and a playful spirit once again.

It has been an absolute pleasure combining the two kings of music - an organ and a symphony orchestra - with an idea that had been simmering away for some time. Huge thanks goes to Nicholas Forbes who has been a superb collaborator and to the Auckland Philharmonia for this opportunity.

Q AND A WITH SOUNZ

1.  You’ve talked about using single-note melodies in the organ part – do you also use a range of organ stops to compare with various orchestral instruments? 2.  What particular ideas did Nicholas bring to the development of the piece? 3.  What do you want listeners to take away with them after hearing the piece?

Q AND A WITH THE APO

1.  things you discovered about the Town Hall organ After my first tour of the organ I was absolutely blown away with its complexity and beauty - which of course most people never get to see. While the possibilities are (almost!) endless, it became clear early that I was never going to be able to show off all of it and I needed to stick with the sound world of 'Tiraki' and the stops that supported that.

2.  what you utilised in particular of the organ in your piece There are huge heavily chordal climaxes in 'Tiraki' where the organ can easily overpower the orchestra, then there are light, playful, polyphonic passages where the organ is on par with the woodwinds. So I've utilised the massive capabilities of volume and texture and also the function that goes with that - where the orchestra and organ can really fight each other and develop huge tension, or can work together amazingly well towards a single goal.

3.  how your piece may have evolved as you learned more about the organ I really had no idea how an organ worked before this opportunity. That soon changed, but with loads of experience in orchestral writing, the initial orchestrations are what gave me my first insight into how the piece was going to evolve. I knew I didn't want the organ always in the forefront, but rather let it have moments and then let it sink into the texture and play other functions above that of a soloist. So I think what developed during the process for me was how quickly and easily you could change colours, the extent in which you could change them and how much those changes affected where the organ sat in the overall texture.

4.  what you like most about the organ part for your piece One of my favourite passages is in the middle of the work where the strings have sustained chords mixed with glissandi and the organ has high, clean and clear thematic lines, occasionally highlighted by the woodwinds, over a very low, very breathy and pulsating rumble - such contrasts which are only simultaneously possible on the organ.

5.  what you are looking forward to most about the performance of the piece in May Just to hear a really great concert of new organ music - the pieces are all so different so it's going to be a great night. Us composers have all heard the pieces in various stages during 2012, with different ideas being tried and options explored - so I'm just really looking forward to hearing the final versions, to see how we've all used the organ differently and how we've all tamed the beautiful beast that is the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

See you there!

I survived 2012. This is how it was!

The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself! January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".

christmas-musicFinally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.

Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!