Plenty of music for Music Month

LBCConcertBandCAMP Well it's the last day of NZ Music Month, so that's a good excuse to post about a few projects I've been working on lately. I've been a bit quiet online in recent months so here's a good chance to make up for that.

Picture This! is a new work I've written for the Long Bay College Concert Band. They won gold at the KBB Music Festival last year so a new work had to take shape! I spent last weekend with them at their rehearsal camp and had loads of fun. Look out for Picture This! at this year's festival.

My friends at Diocesan School for Girls have commissioned two new works for their groups:

I ask of you no poetry is for their award-winning elite choir, St Cecelia Singers, and is written for SSA choir, handbells and organ (with text by Madeleine Ballard). Kiwi in Appalachia is for their chamber ensemble consisting of flute, Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 violins, viola and piano (cello part also available). It's a standalone piece but for this group was written to be used in conjunction with my arrangement of Copland's Appalachian Spring. I'm hoping to get along to see some rehearsals soon and will post some performance dates when available.

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I have also just written Unwrapped for the St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra which was premiered last Sunday. I've written about it here, check it out.

Back in April was the 48Hour Film Festival and although we didn't get far this year with our film, On The Rocks, it was great to work with the guys from Sideways Productions once again. The music turned out nicely (finally, I got to use almost all strings!) and I later arranged it into a one movement work - listen here:

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Another film by these guys that I did the music for, Sounds Perfect, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival during May - I posted about it here, check it out.

ASO PromsIn conducting news I had a great weekend down at the Bay of Plenty Music School working with the concert band. I was so happy with the standard they reached - read about my weekend here. I'm also currently working with the Auckland Symphony Chorus - preparing them for the Auckland Symphony Orchestra's hugely popular "Night of the Proms" concerts at the end of June. Great to have "Song of the Lonely Mountain" as part of the programme - a song I did the preparation of for "The Hobbit" movie two years ago.

That's all for now. A few other projects on the go, but I'll save those for a future post!

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.

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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.