So, that’s that! Last Thursday (24th June, 2021) I had my final performance at the RNCM after being here for two years – or at least, two terms as COVID-19 forced us to resort to virtual study for the past year or so. Being back in the building recently has been fantastic and getting the opportunity to see live orchestral concerts as part of the RNCM reunite festival has made me and many others realise how much we’ve missed it!
The piece in question was written for the first chamber orchestra concert of the festival to accompany Beethoven 4 (conducted by Sir Mark Elder) and a new piece by Fraz Ireland. For many of the performers this was the first time they have been able to perform together since lockdown, so it really was a special occasion. The piece is a fanfare for 9 brass instruments (188.8.131.52) and was a collaboration with two classmates of mine, Adam Webster and Chris Cook – both of whom are also composers.
Obviously, three composers for one piece is rather unusual, so there were many challenges that needed solving in order for us all to contribute to what would usually be a solitary process. Early ideas for the project were to have a multi movement piece or set of fanfares where we would each write one, solo. However, we fancied the challenge of genuinely collaborating on a singular piece, and I am immensely proud of the result.
Under a somewhat urgent deadline, we were forced into action without much opportunity for planning. It took us a couple of weeks of discussions where we made little progress – other than getting to know each other, which I’m sure played a big part in the success of the collaboration anyway – before we decided to just go a way and sketch. We thought it would be easier to work if we had something tangible to sculpt into a piece than to conceptually plan something with our differing opinions and ideas.
Anyway, on returning to the pub with our sketches, we were amazed at how similar they were harmonically, and were somehow able to stick them together with little need for transition. I think this shows just how good a match we all were for this unique project. We then took forward this combination which was about half of the required length we needed and then began to plan out what more needed to be done. Conceptually we decided to go along with the theme of the festival – reunite. Obviously, this is a reference to musicians and audiences (and everyone) coming together again after a year of turmoil, especially in the arts industry. Adam took this a stimulus and wrote a serene introduction to the original sketches where each instrument gradually enters after the trumpet traditionally calls everyone back to reality.
We were now left with wondering what more we could do to the piece, but eventually we decided it would be fun to attempt to recompose each other’s sketches in our own style. This was great fun and does a lot for obscuring the fact that it was written by three people rather than one, as it becomes harder to tell who wrote what, the further you get into the piece. I for one decided to develop two aspects of Chris’ section – the murmuring horns and staccato trombones. This leads onto Chris’ development of the triplet motives in my original section. Adam, expanding on Chris’ material from earlier writes a triumphant and fanfare-ic climax before my ending which attempts to incorporate all the various themes and ideas from the piece in as positive a way as I can, to welcome us back to the concert hall.