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12 Jun  

Swedish composer Sven-David Sandström died on Monday. He was 76.


Following studies of art history and musicology, Sandström studied composition with Ingvar Lidholm at the Royal College of Music, Stockholm. Other influential teachers were Györgi Ligeti and Per Nørgård. 


Sandström first came to international attention in 1974, when the Concertgebouw Orchestra played his Through and Through. Whilst this confirmed his position as a leading Scandinavian modernist, his style softened in the decade that followed, becoming simpler and more directly neo-Romantic. 


Sandström wrote more than 500 works in most genres, though he became particularly associated with choral music. Many of these works were consciously modelled on the works of old masters, particularly Bach. High Mass (1994) uses the same textual layout of Bach’s B Minor Mass, his Magnificat (2005) uses baroque instruments and his six motets use the same texts and choral disposition as those by Bach. He also wrote a Christmas Oratorio (2004), St. Matthew and St. John Passions and a large-scale Messiah (2009) after Handel. Significant works in other genres include his any stage collaborations with choreographer Per Jonsson, percussion works written over twenty years for the Kroumata Percussion Ensemble, Culminations for Orchestra (1976), Cello Concerto (1988), Piano Concerto (1990), the opera Jeppe: The Cruel Comedy (2001) and Six Pieces for Piano Trio and Orchestra (2010). 


From 1985 to 1995 Sandström taught at Stockholm’s Royal College of Music and later at Indiana University, U.S. He was awarded the Christ Johnson Prize in 1974 for Through and Through, the Nordic Council Award in 1984 for his Requiem De ur alla minnen fallna, the Buxtehude Award in 1987, the Christ Johnson Major Award in 1995 for his High Mass and the Swedish Music Publishers’ Award in 2013 for a second Requiem setting.


Sven-David Sandström – In the Footprints of Bach

6 Jun  







Tête à Tête, one of the the best places to experience new opera, has just announced its 2019 festival programme. 

Always responsive to the artistic environment, themes this year include mythology, loss and transitions. It seeks also to remind us that, though times are dark, through music, art and connection, things ‘might be okay.’ 

If you’ve not been before, you should prepare yourself for the thought-provoking, the banal, the novel, the farcical and the controversial. Given the sheer number of works (30 this year), there is a an inevitable element of hit-and-miss to the proceedings. The festival makes a virtue of this—it is the place to experience opera in its rawest, most experimental form. You’ll occasionally be enraged but you won’t be bored.

Highlights this year include a Tête à Tête Puccini massacre entitled Madame Butterflop, which promises to ‘enervate the most discerning of operatic cognoscenti while giving uproarious pleasure to newcomers to the art form’ and The Perfect Opera, ‘a satirical piece that crams the 49 tropes expected of an opera into one hip hop foxtrot operatic sketch comedy show.’ Following the mythology theme, Growth of the Silk chronicles a fable about a woman whose hair won’t stop growing, the Chinese folktale The Bridge of Magpies recounts the myth of magpies helping a separated pair of lovers, Her Face Was Of Flowers encompasses the Welsh myth of a woman composed of flowers and The Cruel Sister sees a girl drowned, before her bones are turned into a violin.

There are two site-specific works, The Key, based upon the Japanese novel by Junichiro Tanizaki will be performed in a private Dulwich residence and Duncan House takes its named from a block of flats in Camden, where it will also be performed.

The theme of loss is explored in One Art, a monodrama exploring the poet Elizabeth Bishop’s response to loss through her poetry; Of Body and Ghost, a poetic dance-opera inspired by the ageing body and humanity’s desperation to delay the inevitability of bodily decline; and Voice(less), which uses voice and electronics to explore the loss of voice due to trauma or socio-political pressures. Other works that tap into the zeitgeist include Memories in Mind, a piece blending song and film about the Windrush Generation, and Be A Doll, an electroacoustic toy opera about a woman struggling so much with sociocultural messages to be the ‘perfect’ woman that she cannot tell if she is a human or a doll. The festival will also see the return of its pop-up operas, with We Did Our Best and Aliens In The Street, both of which explore environmental themes.

To learn more and to book tickets:


6 Jun  


Congratulations to the eight composers who will form Sound and Music’s New Voices 2019 cohort. These are:


Sharon Gal


Emily Levy


Jamie Hamilton


Lisa Busby


Max Syed-Tollan


Mella Faye


Otto Willberg


Marv Radio 


In addition ten shortlisted composers were recipient’s of a Sound and Music Seed Award:


Andre Borges 

Ben Lunn

Olie Brice  

Daniel Potter (Warsnare)

Laura Campbell  

Ana Quiroga

Cameron Dodds 

Emmanuelle Waeckerle

Kassia Flux 

Una Lee


Further details about all those selected available here.

31 May  

C:T talks to U.S. composer Mark Grey. Hot from the world premiere of his grand opera Frankenstein in La Monnaie, Brussels, he is now working on a new chamber opera, Birds in the Moon, which will be performed next year.

Mark Grey

Tell us a little about your new opera, Birds in the Moon.

The storyline for BIRDS is loosely based on the eccentric theory penned by 17th Century scientist Charles Morton, who hypothesized that birds migrate to the moon. According to Morton, birds migrated every year to the moon where they fed and reproduced. He believed that the majority of birds came back to earth with their offspring, yet the rest of them were simply lost in space. Charles Morton's eccentricity serves the libretto with its main theme, the journey of the migrant - using the bird as a metaphor for a person, and the moon as a metaphor for a promised land or the wealthy countries of the so-called first world. 

Some of the most important sociopolitical issues we will continue to face in this century are no doubt immigration, migration, human trafficking and human rights. Our BIRDS is certainly hinged around these larger topics, but focuses on a fantastical story of one migrant's journey and her child's fate. 

BIRDS probes the fragility and vulnerability of the people who live on the economic, physical and psychological fringes in our society. Dishonesty, a lack of dignity, insolence, falsehood, unjustified use of force, inequality and corruption have become values in the narratives of the dominant elites in both political and economic spheres - all while hiding the real interests of money and power. It's an integrally transcultural fable, belonging to the native peoples of North and South America as well as to the first Iberian tribes, contemporary Syrian mothers, sub-Saharan, Eurasian and Oceanic sons and daughters. Ultimately, it is a story of hope, deception and courage. 

>> Read the rest of the interview here

24 May  

Congratulations to the Ivor Academy winners, which were announced yesterday at Grosvenor House, London. The Ivors celebrate excellence in songwriting and screen composition in 2018.


The full list, including those nominated was as follows: 


Best Album






Best Contemporary Song






Best Original Film Score






Best Original Video Game Score


ASSASSIN’S CREED ODYSSEY  by Michael Georgiades, Joe Henson and Alexis Smith

Q.U.B.E. 2 by David Housden



Best Song Musically and Lyrically






Best Television Soundtrack


FLOWERS (SERIES 2) by Arthur Sharpe 


REQUIEM by Natasha Khan and Dominik Scherrer WINNER


PRS Most Performed Work






There were also individual awards for international achievement, outstanding song collection, PRS for Music Outstanding Contribution to British Music, PRS for Music International Award, Songwiters of the Year, The Ivors Inspiration Award and The Ivors Jazz Award. The full list is available here.

22 May  

The death has been reported of British-Canadian composer Derek Holman. 


Born in Cornwall he was educated at Truro School, the Royal Academy and the University of London. Various teaching posts followed, including at Westminster Abbey Choir School, at the Royal School of Church Music and, following his decision to emigrate to Canada in 1965, at University of Toronto. Throughout his career he also held organist and choir-master postings, his last being at St. Simon's Bloor St, Toronto.


Holman’s composing output was considerable and produced to commission, including from the CBC, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canadian Brass, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus, the International Choral Festival of 1993, the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Aldeburgh Connection. His output focused particularly on vocal music and includes twelve song cycles comprising some 60 songs, a children’s opera, oratorios, organ and liturgical works.


In the wake of his death Holman was described by one of his pupils as ‘a musician’s musician – a first-rate composer, pianist and organist and conductor.’ 


He was a member of the Canadian League for Composers and made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.


Derek Holman - Postlude on a Melody by Melchior Vulpius, Joel Hastings, organ

For more information about Derek Holman: 


Canadian Music Centre

15 May  

The Holland Festival (29th May–June 23rd)


The Holland Festival explores cutting edge dance, film, music, opera, theatre, visual arts and multidisciplinary collaborations. This year Stockhausen is very much on the menu, the starting point being a screened documentary of the festival’s first performance of the composer’s notorious Helikopter-Streichquartett in 1995. That work appears in Mittwoch from the composer’s monumental Licht sequence of 7 operas. Highlights from Licht will be performed in three parts across the whole festival (see video trailer, below). 


Other festival highlights include a concert by South African artist Gerhard Marx, who makes music from car parts (7th–9th); a new installation, Eight, from Michel van der Aa, mixing music theatre, virtual reality and visual arts (available throughout the festival); contemporary choral works from young American composers, performed by Roomful of Teeth (15th); and a chance to hear Colin Benders’ Electro Symphonic Orchestra, where he will present a new work for modular synthesisers and multiple speakers (22nd).


The Aldeburgh Festival (7th—23rd June)


Austrian composer Thomas Larcher is composer-in-residence at this year’s festival. His works will appear throughout, with the world premiere of his Movement for Piano on 8th and the UK premiere of his opera The Hunting Gun from 7th–9th. 


There will be tributes to Oliver Knussen, who was a key figure in the history of the festival, including performances of his Variations for piano, Scriabin Settings, O Hototogisu!, Prayer Bell Sketch, Ophelia’s Last Dance, Coursing and other chamber works. There is also a screening of a film that was originally made to mark the composer’s 50th birthday Oliver Knussen—Sounds from the Big White House.


Composers with premieres at the festival include Charlotte Bray, Caterina di Cecca, Edmund Finnis, Joanna Lee, Nico Muhly, Frederik Neyrinck and Freya Waley-Cohen. There is also radical performance art from Bastard Assignments, outdoor graffiti-style animated opera in Drive-by Shooting, and Listening Walks exploring the sounds of the natural environment.


St. Magnus Festival, Orkney (21–27th June) 


Like the Holland Festival, St. Magnus offers much more than just music with theatre, dance, poetry, literature, visual art and the MagFest fringe. At its core however it is still very much a music festival. There is much established classical repertoire to enjoy and a good smattering of works by living composers, including by James Macmillan, Joan Tower, Alex Freeman and Arvo Pärt. There is also the chance to hear the premiere of Festival Director, Alasdar Nicolson’s Concerto for trumpet and strings Govan Stones, performed by Tom Poulson on 25th.


Holland Festival: Aus Licht Trailer

8 May  

Belgian composer Dominique Lawalrée has died. He was 64.


Lawalrée was born in Brussels, studying at the Institut Supérieur de Musique et de Pédagogie in Namur. He began composing in 1973 under the influences of classical composers such as Satie, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Cage, Feldman, Riley, Bryars and Messiaen and rock musicians including The Beatles, Soft Machine and Brian Eno. In 1976  he founded his own record label, Editions Walrus. It became the principle medium though which his vast catalogue, some 500 compositions and 20 albums, was disseminated. He also gave concerts in Europe and the United States, largely for small private audiences.


His style, which is simple, meditative and tonal became associated with the trend known as ‘new simplicity.’ A mystical experience led to a change of focus in 1994, with subsequent works focusing on the liturgy and religion more generally. 


Dominique Lawalrée taught at the Ecole Normale Catholique du Brabant Wallon in Nivelles. 


For more information: Matrix New Music Leuven 


Dominique Lawalree - First Meeting (album)

8 May  

The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) has released a new report entitled ‘Impact of Brexit on Musicians’: 


The main findings were: 


-Almost 50% of respondents identified an impact on their professional work since the EU referendum result in 2016 – 95% of whom said it was negative (from 19% in 2016, to 26% in 2017, to 40% in 2018, and to 50% in 2019)


-63% of respondents cited difficulty in securing future work in EU27/EEA countries as the biggest issue they face due to Brexit – and more than 1 in 10 respondents reported that offers of work have been withdrawn or cancelled with Brexit given as a reason.


-85% of survey respondents visit the EU27 for work at least once a year, 22% visit the EU27/EEA more than 11 times per year and more than a third (35%) spend at least a month per year working in EU27/EEA countries.


-One in seven musicians have less than a week’s notice between being offered work and having to take it.


-64% of survey respondents said a two-year, multi-entry visa would allay their concerns about their future ability to work in the EU27/EEA if freedom of movement rights were lost.


-95% of respondents preferred the two-year visa over an ‘extension of the Permitted Paid Engagement (PPE) visa.


-83% of respondents said it would be beneficial for a government department (e.g. BEIS) to provide a dedicated hotline for musicians to offer guidance on mobility issues


-More than half of respondents (58%) reported that they were concerned about the transportation of instruments and/or equipment in the EU27 & EEA in the future.


-Amongst other vital recommendations for Government, the report calls for freedom of movement to be protected for musicians, or a two-year working visa to be introduced.


The full report is available here.


You can read the above summary as well as responses to the report and its recommendations on the ISM website, here

1 May  

UK Music is asking composers to respond to a government consultation which will be fed into its Online Harms White Paper. Part of the paper’s remit is to make tech firms more responsible for the content that they publish online. This then is an opportunity for creators to ask for better protection against copyright infringement and unfair working practices, such as poor renumeration.


More details, here.

The survey itself can be found, here.

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