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Cheryl Frances-Hoad Interview

Posted on 28 July 2009. © Copyright 2004-2020 Composition:Today

C:T talks to composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad

Cheryl Frances-Hoad

Bouleumata by Cheryl Frances-Hoad,
performed by Catriona Scott
Tell us something about your background.

Iíve had a pretty hardcore classical training, spending ten years at the Yehudi Menuhin School, four years at Cambridge University and another four doing a PhD at Kings College London. Iím not naturally very cerebral and compose very intuitively, so going down the academic route was good for me I think. Iím relieved that I just have to write notes now though, not lots of mediocre essays!

How did you start composing?

I started composing as soon as I started playing the Ďcello when I was seven years old: I think the first piece I wrote was just for open strings as that was all I was able do at the time. Composing began to take over when I was 15, when I had a piece played by the BBC Philharmonic: the buzz of knowing that Iíd written all those notes that everybody was playing was more thrilling than any performances Iíd done as a cellist. Now I sound like a total control freak, but the last piece I wrote included a lot of improvisation!

Tell us about your involvement with Golden Hat Opera and what you hope to achieve with the project?

The soprano Natalie Raybould and I recently co-founded GHO: we had worked together in the past and were desperate to collaborate on a more permanent basis. The company was created to nurture projects that embrace the ďepic in the smallĒ without compromising either theatrical or musical quality. Our first production, Passing Afflictions will be workshopped at Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, as part of the TÍte ŗ TÍte Opera Festival 2009, on 8th and 9th August. We then hope to go on to write and perform the whole opera at lots of different venue, hopefully in places that you wouldnít expect - for instance pubs and theatre venues, and weíve even got an idea for a section in the ladiesí loos! We have lots of ideas for future projects too...

What drives your work, what are you passions?

Iíve never really thought about why I write music: it has always just been something that I cannot imagine not doing. The ability to create something that is intensely personal to me, but also speaks to other people as if it were personal to them, is something that compels me carry on writing. I was also amazed by how receptive children who have no musical experience were to my music when I did some workshops recently with the pianist Bobby Chen: thereís absolutely no need to patronise people by dumbing down in any way.

Who has been the greatest influence on your musical style to date and why?

The music that I performed when I was a cellist has had a great influence on me, and one of my main concerns is that my compositions are satisfying for performers to play. I really admire Benjamin Britten as his music is emotionally tremendously powerful as well as idiomatically written and technically brilliant. Having said that Iím currently obsessed by Bud Powell, The Prodigy, and Gong, and can see influences from all three in my recent music!

What's the craziest idea for a piece you've ever had?

Itís probably the next piece Iím going to write, for KOMPOSIT: a work for flute, saxophone, bass guitar, drum kit and tabla: itís going to be a completely new way of working for me as about half the musicians involved donít read music. But some of our ideas for Passing Afflictions are also pretty crazy: Iím going to have a lot of fun with extended vocal techniques!

Which work are you most proud of and why?

Iím probably most proud of a string quartet that I wrote last year for the Dante Quartet, called My day in Hell. It was inspired by Danteís The Divine Comedy and I think I managed to pen a work which was emotionally very immediate and dramatic whilst at the same time having a well-planned structure which actually enhanced, rather than constricted its emotional punch.

What does the future hold for you?

At the moment Iíve got a nice queue of pieces so Iím just hoping to carry on composing, and Iíve decided Iíll just start worrying if things go wrong! Iím also increasingly interested in collaborations - primarily with Natalie Raybould and GHO, but Iíve also got ideas for projects involving dancers and poets. Iíve recently come to the end of a Leverhulme Artist in Residence post at the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge University, and would love to continue working with people from other disciplines outside the arts.

Please list anywhere online where your work can be experienced

My website, has lots of info and audio clips, with having longer musical excerpts. GHOís new website, has also just gone live, and will have lots of audio clips and videos, as soon at the first performance has taken place! You can also buy tickets for Passing Afflictions from the website...

Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2020

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