Royal Albert Hall & More: UK 2023
I’ve just returned from an exhilarating time in the UK, which included getting to see my piece Numbers at the Royal Albert Hall!
Numbers was first written for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain a few years ago. While writing the piece, which I was lucky to draft at The Red House (Benjamin Britten’s estate) in Aldeburgh, I had the opportunity to workshop my ideas with these magnificent singers, who shaped the final result — especially the (now notorious!) empty aleatoric box in the piece that invites singers to write their own number composition.
Since the premiere of NYC's recording, which was released by the label NMC, Numbers has been in the hands of choirs around the world. It has been a real treat to see different ensembles put their spin on it! In fact, during this trip, I also got to see an exciting performance of Numbers by the new choir Vox Urbane at their launch event — more on that in a moment.
So, after witnessing Numbers' travels in recent years, I found it quite emotional to see this piece “come home,” as it were — return to the National Youth Choir, and on the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, no less! Their astonishing rendition of the devilish digits included choral choreography that made me (and others!) gasp with glee. And I could not stop grinning as they sang the polyrhythms unconducted - whew! Their entire 40th anniversary was a night to remember.
That's me on the left. I was joined by musician and Princeton student Shruti Venkat '23 (on the right), who came to London to shadow me and conduct research on intercultural music – it was a pleasure to work with her. Photo credit to my dear friend, composer Lillie Harris.
From anniversary concerts, we moved to new births! It was wonderful to be able to welcome the newly hatched Vox Urbane to the choral world. This extremely important choir gave a phenomenal concert at the beautiful Asylum Chapel in Peckham. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Vox Urbane Next Gen Artists; as one of their founders, Helen Meyerhoff, so rightly said, one has to think about the future as well as the present in the same moment when launching ambitious initiatives like theirs. I can't wait to see what else they do.
At the launch event for Vox Urbane, I got to see and reconnect with many wonderful musicians. In the photo to the left, I am with composer Joanna Marsh (whose Evening Prayer was beautiful sung at the concert) and soprano Ailsa Campbell. Below, I'm with composer Will Todd, who composed "Mass in Blue" for Hertfordshire Chorus twenty years before I composed "Sarojini" for them! Hertfordshire Chorus is presenting a special 20th anniversary performance of "Mass in Blue" with Will Todd at Cadogan Hall, London on May 14: get tickets here.
The rest of the week’s visits with colleagues and friends culminated in a wonderful day-long workshop with Corvus Consort and Music on the Edge, who have very creatively commissioned response pieces for their celebration of Byrd 400 called Byrd Takes Flight. I had the great pleasure of writing them a response to the magical “Ave Verum Corpus” by William Byrd. This new piece, which is titled “Byrd Transubstantiated,” will be premiered in September 2023 at the Whiddon Autumn Festival. It calls for audience participation, so I do hope you’ll turn up and sing along if you are in the area!
After all of this activity and fabulous music in London, I came home recharged and very inspired. There are several new pieces in the works – stay tuned!