Composition and Text - a perfect setting? With Sally Beamish and Peter Thomson
We are looking for singers and composers to explore with us the complex relationship between words and music. Both initially performers, and now composer and playwright respectively, we are keen to share our ongoing dialogue about the art of songwriting. We ask you to bring:
· A classical song you love;
· A song from another genre you love;
· A poem, or text, you love, and would like to see turned into a song or a short dramatic scene.
We will be looking at the structures, sense and tone of these texts, and will use a variety of tools and techniques to free up the creativity of both composers and singers. As we begin to generate our own material, we will address a wide range of questions relating to performance and composition. Expect lively physical work as well as discussion!
· Is there a ‘right’ way of setting words to music?
· How do we approach a text?
· How should rhythm in text correspond to rhythm in music?
· What can we learn from the many different genres of song?
· How do we best communicate with an audience?
..and no doubt a myriad of questions and observations which you will bring to the forum.
SALLY BEAMISH BIOGRAPHY
Born in London in 1956, Sally Beamish initially trained as a viola player at the Royal Northern College of Music before moving to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer. Her music embraces many influences, particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music, in a catalogue boasting over 200 compositions including solo, duo, chamber, orchestra, vocal, choral, ballet and opera works. Her music has been broadcast and performed extensively around the world with notable soloists including Håkan Hardenberger, John Harle, Branford Marsalis, Tabea Zimmermann, James Crabb, Dame Evelyn Glennie and Colin Currie amongst others.
Celtic themes are often present in Beamish’s music. One such piece, Reed Stanzas, for the Elias Quartet, received its premiere at the 2011 BBC Proms and won a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. Flodden, written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the eponymous battle, was premiered in September 2013 and shortlisted for both a Royal Philharmonic Society and a BASCA British Composer Award. Spinal Chords, one of the PRS 20x12 Olympic commissions, with text by The Times Journalist Melanie Reid, toured the UK in 2014 with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and narrator Juliet Stevenson. The composer has also appeared several times as narrator.
2016 marked Beamish’s 60th birthday and included two works as part of Shakespeare 400: a full-length ballet of The Tempest for Birmingham Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet, with choreographer David Bintley, and A Shakespeare Masque with Poet Laureate, Dame Carol Ann Duffy, for Ex Cathedra. She completed three piano concertos with the first, Hill Stanzas for Ronald Brautigam, receiving its world premiere with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta in March 2016. The second, Cauldron of the Speckled Seas premiered in December 2016 with Martin Roscoe and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Dausgaard. The third, City Stanzas, premiered in January 2017 with soloist Jonathan Biss and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra conducted by Mischa Santora in Minnesota. Merula Perpetua, for violist Lise Berthaud and pianist David Saudubray, was premiered in a BBC Chamber Prom in August 2016. The work was written in memory of Beamish’s friend and mentor, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. West Wind, a song cycle with a text by P.B. Shelley, was premiered by tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Anna Tilbrook at the Wigmore Hall in June 2016.
PETER THOMSON BIOGRAPHY
Peter is a writer, director and actor. He went up to Oxford as a Choral Scholar, and finished as an English Scholar. After graduating, Peter began his career as an actor, and played lead roles in numerous West End, repertory and fringe productions, including Romeo and Juliet, A Little Night Music, The Boyfriend, Salad Days, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Cabaret, Privates on Parade, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Anthony and Cleopatra. During his time as an actor, Peter gained extensive experience in both directing and writing. This led to a decision to focus more on writing and directing.
To date he has had over thirty plays produced on BBC radio, and fifteen stage plays in theatres around the UK. His work as a playwright includes adaptations of The White Devil and Richard II for the World Service, and the original plays Sweet William, Love is Strange, and Larry the Lamb for Radio 4. Larry the Lamb, based on Kafka’s story The Hunger Artist was subsequently adapted for the stage and produced at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. His most recent work for radio was an adaptation of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen for Radio 4. Actors appearing in his plays have included Brian Cox, Jenny Agutter, Samuel West, Jim Broadbent, and even the late lamented cricket commentator Brian Johnston.
He has also written numerous plays for children, including twelve individual plays, each one based on the stories behind the Zodiac signs. He has had one picture book published - The Palace of Cards – and has recently published a book about a return to his home town in Iran – The Gulf: A Journey Back to Iran. This is written under a pseudonym.
Peter has worked extensively as a director, both in repertory theatre and on the fringe. His adaptation and production of Gogol’s The Nose at the King’s Head, Islington, won a fringe award for Production of the Year. He has worked both as a teacher and director in a number of drama schools and universities. He was head of Postgraduate Acting at Guildford School of Acting, and has been a visiting lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, and in Theatre Studies at the University of Surrey and Roehampton Institute. He also assisted director Mike Alfreds in a production of George Bernard Shaw’s Too True to be Good, on a tour finishing at the Lyric, Hammersmith.
Peter’s ongoing projects include four plays for radio, each one centred around a ‘miracle’; a short film - Mole; a collection of short stories; and collaborations with Sally Beamish on an opera and a musical. He is drafting a documentary about his South African cousin Barbara Hogan, who was imprisoned for 10 years under the apartheid regime, before becoming Nelson Mandela’s finance minister. He will also be directing a semi-staged premiere production of The Judas Passion (libretto David Harsent, music Sally Beamish) for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
He would also like to travel back to Iran and do a documentary about their cricket team (yes, it does exist..!)
Peter still enjoys performing, and this summer will be appearing in two international music festivals – Ryedale and Trondheim - as narrator in Sally Beamish’s The Seafarer Trio. Peter has two sons, and lives in London.