In summer 2021, Opera North put out a call for emerging composers to write new 60-second pieces on the theme of ‘Home’. These Minute Masterpieces would form part of our celebrations around the opening of the Howard Opera Centre.
We received over 200 entries from composers from all backgrounds and traditions. After much deliberation, fourteen pieces were selected by a panel comprising Opera North’s Music Director Garry Walker, Director of Orchestra and Chorus Phil Boughton, Professor Rachel Cowgill, Professor of Music, University of York, award-winning sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun and Matthew Kofi Waldren, conductor and co-founder of Your Turn Collective.
The successful entrants will have their Minute Masterpieces premiered by the Orchestra of Opera North in Huddersfield Town Hall over the next two Kirklees Concert Seasons, and all fourteen works will be recorded by the Orchestra in Leeds in spring 2022.
Deep in their Roots
Scottish composer and saxophonist Jay Capperauld enjoys supporting the development of young composers, and helped establish the West of Scotland Schools Orchestra Trust’s inaugural composition course. His piece Circadian Refrains (172 Days Until Dawn) was premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra at the the BBC Proms 2020. Deep in their Roots takes its inspiration from a line by the poet Theodore Roethke: ‘Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light’.
Dawn Ride Home
Dawn Ride Home is the first ever commission for Niall Docherty, winner of the 2021 Philip Bates Prize for Composition, who recently began tuition under Stuart MacRae at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. It is inspired by panoramic views of London seen from a train window in the early hours of the morning. “The piece begins by evoking that slightly mysterious in-between time, neither day nor night, just when the first birdsong of the new day pierces the still-silent streets. We jump-cut to the first burst of sunlight over the river: our drowsy train passenger – returning home from the night before – is momentarily electrified by the visceral chaos of an entire city jerking itself awake, before tuning it all out and dozing off once again.”
These Four Walls
Born in Cornwall, Caitlin began playing in brass bands at the age of six. Having moved to Liverpool to study mental health nursing, she now plays in Rainford Band, and is applying to study composition. These Four Walls, her first work to be performed by an ensemble, is a reflection on the Coronavirus pandemic. “I have been really grateful to have had a relatively easy experience of lockdown”, she says, “but some people’s experience of ‘home’ during this period hasn’t been a reliable or comfortable one. The piece uses irregular time signatures to represent the unpredictability of the last 18 months. I really enjoyed writing for instruments that I haven’t written for before and it was a great learning experience to study the instruments beforehand.”
When I’m With You, I Feel At Home
Daniel is a multi-award winning composer and arranger whose works have been performed by some of the country’s leading ensembles, including the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, A4 Brass Quartet, Tredegar Town Band and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. When I’m With You, I Feel At Home is described as a love letter to the composer’s girlfriend, who gave him company and kept him sane during the Covid-19 pandemic: “Although I am many miles away from my family when I am with you, I feel at home.”
Jonathan is a London-based composer and performer working across electroacoustic, electronic and instrumental music, improvisation and sound installations. “The entrance to my flat is through three old cast iron gates that squeak no matter how much I oil them”, he says. “Squeaky Gates is derived from the frequencies of those squeaks, slowed down and arranged into a moment of calm stasis, like stepping through the door at the end of a long day.”
Carol J Jones
Carol composes chamber, orchestral and choral work. Using scientific methods, her work deconstructs the sounds of nature, from the inner rumbling of trees to firing neurons, to create complex, layered compositions. Her music has been broadcast on BBC One, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC World Service and has been performed across the UK. evergreen deconstructs the sounds from inside a Holm Oak to explore one of the UK’s biggest, most exciting natural homes.
Israeli composer Omri Kochavi is a Britten Pears Young Artist, currently pursuing a Masters in Composition at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Yam-Yabasha (meaning Sea-Land in Hebrew) is built around the structure of a classic Israeli children’s game of the same name: “The players swiftly move between two distinct imaginary areas of land and sea on demand, according to the orders of the game leader. Each player constructs their own representation of the contrasting terrains, separate from the others yet forming an interaction. A musical translation of my memories from the unique landscape of the most southern point in Israel, where the Red Sea meets the mountains of the desert, serves as the basic fabric for the two images.”
Mandy is a classically-trained composer from Hong Kong. She is a recent recipient of the PRS Women Make Music fund and her music has been performed by BBC National Orchestra of Wales this year as part of Composition: Wales 2021. Nostos describes “my journey as a Hong Konger who has spent 7 years studying in the UK, which has passed so quickly in a blink of an eye. The rapid change in time signature and harmony resonates with the turbulent times we have all experienced during the pandemic. I have crossed over soundworlds from both the east and the west to give a sense of nostalgia, hence the title, which means ‘homeward journey’ in Ancient Greek.”
Three Places Called Home (I). György, Greek Street (by the cash machine opposite the whisky bar), Soho, W1D
“Home could be anywhere”, says pianist, composer and orchestrator Alexander Ling. “Not necessarily where the heart is, as the saying goes, but any patch of land to which we may cling and become familiar, even comfortable. When I met him, György’s home was Soho’s streets. At closing time he would come to the bar where I poured drinks. Through his broken English I learnt that he had come over from Lithuania to be a labourer on The Shard. When the skyscraper was completed in 2012, György found himself unemployed and sleeping rough. He told me he was quite happy; Soho’s revellers treated him generously, bringing warm food and smiling faces to his otherwise cold home under the sky. That was then. Today, we are told ‘stay at home’, ‘keep social distance’, ‘wear a mask’, and indeed we do. Tucked away in our houses, weathering our hardships in company of loved ones and their warm smiles.”
Florence Anna Maunders
Florence Anna Maunders’ wide-ranging career has included jazz piano, orchestral percussion and electronic music. “My home is a place I’ve been spending a lot of time in, by myself, throughout the pandemic period”, she says. “It was a safe, quiet, isolated, ordered and somewhat solitary space. And now it’s not. Now it’s sometimes noisy. Now it’s cluttered. Now it has strange new stuff in it from a strange new person. After a long period of solitude, I now live once more in a shared space. And it’s actually kinda okay.” In the piece’s short duration “a new synthesis of the two musics is briefly formed and an unsettled, busy equilibrium reached”.
Peter Longworth is a professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. An alumnus of the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young Composers Programme and the RSNO Composers Hub, he studied composition with Mark-Anthony Turnage at the Royal College of Music and with Matthew King at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. “Perched on a hilltop in the shadow of the Bergamasque Alps, Bergamo Città Alta is a compact nest of bell-towers, churches, and villas, which exists as much above or amongst Lombardy’s thick white mists as it does beneath them. Bergamasca is a short, whimsical salute to this magical place, and is a playful deconstruction of the hymn tune Christus Vincit, which is sounded by the bells in the town’s Piazza Vecchia.”
José Guillermo Puello
José is a composer from the Dominican Republic, now based in Manchester, who took part in Opera North’s Resonance residencies earlier this year. “As immigrants we carry our culture and identity wherever we go”, he says. “As a result, our home is often a mixture of our past and our present. Aqui/Alla (Here/There) reflects this idea: the Latin rhythms and melody heard at the beginning of the piece are transported to a new world of more complex harmonies and orchestration where all the elements of the music create a new home”.
Dominic is a pianist, cellist and singer who has recently completed a postgraduate composition degree at Trinity Laban. “I have based this miniature work on what I know to be my family home: a concoction of peace, chaos, last-minute changes, multiple voices, but an overall sense of cheer and mirth. I indeed hope this is a relatable collection of sentiments that people can associate with their family home! The title not only denotes the chaotic life within my family’s ‘quarters’, but also draws inspiration from the use of ‘quarters’ (the American word for crotchets), with frantic, polyphonic entries all across the beat. The orchestration is often frenetic, but it is interspersed with brief, seemingly calm moments.”
Samskara: home within
“It was perhaps inevitable that, during the nine years I lived there, Trinidad would come to feel like home”, says composer, arranger, teacher and performer Adam Walters. “Upon my return to London, I found my sense of home was changed – I was happy to be back with my family of course, but Trinidad was still very present as a ‘home within’. This pattern of being – physically at home in London by day but with nightly dream visits back to Trinidad – became a samskara (habit of mind) that could be disorientating. This piece is an attempt both to express the emotions resulting from this and to reconcile the two ‘homes’: there are rhythmic and (hidden) melodic allusions to Trinidad whilst the harmonies, derived using western compositional techniques, are of my own invention”.