My First Concert is a series of blogs that takes leading music-makers back to their childhoods to recall the formative experiences that led them to a life in music. Ahead of the world premiere of Songs of Love and Battle, his new commission for Opera North’s youth ensembles, composer Will Todd shares his story.
“I grew up in Durham in the North East of England and loved music from as early as I can remember. I spent lots of time ‘messing about’ on the piano at home and gradually developed the ‘ear-playing’ technique that I still use today as a jazz musician.
As I went through my teens I learned music in a more formal way including saxophone and violin lessons, alongside school music studies. I always loved the theatre and I was thrilled to be part of a children’s chorus in a Durham Opera performance of La bohème.
I loved the way the music surrounded you on the stage and how the singing and orchestra blended together to tell a story. I also loved playing jazz and rock music in various bands and over the years I have enjoyed collaborating with all sorts of different musicians in lots of different musical styles. I try always to remember that I am involved in music because I love the effect music has on all of us. It makes us laugh, dance, cry, hope – and best of all it can bring us together.
I was so excited to be asked to write a work for Opera North’s youth ensembles. I had heard a fabulous performance by the Children’s Chorus at the South Bank Centre in London in 2016 and I knew that this was a group who could perform with great energy and passion!
To commemorate the centenary of the end of the 1914-18 War, which affected so many lives, and in which so many lives were lost, Maggie Gottlieb and I have been working on a piece which would remember, and in some way comment upon, that terrible conflict.
Songs of Love and Battle provides a narrative on the pain and devastation of war, and a perspective on the young lives lost on both sides. With such brilliant young singers and the expertise of the creative and musical teams at Opera North, I know that the first ever performances in Yorkshire will be amazing events.”
Songs of Love and Battle is performed by the Orchestra, Youth Chorus, Young Voices and Children’s Chorus of Opera North and baritone Johnny Herford, together with Górecki’s ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs‘ at Huddersfield Town Hall on 22 November and Leeds Town Hall on 1 December.