It’s officially autumn when we realise that the tomatoes on the allotment have to come off the vine, ripe or not, because the sun’s rays are just not doing it any more. There were a couple of too-dry months this summer, and also a gang of supersized slugs, who did no good. The hedgehogs who usually help out in this area seem to have moved on.
In working life, the autumn term began with a volley of workshops and school visits. We have started our yearly project at the RAM with Blossom Street and conductor Hilary Campbell, where the students write a new choral work for a concert in Regent Hall in January. So far so good. Meanwhile I was surprised to hear that our first BBC Singers workshop of the term would be run in conjunction with BASCA, the composers’ organisation. Generally we workshop with students, but this time our ‘customers’ would be professional composers, with no age limit. I imagined the nationwide sound of bottom drawers being opened and long-neglected choral works being removed and placed inside Jiffy Bags.
In a way, that’s what happened (though I’m glad to say the score in the Jiffy Bag is a thing of the past; working online has saved a sizeable chunk of the environment here.) But once the workshop started, the music was a revelation, five scores that leapt off the page in their assurance, adventure and beauty. I intend to be the opposite of ageist when I mention that the oldest of our group of composers was ninety years of age, followed by a couple more nudging eighty and sixty respectively. So many of the composer schemes/competitions I find myself involved in have a restrictive upper age limit – often it’s 30 and under – and it can sometimes feel that the new music world is all about these young folk and their doings (to whom no disrespect is intended). Another welcome exception is the upcoming BBC Carol Competition, which in previous years has revealed a whole national sector of composing people whom we never normally hear from, on the BBC or elsewhere.