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Blue hills beyond

It’s rare in my experience to have complete carte blanche over a concert and broadcast involving thirty performers. So I have to thank the BBC for letting me choose the hall (stylish Milton Court) the programme (major works by Tüür and Messiaen to precede a new work by me) and the performers (who else but the incomparable BBC Singers under Sofi Jeannin, with the Ligeti Quartet.) If I could have named the date and simultaneously been gifted with supernatural foresight, I would perhaps not, audience-wise, have chosen the same evening as ENO’s Mask of Orpheus premiere; but no matter, our concert will live again on BBC Radio3 in November.

My new work, blue hills beyond blue hills, is a setting of 55 short poems by Scottish writer Alan Spence. It’s a project I’ve wanted to write, in some form or other, for many, many years. Alan’s haiku-shaped texts are simple daily observations. following the course of a year. Beautifully crafted without appearing so, they are too direct and un-gilded to qualify as ‘nature writing’ although natures’s constant alteration is often their subject. Our spectacular yearly orbit around the sun is shown as the background to the more usual, aggravating concerns. To reduce the aggravation, the poetry seems to say, be more observant of the everyday miracle. I felt elated working on this material, and glad to make others aware of it via a musical setting. (Links to the three Spence books quoted in the music are below.)

Clear Light (Canongate)

Morning Glory (Renaissance Press) - with illustrations by Elizabeth Blackadder




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