It’s something of a cliché to me and my composer colleagues that the second performance of a new work is more important than the first, and unkind people may sometimes refer to your world première as the ‘world dernière’. I will admit that it’s a good moment when a new group of performers declare that they’re going to pick up one of your most recent compositions. So, thank you to Glasgow’s RCS Voices, the Broen Ensemble and conductor Tim Dean for going to considerable lengths to bring my 40-minute oratorio blue hills beyond blue hills to Scotland, only four months after its first hearing (by the BBC Singers in London.)
A particular pleasure for me (and I think an interesting discovery for our audience) was that the concert was attended by the poet of ‘blue hills’, Alan Spence. Although I’ve by now set a good deal of his work to music, and feel I know some of it pretty well, I had never actually met Alan before, and was delighted to find that he’s just like his poems – modest, observant and generous. It seemed to us remarkable that student singers could master, with considerable elegance, such an extended and technically challenging score. Our music colleges have up to now been somewhat behind the curve with their lack of involvement in ensemble singing, surely a very likely route for singers to start making a living. Tim Dean and colleagues at the Royal Conservatoire have taken a significant step in finding the time and space in the curriculum to explore this important area of vocal music.