A regular trip at this time of year takes me to the Purcell School, home of Sound and Music’s Summer School for teenage composers. This year’s week of workshops happened online, a remarkable feat by all concerned, and I was able to visit a final day of performances from my now constant location in the corner of the sofa.
The Summer School includes several different courses of study, and after a spot of Saturday morning shopping, I arrived in time for Advanced Instrumental, led by David Horne. What a tonic to see an ensemble of eminent musicians in concert clothes sitting together in a studio, playing through an extended stretch of vivid new quartets. The following segment, Composing for Voice, I thought contained some of the most original music of the day, located in some far-off zone beyond choral, pop, electronica, something quite different.
The Film Group had clearly been ingenious, expanding small musical resources into huge-sounding, expressive accompaniments to pre-existing filmclips. When the said clips were (alas, inevitably) blocked by YouTube, the livestream continued. Whereupon it was fascinating to witness the SaM technical team quick-thinking their way round the problem; virtuosity of its own kind. And after this, my favourite segment of the day, the Jazz Group, led with such warmth and optimism by Issie Barratt. By now it was dinner time, but I couldn’t draw myself away from these rich, delicious compositions, luxuriously recorded by a group of musicians playing together in Air Studios.
Of course with us all day, onscreen one by one, were the hard-working composers themselves. What a courageous group these 2020 school students are. They have in effect been educating themselves at home since March, but this week still found the strength to complete these many challenging musical tasks under very tricky circumstances. A round of online applause to them all.