My Proms commission Begin Afresh was inspired in a single moment about eighteen months ago, while walking the dog around a local housing scheme with well established tall trees at its perimeter. I suddenly focused on the sound of new (April/May) leaves swooshing in the breeze. Then I realised the sound wasn't a "swoosh", it was the "afresh, afresh, afresh" sound at the end of Philip Larkin's poem The Trees.
One big pleasure of completing the resulting 17-minute large orchestra work is to have learned how many other people also find the Larkin poem particularly inspiring. It's interesting too, as I don't think of him as a nature poet, but in this instance, his perceptions about trees and their yearly renewal have become a kind of religious text for me. (I love it too that he doesn't fuss about the title, it's just "The Trees".)
Of course, another great pleasure following completion of a huge orchestral score is to hear it being played. And on this occasion, with such understanding and conviction by the BBC Symphony Orchestra (to whom the music is dedicated). conducted by Sakari Oramo. What a wonderful transformation he has wrought there over the last decade. When I visited Maida Vale Studios for rehearsals this month, everyone pointed out how glad they would be to leave for the new studios in East London "because everything sounds so loud in here". But I would think composers will have very happy memories of Maida Vale (also the present home of the BBC Singers) where new compositions are first rehearsed and tentative musical thoughts become physical reality.