New Edinburgh Orchestra


My general lockdown memory is of frustrating inactivity just when I had at last many months of spare time to write music in. But of course where we were living through those years, we didn't know what spare time, or work, lay ahead. However, to my surprise I can now see that I somehow, almost hypnotised, completed three extended pieces for large ensembles, and one of these is an orchestral piece called 'New Every Morning'. I've just had the pleasure of travelling to Edinburgh to hear an early rehearsal by its commissioners, the New Edinburgh Orchestra, under their conductor Tim Paxton.


NEO are an amateur group, but the commissioning process unfolded in a thoroughly 'professional way'. (I realise I've already used what CoMA's Chris Shurety calls "the A-word" in the wrong sense, as the undesirable antonym of "professional", which is never what I want to do.) Whatever, the project was deeply important to the performers, as they wanted to undertake a new work in memory of Buzzy Murray, a violinist and leading light of the orchestra, who died a couple of years ago and is still much missed. The timing was perfect for me, and I was somehow fired up by the seriousness of everyone's intentions.


In fact, several features of the process already seem to me to have been better than the usual way professional orchestra commissions happen, when they do at all (and which few composers would complain about.) Prime amongst these is the fact that NEO's rehearsals will take place over a period of several months, one Tuesday evening at a time. It gives the players time to absorb and get used to the new sounds, and the composer time to sort out all those little bugs in the score and parts (ahem!) This particular rehearsal though will stay with me for its specialness - my first live rehearsal of a new instrumental piece since the great interregnum of 2020-22. And in beautiful Edinburgh too (pictured - The Lion of Scotland in St Andrew's Square.)

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer