Deep in the pandemic period, this innovative amateur orchestra invited me to write a new piece in memory of one of their violinists, Buzzy Murray, who had died in 2019, a generous person much missed by all concerned. At the time, the idea of composing anything seemed rather theoretical or provisional; though at least I did have plenty of time, forced to stay at home with no concerts or in-person events. Somehow in the end I finished a 15-minute symphonic piece, titled New Every Morning. I haven't much memory of how it happened, but whenever full orchestra is concerned, much mental and physical energy is needed. And I well remember that during what was by then our third multi-month lockdown, spirits were sagging.
Reality started to return in early 2022, when NEO began to rehearse the new piece for a spring world premiere. Health restrictions were still in place, and I remember that all those whose instruments allowed it were wearing masks while playing. I recall at the premiere being pleasantly surprised at how well they'd confronted an entirely new piece, but of course after a first performance it is normal to think, what now for this music?
That's why it was a real pleasure to return to Edinburgh and hear the piece again in normal conditions, in the orchestra's comfortable base of Inverleith St. Serf's Church, in front of a large and receptive audience. It was a joy also to learn that this was conductor Tim Paxton's 25th anniversary in front of this very fine amateur ensemble; they "polished off" Schubert's 9th Symphony in the second half, and what a feat that is for anyone. Somehow I think the musical links we made while dealing with the extreme circumstances of 2020-21 will stay with us for a long time.
Pictured- Edinburgh, which was packed even in mid-December with weekend break tourists (myself included, of course.) This is George Street, with St Andrew and St George peeking out on the right.