Nathan selected for International contemporary music festival, CROSSROADS by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan is one of fifteen composers from across the world who has been selected to be featured at the 2018 CROSSROADS International Contemporary Music Festival.

15 selected composers have been invited to compose for and participate in the Crossroads Festival and its events, held at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg on 6-8th of December, 2018. Nathan has been paired to write a new oboe quintet for the Hebrides Ensemble, an ensemble which has established itself as one of the foremost chamber music collectives based in the UK.


CROSSROADS aims to promote international cooperation between composition, and contemporary music performance students from different countries. Its main goal is to create an opportunity for young artists to learn from each other, to get to know different cultures and to build international relationships.

This year the Festival is interconnected with the 60th Anniversary of the Studio for Electronic Music of Mozarteum University of Salzburg. This connection has set the focus of the Festival to be electro-acoustic and electronic music. The program will feature composers as Javier Torres Maldonado, Francois Bayle, Barry Truax, Jean-Luc Hervé, Curtis Roads and Elian Radigue, performed by ensembles Dedalus, Hand Werk, Enssle-Lamprecht, Hebrides Ensemble, Platypus and NAMES. CROSSROADS also aims strongly for contemporary music education: four lectures will be held about various issues on composing and working with ensembles.

interview: with Matt London of Tenor Saxophone Index by Nathan James Dearden

Gilly Blair, Nathan Mertens, João Pedro Silva and Luis Ribeiro will premiere 'johannes: canons and transitions' as part of the Tenor Saxophone Collective's extended WSC recital. (Saturday 14 July 2018 | 14:00 Theatre & TD Big Hall Zagreb World Saxophone Congress).

Ahead of this, here is an interview with composer, performer and Artistic Director of the Tenor Saxophone Collective, Matt London:

[ML] Nathan thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Shall we start by talking a bit about your work and career so far? You studied voice and composition at Cardiff University under a number of people including composer Arlene Sierra and Robert Fokkens before moving on to Royal Holloway, University of London to focus on composition as a researcher. Tell us more about what you do, and what you’re trying to achieve overall as an artist.

[NJD] As you mention, I am currently based primarily at Royal Holloway and have totally jumped on-board with all the opportunities thrown my way alongside my research. Working as the College’s Performance Manager, curating their concert series and coordinating all the practical music-making activities, to teaching bit of undergraduate composition and conducting all the new music ensembles (New Voices Consort and New Music Collective). I love the huge breadth of activity you can be part of as a musician and ultimately bringing people together to create good music.

I see all of this perhaps more practical music-making as part-and-parcel of my work as a composer. It’s all linked for me. Especially as I am obsessed with how music can bring seemingly disparate groups of people together in the aim of a mutually beneficial outcome. Perhaps as a composer I see myself as a facilitator. I create the framework (the notes on the page) in which people can step into (the performer/listener). If the margins that I have created are correct or the best fit possible, then hopefully the outcome will be mutually beneficial, and people begin to get on-board with what the music is trying to say.

[ML] Your piece ‘johannes: canons and transitions’ for four tenor saxophones will be one of the chamber works we look forward to premiering in Zagreb on July 14th! What can you tell us about the piece in terms of influences, concept, the inception of the piece etc?

[NJD] I was thinking of this after finishing the work (in that usual ‘post-mortem’ stage that we have as composers) and actually there are lots of interests and even ‘subtext’ hidden within this short chamber work.

johannes stemmed from an older work of mine, dort in den weiden steht ein haus, written for four bassoons (I get a kick from groupings of similar or the same instruments). This takes short fragments from Brahms’ lied of the same title (WoO 33, No. 31) as a sort of reimagining rather than devout homage. This sort of ‘transitional’, scalic passages found in this particular Brahms (arguably in much of the music of the nineteenth century) fascinated me - for better or for worse. johannes allowed me to really exploit this overtly romanticized obsession with scalic transitions, as a sort of idée fixe of my own. johannes perhaps takes this concept ‘ad nauseum’ as a way of building a tension and need for any such resolution.

[ML] Now am I right in thinking that you played saxophone in a former life? Has this had any effect on the way you approached writing for saxophone today? I am curious as a lot of the repertoire is often written by player composers within the classical saxophone community which often follow a set traditions and conventions with the repertoire almost an idiom of its own. As a musician outside the saxophone community I wonder how you see it?

[NJD] Oo, this is a really interesting question.

I did play classical alto saxophone in a ‘former life’ which resulted in me working towards my diploma, but then I turned 18… Unsure what that has to do with anything, but I remember my commitments as a singer picking up. The guilt alone makes me want to pick up my sax again (!)

I think my writing for this line-up and my existing knowledge of the saxophone would surely have some subconscious implications, but then in hindsight much of the music stems from the Brahms’ piano writing so perhaps less so than when I wrote its partner work for four bassoons (which at the time I had no idea of the capabilities or nuances of the bassoon). I like this element of it though. Despite primarily being a singer, I often do not feel comfortable writing vocal music. There is an element of knowing too much or having a clearer understanding of the baggage of existing repertoire. I know many established composer-pianists who hate writing for piano, as they feel they’ll be judged just as much as a performer if their works pans. The unknown can sometimes be refreshing and create some interesting results. Not always of course, but there might always be that occasion where you hit on something special.

[ML] Personally what I like about your music it’s natural lyricism and subtle development akin to choral / liturgical music, so I am really excited to bring your music to the classical saxophone community at the congress in July!

[NJD] Aw, that’s really sweet of you! I am super stoked for hear it.

[ML] Before we finish up, is there anything you’d like to plug?

[NJD] This is my last premiere before setting off on a bunch of new projects, so nothing iminent to plug. Need to get a shuffle-on with a new song cycle collaboration with composer-pianist, Michael Finnissy, who I have become quite close to over the past 4 years or so. We are looking at diary entries and poems written specifically by queer authors from the First World War, and hope to take our findings and musical offerings on tour before the year is out. I suppose just watch this space.

'franz': LPO Premiere in the presence of royalty by Nathan James Dearden

Commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2018 Summer Gala, franz recieved its world premiere last night at the City of London's Guildhall, in the presence of HRH The Duke of Kent KG.

This new set of fanfares for brass ensemble recieved their first performance (conducted by the composer) in the Old Library and Great Hall at the City of London's Guildhall, with around 300 special guests, sponsors and donors of the orchestra in attendance. Special gratitude goes to Paul Beniston (trumpet i), Anne McAneney (trumpet ii), Cameron Johnson (trumpet iii), David Pyatt (horn), Mark Templeton (trombone) and Lee Tsarmaklis (tuba) for their performance and invaluable input.

The LPO's annual Summer Gala this year celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the orchestra's Education & Community Programme, one of the first orchestra's in the UK to place their education and outreach work front-and-centre of their output. In honour of this, all elements of the orchestra's outreach-based activities were represented, from the Young Artist's Scheme to Foyles Future First programme, 100 Hours initiative to the Open Ear Orchestra, plus not least the the highly-acclaimed Young Composer's programme which Nathan was selected for in their 2016-17 cohort.

For three decades the London Philharmonic Orchestra has taken itself off the concert platform and into the community, driven by the desire to share the power and wonder of orchestral music with everyone. On this Gala evening Vladimir Jurowski, the Orchestra’s Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor, will conduct special guest artists in a spectacular performance that also showcases some of the inspirational educational work that goes on day to day, week to week.

For more information about the Gala itself or the work of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, please CLICK HERE

interview: Meet The Artist with the cross-eyed pianist / meet Nathan James dearden by Nathan James Dearden

Composer Nathan James Dearden featured composer in Meet The Artist Blog Series with pianist, writer, concert reviewer, blogger and music lover, Frances Wilson.

Established in 2010, The Cross-Eyed Pianist has become “an important voice in the piano world” (Peter Donohoe, international concert pianist) and enjoys a wide global readership with over 20,000 visitors to the site per month. Regularly updated with varied content and the popular Meet the Artist interview series, The Cross-Eyed Pianist is one of the UK’s leading blogs on classical music.

“It is the convivial nature of music which excites me. People coming together for one common cause: to create music.” - njd.

Please CLICK HERE or on the title to view full interview with Fran Wilson of The Cross-Eyed Pianist.

'it was snowing butterflies' hits the shelves by Nathan James Dearden

it was snowing butterflies for solo harp, published by PoppyHarp Publishing Ltd., has now reached PoppyHarp's Warwick Store.

To purchase your copy or to preview online, please CLICK HERE.

Nathan James Dearden is now featured on the Sound and Music's British Music Collection by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan has created a profile on Sound and Music's British Music Collection and joind over 3000 British composers on this valuable platform.

About the British Music Collection

The British Music Collection has itself been on a transformational journey since its inception in a room just off Oxford Street in 1967, when it began life as part of the British Music Information Centre - a drop-in centre where users could go to see, hear and research 20th century British contemporary classical music, and network with other composers.

Under Sound and Music’s stewardship, the British Music Collection’s aims are clear: to preserve and showcase the UK's rich and evolving musical heritage, to develop its online presence, and to encourage new composers to join – making it a living and breathing archive, and a space and place for new music discovery with a growing composer community.

The physical collection has been housed since 2011 at the University of Huddersfield, and since 2015 within the University’s state of the art archive centre Heritage Quay (winner of the ‘Buildings That Inspire’ category in the Guardian University Awards in 2016). Here, members of the public can access over 40,000 scores, 21,000 recordings and a wide variety of artefacts including books, letters, photographs, vintage concert programmes and vinyl LPs.

‘The University is delighted to celebrate this significant anniversary and to continue supporting composers to add to this important collection, as well as making it freely available for use by the public as well as academic researchers.’ – Prof Tim Thornton, Deputy Vice, Chancellor University of Huddersfield

Over 2,000 people per month also visit the British Music Collection online, where Sound and Music has developed the range and richness of content as well as inviting guest curators to share their journeys of musical exploration.

From Delia Derbyshire to Matthew Herbert, from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Samantha Fernando, the British Music Collection showcases a wide and brilliant array of British composers and with hundreds of fascinating stories – but there are big parts missing in its narrative!

Susanna Eastburn, Chief Executive of Sound and Music, said: “One of the ambitions of #BMC50 is to work with our growing community to draw out and expand a wider range of diverse voices, and challenge received ideas about the history of 20th century musical development. We have already done an example of this in March 2017, when we highlighted the lack of female representation within the British Music Collection, and we’ve also had some brilliant curation from Julie Kjaer, Sarah Sayeed and Ailís ní Ríain. This feels like creatively fascinating and important work for us, and the 50th anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to explore this more deeply.”

To view the website or to create your own profile, please CLICK HERE.

VOTE100 and Royal Holloway announce a Call-for-Composers, co-curated by Nathan James Dearden by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan James Dearden, Royal Holloway University of London and VOTE 100 UK are delighted to announce a College Call-for-composers. We invite composers who are currently enrolled at Royal Holloway, at any stage of education, to submit a 2 - 4 minute ‘musical memo’ for solo instrument.

Eight selected composers will be given workshop performances at a College festival entitled Suffrage 2018 hosted by Royal Holloway University of London from 15 January – 19 March 2018. The eight new works will be workshopped, rehearsed and performed by members of the Royal Holloway New Music Collective. The rehearsals will be overseen by project curator and College composer, Nathan James Dearden, in which he will provide successful applicants with guidance and support regarding their new work. Successful composers will also receive one workshop opportunity on their new work for solo instrument led by acclaimed performer and new music advocate, Dr Carla Rees.

Successful applicants will be invited to Founder’s Square (Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX) on Friday 9th March 2018. The presentation of the new works will be slightly different to how your music might have been premiered in the past. The aim of this event is to present the new works one-by-one in an installation-style event, audience members will be encouraged to move around the space whilst these works are being performed outside (weather permitting). Each work will be written in response to one of the following speeches reflecting on Human Rights, Equal Rights or LGBTQ+ Rights: Eleanor Roosevelt (‘The Struggle for Human Rights; 1948), Rory ‘Panti’ O’Neill (‘All the little things’; 2014), Elie Wiesel (‘The Perils of Indifference’; 1999) Elizabeth Nyamayaro (‘An invitation to men who want a better world for women’; 2015), Martin Luther King (Honorary Doctorate Speech at Newcastle University; 1967), plus 3 additional opportunities for composer’s own suggested text.

The evening will finish with a world premiere of Nathan James Dearden's you ARE determined for flute, actor and electronics in the Davison Building Exhibition space. This new work uses the text from Emily Wilding Davison's June 1912 journal entry referencing her imprisonment in Holloway Prison, north London.

For more information on this event, please CLICK HERE.


New Collaboration sponsored by #Vote100 Suffrage 2018 by Nathan James Dearden

New collaboration between composer Nathan James Dearden and acclaimed flautist Carla Rees has recieved sponsorship from #Vote100 Suffrage 2018.

Over the coming year Nathan will work closely with Honorary Research Associate, Dr Carla Rees (Royal Holloway University of London, Royal College of Music; internationally-acclaimed flautist) on a project that marries famous speeches on matters of suffrage and enfranchisement with live music performance specially commissioned for the project (and directly relating to the speech inflections in the recording).

Through a series of pop-up events featuring Carla Rees, live raw/secondary recordings of speeches plus new works by students from the Royal Holloway University of London Department of Music, six speeches on matters concerning Human Rights, Equal Rights and LGBTQ+ Rights will be presented at Royal Holloway and taking the talent across the country in venues in Lincoln, Cardiff and central London. The speeches incorporated into this project include Eleanor Roosevelt (‘The Struggle for Human Rights; 1948), Emily Wilding Davison (Personal Account of being forcibly fed in Holloway Prison; 1912), Rory ‘Panti’ O’Neill (‘All the little things’; 2014), Elie Wiesel (‘The Perils of Indifference’; 1999) Elizabeth Nyamayaro (‘An invitation to men who want a better world for women’; 2015) and Martin Luther King (Honorary Doctorate Speech at Newcastle University; 1967).

The project will culminate in a late-night event at Royal Holloway University of London on 9 March 2018, as part of Suffrage 2018 events.

interview: LPO Debut Sounds | Meet the Composers | Nathan James Dearden by Nathan James Dearden

interview: New Music Series / nathan james dearden with Shirley Radcliffe by Nathan James Dearden

This is the featured article and interview extracts with Shirley Ratcliffe (Choir & Organ magazine). This was published in Choir & Organ's May/June 2017 edition prior to a premiere of the bright morning star.

The realisation that music has the power to make a positive change had a profound effect on the young Nathan James Dearden. ‘As soon as you become subsumed into the “music bubble” – the one you often find yourself in at school – you soon realise that music will play a large role in your life,’ he says. Being in a choir encouraged him to write his first short work which then led onto practical examinations. ‘The ball starts rolling often without you noticing, a pattern starts to unfold and you’re developing into a career musician.’

Dearden didn’t start to compose seriously until his undergraduate days. ‘Like many it has not been an easy transition to make (from the schoolboy to the professional musician), navigating your way through the countless call-for-scores, summer schools and workshop days, yet trying to reassure yourself that you can compose and that you have something meaningful to say whilst being rejected for much you apply for. These opportunities are undoubtedly imperative for any success as a composer, but we have bred a bizarre culture of the career composer having to say or even write the “correct” thing to get by.’

Dearden found becoming a student at Cardiff University a very freeing experience. ‘I was able to curate my own events, conduct the music I wanted to, write music for ensembles, make the successes and perhaps most importantly the mistakes that I needed to and listen to music-making of the highest quality. I remember attending David Poutney’s 2013 production of Berg’s Lulu with Welsh National Opera and thinking “this could not get any better”. For me, The School of Music at Cardiff University is unsurpassed and the people I met there really did change things for me.’

Dearden tells me that throughout his life his influences have come from his teachers. ‘[They] pushed me in directions that allowed me to develop as a singer and instrumentalist sitting me down to listen to Glenn Gould playing the mono recording of the Goldberg Variations, taking me to concerts and schlepping across the country for me to take part in workshops.

After joining his first school choir Dearden has always been associated with choirs. ‘It has always been an important part of my musical education,’ he says, ‘such as touring with the National Youth Choir of Wales, touring with the Pendyrus Male Voice Choir in Lorient or singing at the Proms with the BBC National Chorus of Wales. Singing has always been core to my understanding of musical performance and my development as a musician, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’

When did he start to change direction as a composer? ‘It’s difficult to say. I see composing music as building blocks, trying to get the clay bricks into the right order, removing or adding one at a time without the whole thing collapsing around you. My vocal work both as a singer and a composer has undoubtedly influenced my purely instrumental work (and vice versa) and I do not separate my work as a curator or conductor from my composing, it’s all one package.’

An important learning curve was his very first residency. As Young Composer-in-Residence for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales he was asked to write an 8 to 10 minute work for 13 instruments in five days. ‘What a fantastically immersive jump into the deep-end it was,’ he says. ‘Sleep was at a minimum and anxiety in abundance. Learning to manage my time efficiently and being ruthless with my material was so essential to producing a piece that I was happy with within this time frame.’ It was here that he got to know the dynamic young composer Mark Bowden. ‘At the time I was just dipping my toe into compositional processes that Mark really embraced (Krenek-Stravinskian rotational matrixes and harmonic organisational systems like this).’

Mark Bowden is Reader in Composition at Royal Holloway and the two discussed Dearden apply for doctorate studies at the college. Achieving this he explains his research there: ‘I am obsessed with the everyday. What motivates us to do the things we do? The reasoning or non-reasoning behind the small decisions we continually make. Where does music fit into this? Music or, more broadly speaking, art has always been used to reflect our everyday right back at us allowing us to see objects and issues from different angles. Music has the transcendental power to do this and has done for centuries. How do we use music as a form of social-commentary? There is plenty of music to be written if we react to the world around us today.’ Alongside this research Dearden currently curates and manages the concert series at the college, inviting international artists to the university, providing a platform for young musicians and programming events. ‘I love the multifaceted nature of music, and how my work as a composer, curator, conductor, teacher and performer all come together under one roof.’

We talk about his choice of texts for his C&O commission. ‘I wanted to set Milton’s The Bright Morning-Star as I have known it for some years and felt it apt for the May/June issue of C&O. The stripping of winter and entering into the early sunlight of spring, looks towards something far more positive than what has come before. I also like pairing texts together therefore I wanted another text that dealt with light and was utterly transformative. Recalling the Lux eternal luceat eis, Domine (May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord), I thought this would be a perfect sister for the Milton. I usually only use text architecturally. Here I have overlapped the two different texts, interweaving them so they become one and obscuring any such definitive stanzas.’

Michael Finnissy has become what Dearden describes as ‘a true friend and mentor in this crazy world we find ourselves in. We met a few years ago at the Benslow Music Trust in

Hitchin, Hertfordshire, and have since worked together quite a bit. He is one of the most generous of human beings. I have written him my largest solo piano work and in 2018 there will be a collaboration with him and a few singers setting the text of several little-known gay poet/soldiers from the First World War to commemorate the centenary of the end of WWI.’

Dearden describes becoming a LPO Leverhulme Arts Scholar as a ‘real pinch me moment that made me want to scream from the rooftop! Essentially it is the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young Composer-in-Residence programme, in which five composers are selected to work on a new work with the orchestra and its young professional musicians programme. We are also provided with sessions in career development, opportunities with the orchestra’s education projects and we are even able to curate our own event at London’s Southbank Centre. The new work composed for the orchestra and Magnus Lindberg will be premiered in July 2017 at St John’s Smith Square. What a year I have had with them!’

Thinking about his future he says, ‘All that I know is I will keep writing music provided I still have something I need to say, people to perform it and/or people still want to listen to it.’