Swansea Philharmonic Choir

blog: a diary from a composer by Nathan James Dearden

Being part of a community is special. Whether that is a community of composers, a community of singers, we are a community of individuals with one goal; to create music. And what a community to be welcomed into.

22 September 2018 During the launch for the Adopt a Composer scheme, I entered the room and ambled to an empty chair with a much-needed coffee and started to chat to the people next to me. Small world. The three of us were from South Wales. We had mutual friends (unfortunately justifying the stereotype that all the Welsh know one another). We have worked with many of the same musicians. The two people were Jemma Hughes and Jonathan Rogers, Music Secretary and Music Director of the Swansea Philharmonic Choir. And after the announcement was made, we were to work with one another over the coming year.

25 October 2018 First journey to Swansea. Not for my own music, but to rehearse alongside the choir. And what a choir they are! Warm welcomes. Hugs and smiles all-round.100 people packed into Gorse Mission Hall in Cwmbwrla, Swansea.

There’s nothing quite like the chatter and laughter of 100 people in one space, going over their week with their friends sitting next to them, pawing through scores, preparing their space. There’s something innately musical about that.

Conductor’s foot hits the podium and attention turns to the front. And what are we rehearsing? Benjamin Britten’s 'War Requiem'. Brought out the inner baritone for the evening next to the choir’s Chairman, Adrian Williams, and I was overwhelmed by their sound. Full-bodied. United.

Teachers, NHS staff, students, retired council workers, public sector, private sector, the list goes on. All together for one evening, making music.

22 November 2018 Around 8:45am and I was getting ready for work. Phone rings. Rhys Williams from BBC Wales. Asking whether I could share some words on my work with the Swansea Philharmonic Choir as part of Making Music UK’s Adopt a Composer project. Long story short, one of the most surreal days I have had. By 3pm, I found myself in the BBC Newsroom at Broadcasting House talking down a lens for BBC Wales, BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

More information about the broadcast can be found here.

10 January 2019 To my amazement, delayed trains and a 5-hour trip did not mar my enthusiasm. I was ready. A catalogue of vocal exercises and an older piece of mine in hand, tonight I worked with the Swansea Philharmonic Choir.

Clapping, counting and canons. We worked together on clarity of sound, collective sound and allowing our own individual voices to be heard in this mass of sound.

Waves of solo lines. Chorales. Clouds of harmony. It was fun getting to know one another in such a creative setting. As I have been able to get to know some (not all yet as there’s so many of them) by singing with them, I thought bringing an older work of mine along would be a nice way of the choir to get to know me and my music. In just 35-minutes, the choir got to grips with my work te lucis ante terminum. Beautifully read and each singer threw themselves into this new world. Opening up conversations about the months ahead and what music we would like to make with each other.

Here’s to the next workshop.

This blog was written as part of Making Music UK's Adopt-a-Composer Scheme.

Nathan 'adopted' into Making Music UK / Sound and Music's Adopt-a-Composer 2018 Scheme by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan has been selected onto the Making Music UK's Adopt-a-Composer scheme. As part of this acclaimed programme, Nathan has the opportunity to closely collaborate with the Swansea Philharmonic Choir towards a new 10-minute work to be premiered in 2019 and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

What is the Adopt-a-Composer scheme?

The Adopt a Composer scheme pairs leisure time choirs, orchestras and ensembles with a composer for a year culminating in a première performance and a broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The composer has the opportunity to get to know a performing group and write a piece especially for them to première, while the group has the chance to contribute to the creation of a new work by some of the UK’s most promising composers. Pieces that are composed are usually around ten minutes long (as a very rough approximation) and are usually written to work around your existing repertoire and schedule.

The project is run by Making Music in partnership with Sound and Music, in association with BBC Radio 3, and funded by the PRS Foundation, Philip and Dorothy Green Trust and Creative Scotland.