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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.

2018. a snapshot. by Nathan James Dearden

2018 has been very kind to me.

Thank you to all my friends, family and followers who have supported, loved and inspired me. My music has reached further than ever before and that's all thanks to you. As a quick whilstle-stop tour through the year I thought I would share some of the highlights...

January 2018

FEBRUARY 2018

MARCH 2018

may 2018

June 2018

july 2018

august 2018

september 2018

october 2018

November 2018

december 2018

Here's to a successful 2019 to one and all!

Nx

blog: From Satie to Llwyncelyn / Changing Focus (CoDI Chamber) by Nathan James Dearden

The beautiful aspect of such a residency is the time allowed to develop ideas, explore new territory and the freedom to shift focus.

I knew I wanted to explore alternative musical formats and how we could marry them with live sound (i.e. found recordings or audio-visual elements) for this project. But what recording? The seed for this new work with the amazing Berkeley Ensemble sprouted whist visiting the Tate Modern's exhibition in summer 2018, Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-33. Otto Dix to George Grosz. Cold veracity and unsettling imagery.

One work that caught my attention was Satie (The Prelude) of 1925 by Prosper de Troyer (1880 - 1961). A huge painting of composer Erik Satie conducting kabarett and highlighted with a golden halo from a near musician. Glorifying the modernist-maestro status. However aside from its vibrancy and innate musicality, I wanted to create a partner piece for Satie. Erik. A work of music bred directly from Satie that would accompany found video recordings of the composer. An exploration of kabarett, through silent film and a contemporary realisation of the music within.

But.

(All good stories, have a 'but')

The copyright permissions on silent film from this period come with a hefty price (both figuratively and literally). Therefore the focus had to shift. erik (proposed name for the piece) has to be shelved. For now.

And where do I turn? To Cardiganshire? Having listened to National Museum Wales' Folk Song Collection every since studying at Cardiff University some years ago, I fell in love with a 1961 recording of 'Y caseg ddu' (The Black Mare) - a song filled with dark humour and a bittersweet reality of hardship and poverty at the core. However the recording (SFNHM Tape 428. Collected 16.11.61 from Bertie Stephens (hound breeder, etc., b. 1900), Llwyncelyn, Llangeitho, Cardiganshire.) has such a wonderfully visceral quality, with Bertie Stephens providing his own percussion by beating on the table next to him. This is a recording that I could not turn my back on. How could I not do something with this?

And here I am. After two exciting workshops surrounded by talented composers and superb, open-minded musicians, we know have a starting point having introduced CoDI to Bertie Stephens. Starting this project from a very pure place, just using his voice. And little by little going from his world to my world, which is much more 'cacophonous' and has a more urban sensibility.

I am looking forward to getting to know Bertie more over the coming months.