Introducing the Royal Holloway Picture Gallery Composer-in-Residence Programme by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan is pleased to be involved in Royal Holloway University of London's inaugural Picture Gallery Student Composers-in-Residence.

This is a ground-breaking residency in which three successful students from the Department of Music will have their musical responses to the Picture Gallery and some of its wonderful paintings performed by members of the New Music Collective. These new compositions are the result of a special collaboration between the College’s Curator Harriet O’Neill and Nathan James Dearden, a College Composer, Conductor of the New Music Collective and Performance Manager at the Department of Music.

Each successful applicant have been allocated an ensemble from the College's New Music Collective (no more than 5 players) and will work with these players through a collaborative and immersive rehearsal process. They will also have the opportunity to meet with the College Art Curator, Harriet O'Neill, to discuss the Picture Gallery's art collection and to explore possible areas for artistic collaboration. Each successful applicant will also recieve support and guidance from composer and conductor, Nathan James Dearden, through a mixture of one-to-one mentoring sessions and during practical workshop settings.

This year's culmintaion concert will take place at the Picture Gallery (Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX) on Tuesday 29th November, 2016. This event will be open to the public.

This project is kindly supported by Royal Holloway University of London New Music Collective

Nathan James Dearden has been selected as a London Philharmonic Orchestra Young Composer by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan James Dearden has been selected as a London Philharmonic Orchestra Young Composer for their 2016/2017 season.

The LPO Young Composers programme offers emerging composers the opportunity to workshop a new piece with the Orchestra's musicians and the Foyle Future Firsts (the Orchestra's graduate scheme for aspiring orchestral players) across a year, leading to a public performance at a London venue in July 2017, showcasing the new works. The participant composers are mentored by the LPO's Composer in Residence, who provides expertise and guidance in a series of seminars and workshops. We are delighted to welcome back Magnus Lindberg for his third year as Composer in Residence and Composer Mentor on the scheme in 2016/17.

Also during the year the composers have the chance to attend concerts, observe rehearsals, meet visiting guest composers, participate in professional development sessions and support and get involved with the London Philharmonic Orchestra's wider education and outreach work.

Alumni of the scheme include Michael Cryne (composer and recent Postgraduate Research Student at Royal Holloway University of London), Steven Daverson (Siemens Music Foundation Prizewinner 2011), Mica Levi (singer/songwriter, Micachu and the Shapes) and Laura Jayne Bowler (Founder and Artistic Director of Size Zero Opera company).

For more information on the project, please CLICK HERE.

review: o Crux ave, spes unica; Melos kamerinis moteru choras: Debut and concert of new religious works by Nathan James Dearden

interview: spotlight on nathan james dearden with Paulina Nalivaikaitė by Nathan James Dearden

this is a transcription of an interview given on 17 march 2016 with paulina nalivaikaitė. This was published prior to a trip to Lithuania for a premiere of o Crux ave, spes unica. To see the original publication (in Lithuanian; trans. Matas Geležauskas) please CLICK HERE.

How did you get interest in the project? In your opinion, what makes (or does not make) it attractive and valuable?

"There is such a strong choral tradition within Lithuania, one that I can relate to in my home country of Wales (UK). I feel the pure music making that is bred in Lithuania is incomparable and to work with such musicians is a dream for a composer. Another reason also being Juta Pranulyte. At our fist meeting in York (England, UK) I was totally taken by her music. There is such honesty that radiates from her music. Allowing the listener to seek all realms of peace and harmony that you often miss in new music. This is why this my work is dedicated to her. Without her, this opportunity would not have been presented to me."

You compose music for different groups of instruments, however it seems that music for choir is not accidental in your portfolio - it is rather one of your directions in composition. What is so appealing in writing the choral music?

"A very practical reason for writing so much repertoire for voice is down to the fact that I am a singer myself. Choral singing has been a significant part of my life since the age of 10, and over the years I have built very strong personal and professional relationships with singers of all sorts. My experiences singing in choral ensembles also proved a useful tool for me as a composer in discovering the nuances and basic nature of writing for voice from within the ranks. There is such a joy writing for the human voice - particularly when in a collective. There is such a sincerity and immediacy with vocal music. If you have message for the world, what better way than to communicate it directly through the voice?"

Could you, please, tell us about situation of choral music in the UK? What tendencies do dominate in this kind of contemporary music there? May you tell who are the most distinctive composers in this field?

"This is such a HUGE question - I would (quite gladly) be here for days talking about this. Ever since the early twentieth century when music began to splinter into all directions and avenues of exploration, the UK particularly jumped into overdrive after its (unwelcome) reputation as a land without music - Das Land ohne Musik. The 'hangover' from this intense period of music making has naturally brought a familiar canon of choral music to the forefront, a canon that singers enjoy performing and audiences enjoy listening to. From the popularist works of Paul Mealor or John Rutter, to the works of Giles Swayne or Judith Weir bred from close professional ties with ensembles such as the BBC singers in the 1980s, the often deeply spiritual pieces of John Tavener, Jonathan Dove or James Macmillan, or even the often potentially experimental and conceptual works of Anna Meredith, Julian Anderson or Janice Kerbel. All this music (and much more) is continuously being explored, pushed, developed and most importantly, performed in the UK as choral music is built into the very fabric of music making in the country."

Please tell us about your composition for the concert o crux Ave, spes unica. What are artistic, philosophical and technical ideas of the work?

"This is work that uses three very distinct colours and textural cells that work with, but often, against one another. There is such remorse and penitence in the text I have selected - You who have suffered for us, have mercy upon us [...] Our only hope. - so this text needed to be conveyed as if a collective cried this from the rooftop, or as if individuals yell in a protest or silently mutter a communal prayer; as individuals or as a unit. This relationship between freedom (often through aleatoricism) and collective exclamations (strict rhythmic cells) is something I am increasingly interested in."

In your opinion, what factor is the key to gaining sympathy of the audience? Or maybe you do not seek to please the audience, maybe the self-expression is uncompromising to you?

"Music would not be music without human interaction or engagement on some level. We need to communicate to our audiences, otherwise who are we writing for? We need to communicate to our performers also, otherwise WHO are we writing for?"

What is your aesthetic attitude towards composing? (Maybe you do have some extra-musical inspirations like other kinds of art, social environment, philosophy etc.?)

"I continuously strive for honesty. I still do not know what that even means as a composer, but I always look for music that has no mask. This is probably why much of music begins with a cell - a 'motif' perhaps - and then this is displayed for all to see. Bare. Legs akimbo. In every position. Before it being exploited and transformed (or sometimes left alone completely). If we leave something alone for long enough, the image that we thought we would begin to get bored of develops. Time changes our perception of one fixed object and I find that fascinating. I constantly strive for that in my music. I am far from the complete but I have learnt to live with the journey that has be taken to achieve 'Eureka' moment. Perhaps we will never reach this moment of assuredness. I suspect we never will."

Nathan James Dearden has been awarded the Santander Travel Award by Nathan James Dearden

Nathan James Dearden has been awarded the Santander Travel Award in association with Royal Holloway University of London for his research project in new choral music with Kamerinis moterų choras "Melos" and the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius.

During the three day project in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, he presented his work and was interviewed by Lithuanian Musicologist, Paulina Malivaikaitė (University of Arts in Belgrade) and the new all-female chorus Kamerinis moterų choras "Melos" premiered new works of composers from varying choral traditions including Nathan James Dearden's o Crux ave, spes unica [O hail the cross / our only hope].

To read a review of the concert in which Nathan's work was featured, please visit

To read the full interview (in Lithuanian) with Nathan James Dearden on his music and other research interests, please visit

Review: friction for large ensemble; SINFONIA NEWYDD / A PERCUSSION EXPLOSION by Nathan James Dearden

Inspiring young composers: A-level Composition Workshop at Cardiff University by Nathan James Dearden