Busy working away…

I’ve been pretty busy the last few weeks, working on a few pieces of music that are struggling to reach completion.

Not many composers talk much about the compositional process, and the difficulties that are sometimes involved. So when we hear a piece of music at its completion, we’re never really aware of what went into it, or how much in the way of blood, sweat and tears were bred into its making.

For me, some music comes easy. “Mary Sings A Lullaby” was written in the space of a few hours. “Crescent Moon” appeared in the space of three or four days, when my husband was on business overseas, and I had no-one and nothing to keep me company in the evenings. And “Where Is The Moon?” was also a few hours, coming quickly and with little effort.

But other pieces have been really hard. And at the moment, I’m struggling with an “Ave Maria” whose principal themes arrived quickly, but now seems to sit in a secondary phase of development, not wanting to be finished. I know it will happen, but it seems to be challenging me at every turn.

Then, of course, there are just the everyday businesses of life that slow things down. I have two kids, and they’re demanding. Other interests fill my hours, and I have a farm to run that takes time. We’ve had four groups of overseas visitors come to stay in four months (*waves*), and – while it has been lovely – it does take a fair chunk of your time to show people around our beautiful Taieri and city.

Plus we’ve been renovating. The whole top storey of our home has been redecorated and painted. I’ve been up, fourteen feet in the air, perched on stepladders, covered in eau-de-nil paint, and dabbing at walls on my tiptoes. The house (or the upper part of it!) is looking awesome, but it all took time in which I wasn’t composing.

But now the winter is on its way. Everywhere I look, autumn has settled in with a vengeance, and the nights are definitely feeling colder. Daylight Savings time is over. And soon it will be too cold to do much on the farm besides a little bit of fence-fixing here and there, and just regular checks on our animals.

That’s when the composition will happen in big chunks. Because there is nothing better to do, when the wind is blowing hard outside, than to snuggle up under the heater with my laptop, and fiddle with the lines of a new piece. Or complete something that has been on the backburner for a while.

So yes, things are definitely moving. “Ave Maria” will get out of the door – eventually. I promise. What I have done is sounding incredible. It’s on its way.

I’m looking forward to sharing it with you when it is done.

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“I heard the bells on Christmas Day” and other performances

I’ve just had a request for an SSAB version of “I heard the bells on Christmas Day”, for the sesquicentennial celebrations of the American Civil War in Gettysburg, USA in June 2013! So I’m busy working away, and that should be released on this website within the next day or two.

In the meanwhile, the current SATB version is (of course) available here. Go have a listen – it’s quite a lovely piece.

I’m thrilled at the chance to be part of such an important celebration – the American Civil War not only changed the face of US history, but also the path of human rights worldwide. I just wish I could thank the great poet Longfellow for writing such a beautiful text. I hope I’ve done it justice.

Other performances

When I began 2012, I was hoping that I might equal the sixty (or so) performances I managed worldwide last year. Things are looking good – so far I’ve had about a dozen performances, primarily in the UK, plus a couple of performances in the US and in New Zealand. I really need to update my performance page!

But the year has been so busy with other things – at home we’re ripping out a swimming pool, doing landscaping of the farm and painting, we’ve got in a new ram, and I’ve also been busy hatching out baby chicks. All have kept me busy, not to mention looking after a very active four year old, and a pretty precocious seven year old. I sleep well these days!

New works

However, I’ve finally got back to composing, now the kids are back in school and kindy (I’m sure Beethoven never had to deal with parent-teacher timetables!). I’m currently working on an Ave Maria – something I always intended to write but which, until now, I never felt competent enough to attempt. But now the time has come, and it is happening, and I’m about halfway there.

I’m thrilled with the piece, my husband hates it, so I guess the proof in the pudding will be how you all out there respond to it. It certainly isn’t “traditional” in any sense!

The “Ave Maria” should be completed and released in the next week or two, if all goes well. It will be released here at this website first, so stay tuned 🙂

A Creative Commons Christmas

I’m currently busy on an SSATB a cappella composition with the working title of “Starlight”. No text for the piece as yet, but everything going well.

I should have some midi samples ready witihn a week or two, but it is Christmas, so things may slow down as eggnog making, gingerbread house construction, and building of various yummy salads all get in the way of things, as they tend to do at this time of the year.

In other news, I’m now a fully represented SOUNZ composer. They’ve received and approved my paperwork, so you’ll now start to be able to find my works at the SOUNZ website too, along with those of other New Zealand composers.

If you’re looking for new works to perform, go check out the website. It’s worth a look.

Sharing music at Christmas

Christmas is coming fast, and with it a fair number of performances of my works around the world. This week I was sent a copy of the flute line Mark at All Saints Edmonton in London has written for Mary Sings A Lullaby.

They’ll be performing his two voice plus flute arrangement of Mary on the 18th of December. I’ll be adding Mark’s score to this website with his permission, and to the Choral Public Domain Library, sometime fairly soon.

This is the beauty of Creative Commons release – it enables performers to add their own touches to the work, without fear of repercussion. It also provides new options for choirs and churches, free of charge, for their performances and services.

Copyright should end after 10 years

If I had my way, I’d make copyright end after 10 years. I think we need more free – and freely shared – music in the world. Right here, right now at Christmas, I am reminded how it is more important to give than to receive. Ten years would be enough for composers to earn fairly, then to share our music without fees attached.

After all, if we are able to write music it is not through anything we’ve done ourselves, but usually through lucky chance, and the gifts of others – music lessons as a child, music teachers who cared and worked hard themselves, mentors and friends, and others taking an interest in us, supporting us, and performing our music.

After ten years, I think it is high time to give something back.

Christmas performances – England, the USA and New Zealand

Just a quick mention of some more performances I’ve been contacted about recently.

Over in England, right near where my Dad grew up near Nottingham, Sing Christmas! is receiving another performance in the village of Burton Joyce, in the annual Christmas concerts there on the 17th and 19th.

And I was lucky to be able to attend a performance of Sing Christmas! here in my own home city of Dunedin, by the Southern Consort of Voices, performed at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It still feels off hearing my own works from my head, brought to life in front of me. I felt honoured and humbled to be present.

Another piece that received another outing recently was “Yule” from the Wheel of the Year. It was performed by the Timberlake High School Choir in Idaho on December 7th, which gave me an Idaho premiere – I’d never been performed there at all, to the best of my knowledge. I hope your concert went well over there!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

It’s really starting to feel like Christmas here.

In the southern hemisphere, we have a summer Christmas instead of a winter one, but this time of year comes around, and I get all sentimental, reminded of trying to stay awake for Father Christmas hour after hour – and failing dismally! – as a kid.

Our Christmas tree is looking beautiful, with real bells on it that jingle when my children shake them. We have a star on top, and an assortment of home-made and collected decorations – everything from yoghurt pottles sprinkled with glitter glue and sparkle, made by my four year old daughter, through to hand-blown glass from Venice – a gift from my travelling parents.

It’s all equal in beauty to me, when it hangs on the tree – although maybe the handmade decorations by my kids come a little higher in importance 😉

This is probably my last post for the year. With so much to do, there’s likely not much time to post again before 2012. So all I can say is, thanks to everyone who has been reading, thanks especially to the choirs and musicians who have been performing my music – and I hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas and New Year.