It’s always exciting when the Spring Festival programme is announced, and this year’s offering looks brilliant. Of course, I may be a bit biased – two pieces of mine, including a premiere, and a big new piece (Swimming between shores) by two of my PhD students, Morag Galloway and Merit Ariane Stephanos. And of course visits from two brilliantly successful ex-students, Anna Meredith and Stef Conner. I can’t wait for it all to begin.
My new piece is for soprano and marimba, and I offered to write it for Zoe and Ana when they told me they were forming the duo PercuSSing. I already had a short piece (Lullaby) for the combination, and thought this would be a good chance to create a little set of pieces, including that one. So far there are three: Lullaby, A Flower for my Daughter and Walking Away. The common theme here is children. Walking Away is the title of a poem I found in a book of work by local (East Yorkshire) poets. I liked this one because it’s quite dramatic but in a quiet understated way: two children walking out towards the sea hand in hand, watched by their mother as they go perhaps a little too far out for comfort. I managed to contact the poet, Norah Hanson, who turns out to be in her seventies and living in Hull. Fortunately she was very happy with the idea of a musical setting of her poem, which she published many years ago. But in fact I have not ‘set’ the poem. It’s so perfect as a little monologue that I felt singing it would only detract from its impact. Instead I have set a musical tapestry around it; the marimba plays ebbing and flowing waves of harmony which allow the drama of the poem to remain unspoiled.