Ever since wanting to be a composer I have always enjoyed that moment when you first hear the piece, with one or two exceptions that is! And as I approached a rehearsal of the City of London Choir last month in readiness for the recording of The Angry Garden with the RPO, it occurred to me that quite often I heard part of the piece for the first time from the outside of a building, while approaching it for the rehearsal. That first happened to me for an oboe concerto of mine, in early days when I was very unsure of myself and so I will never forget the oboist going through it in the distance and my relief and excitement of finding that it sounded like it should. For The Angry Garden, some 16 years after the premiere, I knew it would, but that thrill of hearing a piece that you have written from a distance will stay with me. It’s less bound up in the atmosphere of the concert hall, and it is partly because the composer isn’t present and involved.
The 21st September 2019 was a date which brings to a close a recording project that has taken almost two years to put in place, and it is a privilege to have such people involved; the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of London Choir, conductor Hilary Davan Wetton, pianist Mark Bebbington, and four or the UK’s leading singers, Stephanie Corley, Marta Fontanals-Simmons, Ed Lyon, and William Berger.
Two works were recorded in the three sessions at Henry Wood Hall, in the morning a piece for piano and orchestra, under the title Silvered Night, and in the afternoon and evening sessions The Angry Garden, a work written and premiered in 2002 to highlight the issue of global warming. Composed from a libretto by poet and author Simon Rae, it was first performed at St. John’s Smith Square in support of the World Wildlife Fund.
Taking the latter first, I was first drawn to the issue of the environment in the early 1970’s when I had a place to study with the scientist David Bellamy - I alway...