Author Archives: Jenni Pinnock

Cracked Voices dates announced!

We’re delighted to be able to share the dates of the premiere and second performance of Cracked Voices.

The premiere of will take place in the Music Recital Hall of Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge on Saturday 10th March at 7.30pm.

The second performance will be held at Royston Methodist Church, Queens Road, Royston on Saturday 28th April at 7.30pm. This performance will include the premiere of Meridian School’s Cracked Objects – art songs written by students based on objects on display at Royston Museum.

To buy tickets for these performances please head to the Tickets page.

That final bar line – and what happens next..

The text is written. The dots are on the page. The rehearsals all completed, the performers walk on stage..

As Cracked Voices has progressed, Graham and I have shared snippets of our processes with you. From the beginnings of Graham’s research into a piece from me musing on inspiration and scales, we’ve given you an insight into how we work. Between February and October, 10 art songs were drafted, ready for rehearsal, having being shared between Graham and I. Before they could head towards the performers they had to be checked one more time and parts created. As anyone who has ever created parts in any scoring program can attest to, this is never as easy as pressing a button – there’s always further tweaking to be done before they’re ready for the performers to set eyes on them.

In November, it was wonderful to finally have Donna, Ian, Sue and Ralph in the same room and to hear them performing together. Some of the pieces required more rehearsal than others, but we managed to get through all 10 completed songs. While some pieces were fine as they were, others needed tweaking in various forms. Graham and I each came away with our own notes, along with those suggested by the performers, which we discussed before I began the next stage of redrafts.

This is what it looks like when the cat decides to knock all the pieces you’re currently redrafting off of the piano.

I then deliberately ignored the physical scores for a while and just listened to the recordings of the rehearsal. Which bits didn’t feel quite right? Where was the balance wrong? How could I convey Graham’s carefully crafted words better? I recorded the whole rehearsal on my handy H4N Zoom recorder (an invaluable piece of kit) so I could hear not only how the pieces were performed, but also re-listen to our discussions about them in case I’d missed anything vital.

It was then time to get back to work. Some pieces needed more work than others. For example, for A composite man, it was decided another part was needed to tie the vocal parts together. The clarinet, then, became the spirits of the dead workers and widows. Other pieces needed more bird song, or less accompaniment.

The process of redrafting is always a tricky one. You listen, analyse, revisit and revise, time and time again. Often you find yourself amending a line  in one fashion one day, only to amend it back to the original the next. Along with the changes to actual notes, lines and instrumentation in the redraft stage, there are also the more technical bits of music notation. Which time signatures convey the music best and ensure it makes the most sense for the performers – a non-standard beaming of 12/8 or 6/8 followed by 3/4? Should I spell my phrase F sharp – F natural – F sharp or should it be an E sharp in the middle – or G flats at either end? I’ve found that with Cracked Songs  a considerable amount of this stage has been spent playing around with these nitty gritty bits. Not only do you have to make them make sense throughout one song, but the whole cycle has to be taken into consideration too – it has to make sense as the sum of its parts as well as each constituent piece, and in the way it is notated along with the actual music itself.

Tweaking scores to ensure they’re as clear as possible is always a priority. If they have to puzzle over engraving they can’t immerse themselves as fully in the music.

I’ve spent the month and a bit since the rehearsal tweaking and redrafting – and I’m just reaching the end of the process. In the next few days the ‘final’ version of the scores and parts will wing their way over to the Cracked Voices performers, ready for them to look at for the next rehearsal. Along with polished final versions of the previous drafts there are two new pieces – the final two songs of the cycle.

That double bar line really is only the beginning.

Puzzle Day 2018

We all know riddles from Christmas crackers. They are simple puzzles…puzzles that take things that don’t normally speak and give them a voice. They ask, ‘What am I?’

I have heads and tails but no legs. 
(Hover your cursor over the riddle to see the answer).

When I’m young, I’m tall.
When I’m old, I’m short.
I glow with life.
Breath snuffs me out.

We’re sure you can do better than that, so here’s your chance to try! This International Puzzle Day (29 January) why not try writing your own riddle and send it to us? (If you want some help, visit our blogpost on riddle writing). 

Simply type your riddle and answer (only clean ones please!) in the ‘Leave a Reply’ box and we’ll post the best ones.

Meet the Cracked Voices performers!

Following our call for performers earlier in the year, we’re pleased to be able to share our fabulous Cracked Voices performers with you! We’re delighted to be working with Ian Beadle, Donna Lennard, Sue Pettitt and Ralph Woodward to bring Cracked Voices to life.

Top row: Donna Lennard, soprano and Ian Beadle, Baritone. Second row: Ralph Woodward, pianist and Sue Pettitt, clarinettist.

Ian Beadle – Baritone
Ian Beadle was born in Hertfordshire and studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he obtained a BMus (Hons) degree and Guildhall Artist Masters, as a scholar under the tutelage of Professor John Evans. In 2012/13 he was a part of the English National Opera’s Opera Works programme. Operatic experience includes the Bridegroom The Vanishing Bridegroom (British Youth Opera), Figaro Le Nozze Di Figaro (Opera Brava), Des Grieux Le Portrait De Manon, Belcore Elisir D’Amore and William Dale Silent Night (Wexford Festival Opera), Masetto Don Giovanni, Marco GIanni Schicchi, Quinault Adriana Lecouvreur, Jake Wallace La Fanciulla Del West (Opera Holland Park), Valentin Faust (Winterbourne Opera). Ian sang Bass soloist in a Messiah at the Palau de la Música, Valencia for the Philharmonia Chorus.

For more information on Ian, please see www.ianbeadle.co.uk

 

Donna Lennard – Soprano
Donna Lennard grew up in Bedford, and trained at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, attaining an MPerf with Distinction, and on ENO’s ‘Opera Works’ programme. Her operatic roles include Frog in How the Whale Became (ROH), Selene in Tycho’s Dream (Glyndebourne), Alice in Airborne (Nova Music Opera), Despina in Così fan tutte (Cooper Hall Emerging Artists), Yellow in The Anatomy of Melancholy (bodycorps), Catfish in The Catfish Conundrum (The Music Troupe for Tête à Tête), Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Frasquita in Carmen, and Pamina in The Magic Flute (Opera Loki). Other stage work includes performing in the UK tour of May Contain Food with dance company, Protein, and the role of Madame Viardot in Salon Musical, a project initiated by pianist Marc Verter that recreates French salon concerts from the late 19th Century.

For more information on Donna, please see www.donnalennard.co.uk

 

Sue Pettitt – Clarinet
Sue came down from Lancashire in 1987 to study clarinet under John Stenhouse and Nick Bucknall at Trinity College of Music. After graduating with an FTCL in 1991 she started to work for Hertfordshire Music Service which she does to this day. Sue is the head of Royston Music School and conducts the North Herts and Stevenage Windband. She is also in great demand as an orchestral and pit musician across the whole of the South East. When not involved in the musical world she can be found chasing her young puppy around the garden trying to stop it from digging up the lawn!

 

Ralph Woodward – Piano
Ralph Woodward grew up in Durham, and studied Music as Organ Scholar at Queens’ College, Cambridge. He is now Musical Director of the Fairhaven Singers, Full Score and Orchestral Score. He has played concertos on three instruments, worked in over 25 countries, and conducted the London Mozart Players, City of London Sinfonia, The Parley of Instruments, English Chamber Orchestra, and Britten Sinfonia. He carries out a wide range of editorial tasks for Oxford University Press. Past projects have included work with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Emma Johnson, Iestyn Davies and Cradle of Filth, and an appearance on ITV’s Grantchester. Ralph also manages a cricket team and is a keen badminton player and a good steady drinker.

For more information on Ralph, please see www.ralphwoodward.com

A composite man – a composite piece?

“A conversation between two people who aren’t really listening to each other”

To find out the background to this piece, read Graham’s post about writing this poem –  Not knowing… (part 2). I pick up straight up where Graham stops – with the finished poem winging its way over to me.

When Graham sent me his first version of this poem, it was clear the two conversations needed to be two separate entities,  yet presented as one overall picture of the scene. I could already tell that the two characters- the (dead) coprolite digger and his wife – needed separate musical identities and songs, and had the idea that their singing should be entwined for the final stanza of the piece. Graham’s final presentation of the two monologues  – a modern composite of two conversations- furthered my original thoughts.

If the two characters are ignoring each other, they must therefore be talking about separate things – having two conversation which occasionally collide. As a result, I decided to write a separate song for each character which would begin as separate entities, but overlap more as the piece progressed, eventually being presented almost simultaneously.

The first voice is that of a dead coprolite digger- which Graham has based around the skeleton of a folk song. Wanting to work along similar lines, my setting of this is centred around a folk or work song.  It’s quite a simple melody, in three, catchy with a strong down beat. In contrast, the wife’s song is more lyrical, in a completely different tonality and has four beats in the bar.  Choosing the tonalities for the two different songs was tricky. I deliberately picked tonalities that suited each, but was mindful of making sure they’d have elements of both dissonance and harmony. The three in a bar folk song is in C minor, while the soprano’s melody drifts between E flat minor and E flat locrian. This combination creates plenty of room for dissonance, but yet space for moments of harmony too. Think of it as one vocalist singing Twinkle Twinkle (major) while the other sings Teddy Bear’s Picnic (minor) a few notes lower – and adds in some colourful extra accidentals!

Below is a rough diagram of how the voices are sliding over each other (and combining!) at the moment – at the stage where I’m tidying up the first draft of the piece. As you can see, for the first stanza the voices only momentarily overlap at the end of each phrase. The moments of overlap (or alternating phrases) increase in the second stanza, bar one line. They increase further as the piece progresses, until they’re almost completely entwined in stanza four – save for the last line, where each can be heard independently again – each saying their piece to end the conversation.

Of course, this method of creating a piece brings further questions with it. How do you ensure each part is heard fully (or do you abandon that entirely?). What time signature(s) and key signatures(s) do you use, and how do you ensure the vocalists maintain the original feel of their songs when they’re being pushed and pulled around a bit time and tempo wise? All good questions – all of which I need to answer as I finish drafting A composite man !