So it's been a few weeks and you've finished the writing process! What comes next?
The next bit is actually quite exciting! I finished the piece on June 15, and at the moment, Peter Luff, Ysolt Clark (aka Horn Hounds) and a quartet of their students are in Natal, Brazil where they will play the world premiere of this work at the 49th International Horn Symposium tonight! Now, this is ultimately the world’s most important stage for horn players. Hundreds of horn professionals and students from all over the world gather at the Symposium each year for a week of masterclasses, workshops, collaborations and amazing concerts. I hope my performers are not too nervous over there, but it is such a huge event for them, especially for the students! I know all six of them are going to do great; they are absolutely world class, and they inspire me to write the best music I am capable of creating.
This piece is also scheduled for its Australian premiere in November 2017 at the Queensland Conservatorium, and US premiere in early 2018. I have already been contacted by several fantastic horn players, both from Australia and internationally, with requests to purchase the score for it as soon as it is available, and that’s even before the world premiere. So I couldn’t be happier with the outcome. I am very grateful to the Australia Council for the Arts for their support of this project!
Can you tell us about some of the challenges of writing a major work while juggling other compositional projects? How do you manage your time?
For me, the only principle that makes it all hold together is prioritising. A colleague of mine said that his was ignoring. These seem to be the two sides of the same medal. I think it’s a “glass half-full – glass half-empty” sort of thing… But, to be serious, at the start of the year, I take the time to map out my schedule and see how much time I have for each project. Then I create a commission calendar, so that I know when I have to start and finish each work. Otherwise, NOTHING will get accomplished. So far, surprisingly, I am right on track; though this is due to the fact that 1). I have an incredibly supportive husband; 2). I haven’t had a single day off of composing this year, including Sundays and public holidays… For me, it’s all worth it, though. I’m absolutely loving my projects this year, and 2018 is already starting to fill up with some inspiring and powerful collaborations, as well.
What has it been like working with the young horn players? Can you tell us about the workshop experience?
Horn can be an intimidating instrument to play, especially for young performers, especially when working on brand-new pieces. This was not the case for this project, though. The four students Peter and Ysolt selected – Sunga Lee, Jess Goodrich, Mel Simpson and Jacob Aspinall - are incredible young players, with great integrity and work ethics. They are definitely some of the very best young horn players in the country, and I am positive that all four of them have very bright musical future ahead. Before they left for Brazil, we had an incredibly fun week of rehearsals, which is probably the most favourite part of my job – seeing the works come together and come alive. The piece came out exactly as I planned it: two advanced solo parts, often fighting with each other, and a quartet supporting the story and taking the lead here and there. And it is definitely about a war, and definitely Ukraine-inspired – one can clearly hear it from the music. Each of the six musicians involved played my music in the past, so they are used to the main principles of my compositional style. I think this is what sped up the process of learning the piece for them tremendously. Peter and Ysolt embraced the challenges of their parts immediately and left me speechless from the first rehearsal. The students were learning their fairly challenging material very quickly, listening to every bit of advice from Peter, Ysolt and myself; I could observe their progress in real time, pretty much, and they showed nothing but respect, dedication and musicianship. They very much enjoyed the piece I wrote for them, and in return made me a very happy composer. I cannot wait to hear the recording of their Brazil performance.
Photo: Peter, Ysolt and Catherine with horn students.