The London International Choral Conducting Competition is delighted to announce a brand new choral work has been written specially for the competition. The piece – ‘The Cries of Music’ – has been composed by Janet Wheeler and set to a poem by Euan Tait, and provides the set piece for the Grand Final, for which the six finalists will conduct the combined choirs of Chantage, Coro and Chamber Choir cc FREIA.
James Davey, one of the founders of LICCC, said: "Janet is excellent at writing for a variety of different forces and really “gets" choirs. We’re thrilled to be working with her and Euan on this project’. Facilitating excellence in all aspects of the choral world lies at the heart of LICCC’s mission, and commissioning new music written specifically for choirs is a vital part of this. It is particularly exciting to have a new text for the piece – Welsh librettist and poet Euan Tait was commissioned to write the text, and worked closely with Janet Wheeler on the piece."
Janet Wheeler has said about setting Tait’s poem:
"The invitation from Amy Bebbington and James Davey (LICCC founders) to compose the test piece for the inaugural LICCC presented a hugely exciting opportunity to set a wonderful new text by Euan Tait. The poem beautifully draws the parallel between the singer's experience of choral music and our common human experience of life's trajectory from beginning to end.
I found the poem moving and powerfully inspiring, with its very musical combination of ideas from the aural and visual, the spiritual and emotional, all encompassed in a clear three-part structure - essentially birth, life and death. These sections are linked by a number of verbal motifs, reflected in my setting and developed musically across the course of the piece. Whenever I'm setting words, they always lead the way in my harmonic choices. The placing of harmonies and key changes give the chance to introduce elements of surprise and change among more settled sections and in this case to emphasise the arch shape and arrival points in each verse and across the piece as a whole.
Each of Euan's verses begins with the word 'music' which I have set with a slightly extended hummed opening, wanting this hum to embody the moment of giving voice together in song, but also aware of how often humming starts the choral singer's warm-up.
In response to the central more active section I've incorporated speed changes, partly to give artistic scope to the conductors. I'm very much looking forward to hearing how the competition finalists treat this and other interpretative matters in the six premiere performances of the competition. What a privilege it is to be involved in this exciting venture at the outset."
Euan Tait reflects on music’s life force:
"How wonderful, how unexpected, was Amy Bebbington’s email requesting a text for the first London International Choral Conducting Competition! As choral singing is about the roots of music, about the shared singing that is so natural to us and yet which takes so much dedication and hard work to shape to the highest standards, and as it concerns what it is to be human (people sing in harmony as an inherent human gift), Amy’s request stirred the roots of my own verbal music, and I immediately heard words about how music speaks for the hidden sufferings each of us live with, about the great, transforming energy of choral music, about the music of our final “welcome and farewell” – our goodbye to the old life, and welcome into the new. The words just poured out of me, as if they had been waiting a long time for this kind of commission.
To sing of music, of singing - to be given this great opportunity to write a text for a new competition that will draw the very best from musicians - means that I sing in this poem of choral music as a fundamental, catalytic force within us, inherently part of the life-energies of our humanity, the song of our creation and powerful living, and finally, the song of our ultimate vulnerability when we fall into mercy at our deaths. This text is joyous and fiery, just as this great event is so life-giving, a shared and unforgettable experience. There is a particular power in choral singing that leaves a mark on everyone's being after every concert. I have a sense of great thanksgiving, and joy is the life-force of the words. I'm so thrilled with Janet's beautiful and insightful setting, and feel so privileged to work with such a powerful compositional voice."
You can see the finalists conduct this thrilling new piece in the Grand Final on 21 October at the Royal Academy of Music – tickets are now available here.