Composition Workshops Programme

Nailsea School, Bristol Cathedral Choir School, Prior Park, King Edward’s School, Churchill School & St George’s. Winter/Spring 2017

75 young musicians from schools across the region attended our five workshops.  Lead by professional composers (Michael Ellison, Sadie Harrison, Geoff Poole, Neal Farwell & Karen Wimhurst) and performed by the Bristol Ensemble the workshops proved an illuminating and inspirational experience for the young composers.

We also continued with the Young Composers’ Academy run in partnership with St. George’s, Bristol and had a fascinating day at the start of the year in the company of John Pickard & Geoff Poole, two of the region’s finest composers.

Matt Dury, Director of Music and Bruton Girls’ School wrote of our 2017 programme:
These workshops have been an invaluable asset for the students: sessions like this are often only available at graduate or even postgraduate level, so to get feedback from industry professionals at an early age is a fantastic and rare opportunity. Their understanding and work has improved considerably as a result, facilitating excellent achievement at exam-level; whilst the pleasure of hearing their own music played has been an obvious inspiration for them and will be an experience they hold onto for a lifetime. We are very grateful and indebted as a department and school to NMSW.


The NMSW Trio
Sunday 29th January 2017. St. Michael’s Bath

Andy Keenan: clarinets
Harriet Riley: marimba
Alison Holford: cello

A repeat of the programme from the RWA the previous week. Three NMSW commissions were performed including Sadie Harrison’s The Murder, inspired by Heather Nevay’s painting of the same name.


The NMSW Trio
Sunday 22nd January 2017. The Royal West of England Academy

Andy Keenan: clarinets
Harriet Riley: marimba
Alison Holford: cello

A haunting programme to accompany the RWA’s stunning Strange Worlds: Vision’s of Angela Carter exhibition. Including new music by three of the region’s most exciting composing talents – Sadie Harrison, Jean-Paul Metzger & David Greenhorne.

The programme also featured Jim Aitchison’s wonderful response to Peter Randall-Page’s Rorschach Screen and music by Ligeti, Dave Samuels, Lois Wyatt and others.

The Peter Randall-Page concert
Sunday 6th November: Dartington Hall, S. Devon.

A concert of new music written in response to the work of renowned sculptor Peter Randall-Page.

5 Rorschach Inventions – Jim Aitchison
Esoptron – Lois Wyatt
Seed – David Greenhorne
Three Watches of the Night – Carmen Ho

We are hugely grateful to Peter for his contribution to this event. Not only did he arrange for his wonderful Rorschach Screen to be installed specially for the concert, but he also took part in an illuminating post-concert discussion along with composers Jim Aitchison and David Greenhorne.



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From Darkness into Light
 conducted by Mark Forkgen
Sunday 18th September: St. George’s, Bristol.

We commissioned new music on the theme From Darkness into Light for a programme which took the audience on a dramatic journey from the depths of the underworld to the heights of joy and celebration. The concert also featured the shortlisted pieces from the annual NMSW Young Composers’ Prize and Sam Macdonald was announced as the overall winer.

L’escalier du diable – Ligeti
Stille Nacht – Schnittke
Funeral Blues – Britten
Mozart’s Adagio –
 Arvo Pärt
The Pains of Sleep – Julian Leeks
Baros – Lois Wyatt
Lux – Stephen McNeff
The Yellow Pages – Michael Torke
Totti – Graham Fitkin


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2016 Concerts 1 & 2

Chapel Arts Centre, Bath. 6th March.
Victoria Rooms, Bristol 13th March.

Andy Keenan – saxophones and clarinets
Harriet Riley – percussion
Paul Israel – piano

Graham FitkinGate
Elliott Carter: Figment V
Stathis Kampilis: Brain-eating birds patrol the low frequency brain waves
Akira YuyamaDivertimento
Elan HiguerasBaga, biga, higa
Thomas AdésMazurkas I & III
Julian LeeksBeehive
Geoff PooleFibonacci Fizz
Andy Keenan: I have been Hunted





Season Finale 2015 – SOUND WORLD

For SOUND WORLD we commissioned pieces inspired by the landmarks and history of Bristol, including:
Michael Ellison‘s exciting Vincent & Avona, a piece inspired by the dramatic topography of the Avon gorge and the medieval legend describing its creation.
Julian Leeks‘ Building the City, a light-hearted romp through 60,000 years of Bristol history.
Sara Garrard‘s Easter Garden telling the story of Clifton’s wonderful community garden.
Andy Keenan‘s Shatter

We also premiered the shortlisted pieces from the NMSW Young Composers’ Prize 2015. The shortlisted composers were Josh Greacen, Sebrina Lambert-Rose and Benedict Richardson. Three great pieces made the job for the judges enjoyable but very difficult; the winner was Benedict.
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2015 Concert 3

Music & Art 2
Hauser & Wirth, Somerset. 13th June.

Zhang SeascapesGeoff Poole
The Wind and the SeaJacob Vaughan-Churchyard Davies
Another SeasonJean-Paul Metzger
Falling Leaves on Mossy GreenSam Pradalie
Tread Softly Litha Efthymiou
String Quartet Julian Leeks

A full house saw a partial repeat of the Music & Art programme at the wonderful Hauser & Wirth in Bruton, Somerset. In addition to the pieces from RWA the previous week, the programme also included pieces by two young composers chosen via an open call to the region’s schools. Sam Pradalie (Backwell School, Bristol) and Jacob Vaughan Churchyard-Davies (Beechen Cliff School, Bath) produced a two pieces of really quality, so congratulations to them!

A big thank you goes to the audience whose enthusiasm contributed enormously to a great atmosphere and, of course thanks also to the Bristol Ensemble String Quartet (Roger Huckle, Rachel Gough, Bernard Kane and Richard Phillips), the composers and artists.


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2015 Concert 2

Music & Art
RWA, Bristol. 7th June.

Zhang SeascapesGeoff Poole
Another SeasonJean-Paul Metzger
String Quartet Julian Leeks
From The Other PlaceHildur Guðnadóttir
Tread Softly Litha Efthymiou

A great performance by the Bristol Ensemble String Quartet of a programme that included the much anticipated world première of Geoff Poole’s 5th String Quartet: Zhang Seascapes. For this concert, NMSW commissioned a number of composers to write new pieces in response to the work of artists Zhang Enli and Debbie Locke, while composer Julian Leeks and artist Fiona Robinson collaborated on an ongoing conversation between the two art forms, as each created a response to the other’s work.


2015 Composition Workshops

Sidcot School, King Edward’s School, Bath and St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School, Bristol. February & March.

Three workshops gave 43 GCSE and A’Level composers the opportunity to have their music played and recorded by professional performers. The standard of work was incredibly high and the enthusiasm of the students was fantastic to see. 

Victoria Cooper (Head of Music, Backwell School) wrote of the workshops, …extremely positive feedback from all who attended. MB who went to the King Edward’s School workshop has been raving about it. EH, was really inspired by it and said that hearing it live had made her feel quite emotional! As teachers, we have found it has motivated pupils hugely, they feel inspired and we have seen an increase in their confidence. I really hope the scheme can continue to run and develop!


Ben England (Head of Music, Colston Girls) wrote, It was a real pleasure to come to the session, and I was blown away by the high quality music making that we heard on the day.  I will email Eiron [Director of Music at Bristol Cathedral School and schools representative to the Bristol Music Education Partnership] and rave enthusiastically about the work you are doing – I really think that NMSW needs to be working with all the Bristol A-Level musicians.




2015 Concert 1

Victoria Rooms, Bristol. 11th January.

SnowboundJohn Pickard
Similes of ThoughtAndy Keenan
Sonatina Benedict Todd
GateGraham Fitkin
LullabyHoward Skempton
DjililePeter Sculthorpe
The Fox, On a Winter’s NightSara Garrard

A varied programme started in the depths of darkness with John Pickard’s intense Snowbound, passed through Fitkin’s relentless, exciting Gate and the beauty of Djilile by Peter Sculthorpe to the playful storytelling of Sara Garrard’s The Fox, On a Winter’s Night. Performed with conviction and relish by Robin Austin (cello), Andy Keenan (clarinets and sax.) and Steven Kings (piano). Photos are of rehearsals on the day of the concert.


2014 Season Finale: “Carnival of the Animals meets A Modern Menagerie

St. George’s, Bristol. 7th September.
NMSW commissioned a set of responses to Saint-Saëns’ miniature animal portraits. Titled A Modern Menagerie it was premiered alongside the original work. The concert was quite unique and the extraordinary number of young people there contributed to a wonderfully joyous atmosphere.