Patrick Lee - Blog

Patrick Lee - CCA Composer of the Month – FEBRUARY 2015

Patrick Lee - CCA Composer of the Month – FEBRUARY 2015

Patrick Lee - CCA Composer of the Month – FEBRUARY 2015

CCA Composer of the Month – FEBRUARY 2015

Photographs [top to bottom]: Concert Poster, John Dunford [conductor], Thom Meredith [baritone soloist], Ripon Choral Society, the nave of Ripon Cathedral.

 

YOUR FEATURED COMPOSITION OF THE MONTH:

SACRIFICES (and take the sacrifices from our hands)

 

INSTRUMENTAL AND/OR VOCAL RESOURCES USED:

Baritone solo (and Narrator), SATB chorus  &  Orchestra

 

FIRST PERFORMANCE DETAILS – IF RELEVANT:

Saturday 15th November 2015, Ripon Cathedral, North Yorkshire.

 

PERFORMERS ON YOUR RECORDING – IF RELEVANT:

Thom Meredith [baritone], Ripon Choral Society, Orchestra d’Amici, directed by John Dunford.

 

OF THE WORK(S) YOU HAVE SELECTED FOR THE COMPOSER OF THE MONTH FEATURE, WHAT WAS THE SOURCE/INSPIRATION/COMMISSION WHICH SET THIS PIECE OR THESE PIECES IN MOTION?

See programme note below:

 

WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD PROGRAMME NOTE FOR THIS WORK (OR THESE WORKS) WHICH EXPLAINS THE STRUCTURE, USE OF MELODY AND HARMONY AND ANY TECHNICAL POINTS RELATED TO THE PERFORMERS?

Sacrifices was originally written to commemorate the centenary of the 1914 -1918 Great War. It grew from a keen and life-long interest in the poems of Rupert Brooke and the intention to set three of his five War Sonnets to music (having previously set several other poems for SATB/TTBB choirs). But, before I had progressed very far, it became obvious that Brooke’s poems did not describe the horror of trench warfare – nor should they, because he died before he’d had any experience of life at the front.

 

The mood of the British nation by September/early October 1914 was pretty much one of enthusiastic support for the adventure that was offered by enlisting in the army of volunteers needed to stop the advance of the German army in Belgium and France. Research in literary and historical commentaries showed that there were many reasons why this was the case - not least of these that politicians actively encouraged well-known poets to promote the war in their poetry and encourage young men to sign up – hence Rupert Brooke’s War Sonnets as well as some of the poems of Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Laurence Binyon and others. Before long, the reality and the horror of the Great War very quickly became all too obvious and many poets (Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Charles Sorley, Edward Thomas and many others) wrote of their bitter experiences in the army and in the trenches.

 

After the war, the critic, Samuel Hynes, wrote this in his book, The Soldier’s Tale, defining what he calls the ‘myth’ of the Great War: - “…… a generation of innocent young men, their heads full of high abstractions like Honour, Glory and England, went off to war to make the world safe for democracy. They were slaughtered in stupid battles planned by stupid generals. Those who survived were shocked, disillusioned and embittered by their war experiences, and saw that their real enemies were not the Germans, but the old men at home who had lied to them.”

 

The ‘thread’ or ‘story’ of Sacrifices seeks to describe and reflect on (i) the patriotism and the appetite for adventure at the beginning of the war, (ii) the subsequent despair and disillusionment after experiencing the horror of the war, and, moving finally and inevitably to (iii) the reason why we should still remember those who lost their lives during that conflict and, by extension, in the wars that have followed.

The title, “Sacrifices”, comes from the final line of the libretto (Herman Hesse) – “And take the sacrifices from our hands”. The intention is that this work should have a resonance for those involved in all the conflicts of the last 100 years as well as in the foreseeable future. It’s designed such that the voices are at the forefront of the ensemble, with the orchestra fulfilling an accompanying role for the majority of the work.  There are eight poems and a single stanza set to music, all linked by the writings of men who lived and fought in the war, spoken by a narrator.

The work should be performed without a break. The eight/nine songs (i.e. the words and the music) within the work offer considerable variety through their meaning, mood and form but they are linked and the work is bound together by the recurring use of themes or ‘mottos’ either literally or as thematic transformations. This secular oratorio-type work should be seen as a whole, a single-movement work for soloist, mixed-voice chorus and orchestra.

For notes on the individual sections click HERE.

 

WHEN DID YOU FIRST START COMPOSING AND WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST PIECE?

Age 11 – an introit for the church choir & organ

 

WHO WAS IT THAT FIRST ENCOURAGED YOU TO DEVELOP YOUR INTEREST IN COMPOSING AND HOW DID THEY HELP?

I can’t remember who might have been the first to encourage me to write my own music. However, there have been many over the years who, through words of encouragement or through the obvious enjoyment they’ve shown when performing the music I’ve written, have been very supportive. For example, I spent 35 years teaching music and, during that time, I wrote (perhaps) hundreds of pieces for school bands, choirs, classroom performance and individual or ensemble performances for GCSE and A level exams. The enthusiasm and enjoyment of the students was a huge part of the reason for doing it.

Latterly, and since I retired from teaching, my old college friend from 45 years ago, Roger Fordham, has been the most influential in persuading me to take my composing more seriously, to enter competitions and to further develop my style and my craft.

 

WHO DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATIONS IN TERMS OF THE MAJOR COMPOSERS AND WHICH OF THEIR WORKS HAS INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST AND WHY?

Different composers at different times in my life. Currently, French composers such as Fauré & Ravel. In the past I’ve favoured (and listened to much of the music of) Brahms, Sibelius, R. Strauss, Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Delius. Also Gershwin and Ellington.

 

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE TO SOMEONE WHO HAS NEVER HEARD YOUR MUSIC BEFORE?

With great difficulty. I’ve often asked friends if they think my style of writing is like any other well-known composer and the answer is always, without exception, “No. It’s just you.”

 

WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS ORIGINAL IN YOUR MUSIC?

I’m very keen on interesting rhythms and slightly unusual harmonic progression but this is by no means original. Melodically, the same applies. Perhaps the most individual aspect of my writing is the overall form of movements or whole pieces; I do like to develop what I think of as a “mosaic” in many works; the analogy with art & architecture is handy. The overall effect or shape is achieved by lots of different contributory motifs, rhythms and harmonic movement and the contributing elements of the music can only be discovered by close inspection. The overall sound impression should (largely speaking) remain accessible and pleasurable (if that is appropriate) and it should be emotionally and intellectually satisfying to both performer and listener.

 

HOW DO YOU WORK? WHAT METHODS OF CREATIVITY AND WORK ETHIC DO YOU HAVE? DO YOU SOLELY USE MUSICAL TECHNOLOGY OR DO PAPER AND PENCIL STILL FORM A PART OF YOUR PROCESS?

Initial ideas are always conceived at the piano and then written down on paper. I don’t start to use music-writing software until I’ve made sufficient decisions about the expected elements of the piece I’m working on.

However, the software facility often leads me towards further ideas in terms of developing the initial ingredients. I don’t use (and have never looked at) Sibelius software’s “ideas” section; I think I prefer to rely on my own ways of working.

 

WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?

A commissioned work for tuba & piano entitled “making a song and dance of it”.

Various arrangements and original works for the Harrogate Male Voice Choir

 

To finish, who or what is your favourite:

 

Genre of Music?

               Choral & Symphonic music from the Romantics onwards, Big Band Jazz and Cool Jazz (e.g. Brubeck et al.).

Instrumentalist?

               Roger Fordham – pianist and organist (lives in Devon), a close friend since our days at the Academy.

Orchestra?

               I have more recordings by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra than any other.

Concert Venue

               The Royal Albert Hall

Pieces of Music

               Elgar – Symphony No. 1 (especially the Sir Colin Davis version with the London Symphony Orchestra – live recording)

               Shostakovich – Symphony No. 5

               R. Strauss – Metamorphosen (for 23 solo strings)

               and Four Last Songs

               Dudley Moore – Songs Without Words