Colin Touchin - Blog

Colin Touchin - CCA Composer of the Month, APRIL 2013

Colin Touchin - CCA Composer of the Month, APRIL 2013

Colin Touchin - CCA Composer of the Month, APRIL 2013

CCA Composer of the Month, APRIL 2013

Your featured Composition of the Month:



Instrumental and/or vocal resources used:



First performance details:

16 June, 2012 – HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, COVENTRY; then a procession into the city and an open-air repeat in the Shopping Centre!  Part of Coventry Mysteries Festival Week, 2012


Performers on your recording:

SPIRES PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA & CHORUS and choirs from three Coventry primary schools


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?

Commissioned by the Coventry Mysteries Festival 2012: The Doom Painting in Holy Trinity Church triggered visits in February by children from five schools who submitted by early April poetry/prose on theme of Judgment, Reconciliation, etc. Set to music in one month.  The working title Coventry Doom was replaced by an appropriate line from one of the submitted poems, reflecting the desire to recognise past sin, face judgment, and move onwards and upwards towards better life on earth and possibly afterwards, too!


What would be a good programme note for this work which explains the structure, use of melody and harmony and any technical points related to the performers?

Choose the Light, a 35-minute continuous “oratorio”, moves from Darkness to Light, from initial discordance (a setting of Dies Irae [1: Dies Irae/Choose The Light] for the adult chorus and orchestra) to a release into concordance (a setting of verses [7: Father, Forgive] from the Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation, still said daily).  There are 4 defined songs [2: The Painting, 3: Only An Earthquake, 5: Revelation, 6: Judgement Day], one for each of the original participating schools, and a fifth central section[4: Renew the Life], text drawn from another school’s contribution, which can all be performed as separate items; in this full version they are linked by thematic and atmospheric material for the orchestra establishing both awe and a mood of reflection. The Coventry earthquake in 1463 triggered the painting of the Doom picture to educate and offer salvation to 15th century citizens, sinners and devotees alike.  The melodic and rhythmic material of the songs was partly dictated by the submitted poems which exhibit various formal and informal pattern and rhyme, but had also to be fairly immediately “tuneful” and appropriate to the schools: so the symphonic orchestra also includes bass guitar and drum kit for those sections!  In the church the children stood in front of the orchestra and adult chorus behind, creating a fairly impossible balance problem, but at least (almost) everyone could see the conductor!


When did you first start composing and what was your first piece?

Probably when I was about 10 or 11 – it was possibly a set of variations on Three Blind Mice for three recorders to be played by my father, brother and myself at home; though in a few weeks I wrote several sets of variations on similar tunes and can’t now be sure which came first.


Who was it that first encouraged you to develop your interest in composing and how did they help?

At grammar school Dennis Bamforth became our Director of Music when I was 13 – he organised courses for recorder players and teachers and they included a Composers’ Competition which I won when I was 16: he offered advice on how to improve what I´d written; then he invited me to arrange the Hallelujah Chorus for our school orchestra, and about a week before the concert said “you’re conducting it!”, too.


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?

Impossible to lay the blame on just one composer or work! – after hating Brahms when I was a teenager I know regard his works as the greatest achievement in composition, for their brilliance of motivic development and measured expression in melodic, harmonic and intricately rhythmic invention.  I love conducting his works and learn more each time I study the scores, some of which helps in thinking about my own notes.  Equally significant impact has been made on me by Monteverdi, Telemann, Beethoven, Wagner, Debussy, Stravinsky, Ravel and others for their initiatives variously in those three main areas of note-creation.  For orchestration there are currently exciting developments in the wind band medium and Michael Colgrass’ Wind of Nagual is a brilliant exploration of resources.


How would you describe your style to someone who has never heard your music before?

Music you would possibly/hopefully want to hear more than once! – essentially melodic, with a bit of English pastoral and and occasional quirky harmonic crunch.


What do you feel is original in your music?

I’m not an innovator, but am comforted by this quotation from Ernst Gombrich: “Originality is not newness, it is genuineness.”


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?

I wrote everything by hand until January 2012 – usually an indecipherable shorthand and short score for myself from which I wrote out full orchestral parts, just hearing the orchestration in my head from the sketch I´d made.  Now I’m getting the hang of Sibelius 6.2 I’m producing music I can send out more legibly and more conveniently.  But I still scribble ideas down on the backs of envelopes: not sure how I’ll cope if we dismantle the postal system...


What project(s) are you currently working on?

Just finished a quartet for clarinet, viola, cello and piano for chamber course tutors on Ischia, and a concerto Wind-wynd for recorder with recorder orchestra (performance due on April 12 at Birmingham Conservatoire); now a set of variations on Frere Jacques for a Chinese school wind band, Amber Overture for a youth orchestra tour to Poland, songs for Hong Kong children, and a few other ideas, too.


To finish, who or what is your favourite:

Genre of Music?



Ravel Piano Trio


Christian Lindberg, trombone


Can’t choose ..

Chamber Ensemble?

Coull String Quartet


Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

Concert Venue?

Any/all with good acoustics and comfortable seats

Piece of Music?

The one I’m conducting at the time ..