Composing Competition Finalists 2015/16
Katrina Toner is 18 years old, and is currently in her final year of secondary school. She studies composition with David Sutton-Anderson, and is very interested in American contemporary classical music, with particular reference to Philip Glass, Nico Muhly and Mason Bates. However, she is also influenced by composers such as Stravinsky and Messiaen, and finds the rhythmic devices which they use fascinating. She hopes to study composition in America next year and eventually to work professionally as a composer.
Katrina is also a violinist, and studied violin at the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She recently performed the final movement of Bruch’s Violin Concerto in G Minor as a soloist with her school orchestra. She has performed throughout Europe, both as an orchestral player and as a chamber musician. She is also an experienced orchestral leader, and led the Berkshire Youth Symphony Orchestra in the Royal Albert Hall in October 2015.
I wrote this piece after becoming fascinated by the way sunlight looks in photographs. I wanted to explore various different sound worlds to capture what I thought this sunlight would sound like. However, I also wanted to occasionally colour this sound with darker undertones of the shadows which the sunlight creates. The piece is driven by an internal motor created by rhythmic repetition, interspersed with moments of stillness.
Sunlight in Photographs opens with a figure based on two alternating thirds, first heard in two solo violins, then reiterated and expanded by the woodwind section. I wanted this figure to be bright and beaming, like rays of sunlight. The short flourishes played by flutes and clarinets are like fleeting bursts of light, briefly coming through gaps in between leaves or clouds. After this, the piece is a journey through many sound worlds, some shimmering and radiant, and others more warm and resonant.
Sebastian Skelly, 20, is coming to the end of a threeyear degree course in Creative Music Technology at the University of Surrey. His main instrument is trumpet which he studied at the Junior Royal Academy of Music to classical Diploma level and has since widened his skills by adding jazz to the list. He also plays piano and has a keen interest in developing as a jazz pianist. He began composing pieces when he was 10 and is keen to work as a composer and arranger professionally once he graduates.
The composers he is most inspired by are Ravel, Vaughan Williams and Shostakovich from whose works he has learnt a great deal about orchestration, particularly so Ravel. He is also much influenced by the work of film composers like Thomas Newman and Howard Shore and is just as inspired by some of the great jazz giants like Miles Davis and Bill Evans. He also enjoys Rock, Reggae and various Electronic musics.
His approach to composition is driven by melody and motif. The harmonies and rhythms are often impressionistic and jazz-inspired as well as from minimalist influences. He has more recently begun experimenting with writing jazz and electronic music, influenced in part by his studies at Surrey. He is a frequent performer, playing trumpet as a member of a symphony orchestra, a brass quintet, the University of Surrey Big Band and, in concerts around the UK and the Netherlands, with his pop/funk/reggae and neo-soul/jazz bands Bare Jams and Kiwano.
The setting for this piece is the circus after the audience and performers have gone home, where the circus props come to life and have a party. There are juggling batons, a unicycle, an elephant, a trapeze, and much more. The piece is light-hearted, fun, and humorous with amusing melodies, vibrant splashes of colour, and a wide variety of complex textures and moods.
Most of the music is derived from the opening of the melody – the repetition of a grinding suspension which is eventually resolved. The other themes and phrases all spring from this, giving it a sense of unity with the textures varying widely around the them. The melodies are harmonically driven using jazz improvisation-influenced shapes, giving a sense of flow and direction.
Overall, this piece seeks to bring a smile to your face. Do not be afraid to laugh at the elephant stumbling around having had a few too many, or the flaming hoops playing drinking games with the throwing knives!
Findlay Spence was born in 1997 in Edinburgh and now lives on the Black Isle in the Highlands of Scotland.
In 2013, Findlay attained a place at St. Mary’s Music School where he is now studying Composition with Tom David Wilson. He is also studying Cello and Piano. Studying at St. Mary’s he is fortunate to be able to have his works played regularly by students at the school. Findlay has won various composition prizes including the Isobel Dunlop Composition Prize (2014 & 2015), the SCO iCompose Competition (Electronic Category) and the Meadows Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition 2015. He has also received guidance from eminent composers such as James MacMillan, Stuart MacRae and Lyell Cresswell. Findlay is very excited that the English Young Artist’s Sinfonia will be playing Perpetuum Mobile in this concert.
Perpetuum Mobile was written in early 2015 out of a desire to write some fast, driven music after I had spent most of the previous year writing slower, more meditative pieces. From start to finish, the music drives forward through a changing landscape, never losing its momentum. Studying in Edinburgh, yet living in the Highlands of Scotland, train journeys inevitably plays a large part in my life. Whilst this work is not intended as direct descriptive music of my travels, the journey through the rugged Scottish mountains and changing landscape was certainly in my mind as I was writing Perpetuum Mobile. Indeed much of the work was written on these train journeys.
Perpetuum Mobile is dedicated to Tom David Wilson