Following the recent release of the third album in the Panufnik Legacies series, which features brand new music from alumni of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme, we asked the composers themselves to tell us a little more about their experience writing for and recording with the Orchestra.
'I composed Fairtrade? in 2008 as part of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme. It is a short four-minute work exploring my interest in the global rise in demand for cheap clothing, oftentimes produced in sweatshops. This fast-paced, low-cost manufacturing process comes at a high cost in other areas, such as impeding many millions of young people from receiving formal education, suffering abuse and in some cases incurring fatal injuries. This multi-billion pound ‘fast-fashion’ industry continues to grow and is still both of great interest and concern to me over ten years on.
In the piece, I explore some of the basic manufacturing processes in the factories and interpret them musically through repetitive pounding rhythms and soaring melodies that represent the voices of the unheard. My hope is for the piece to encourage us to consider our economic choices and the cost of our convenience at the expense of others.
Being asked to revisit and refine it for a recording was really a dream come true. Not only was it my first official piece for full symphony orchestra, but it would then become my first orchestral recording for an official release, and by the LSO no less – how amazing! The first performance was conducted by François-Xavier Roth who also conducted the recording session.
The recording session took place on the same day as the release day of my debut solo album Road Runner, so I could not have felt more excited. The recording process itself was like a well-oiled machine. Engineers, players, conductor all at the ready. Giving it everything every take and checking in with me to see what adjustments I would like to make. I listened closely and made small suggestions with big results listening back. There was much laughter in between takes, and all in all, it took much less time than had been allotted, allowing the orchestra to go home early – they were thrilled!
Being a participant on the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme really did change my life. I learned so much that day, particularly from Patrick Harrild the tuba player who gave me much insight into the brass section and how best they could express my ideas. Fairtrade? had a big part to play in receiving a scholarship to study Composition at the Manhattan School of Music in NYC. It was also the beginning of my relationship with the LSO which has led to numerous opportunities. Some of these opportunities include being commissioned to compose Where Clouds Meet The Sea? for the LSO Brass Ensemble, working with the LSO Digital Technology Group, being a participant on the LSO Soundhub scheme and recently being commissioned to compose FAIYA! for the full LSO orchestra plus Guildhall players and young musicians. Unfortunately, the premiere was postponed due to COVID-19 but I really look forward to hearing it in 2021.'
Listen to Ayanna Witter-Johnson's Fairtrade? on Apple Music now
Each year the LSO's Panufnik Composers Scheme gives six composers the chance to write for a world-class symphony orchestra, under the guidance of our Principal Guest Conductor Francois-Xavier Roth and composers Colin Matthews and Christian Mason. Launched in 2005, the scheme was devised in association with Lady Camilla Panufnik to celebrate the musical legacy left behind by her husband, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, and to give new generations of composers new opportunities to develop their skills. Since then, over 80 composers have participated and the Orchestra has released several albums showcasing the work of these incredible new talents.
The third album in our Panufnik Legacies series features new music from Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ewan Campbell, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Donghoon Shin, Alex Roth, Matthew Sergeant, Patrick Giguère, Sasha Siem, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Michael Taplin, Benjamin Ashby & Joanna Lee.
This recording has been generously supported by The Boltini Trust. The LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme is generously supported by Lady Hamlyn and The Helen Hamlyn Trust.