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.
'The lights dim, the crowd hushes, the conductor taps the lectern with a baton, and … Harpo Marx taps his music stand with a violin bow in response. The conductor taps again to reassert his control, but this time Chico joins in, louder. What follows is a cacophonous collapse of hierarchy in the orchestra pit of A Night at the Opera, the Marx Brothers film of 1935.
A Dancing Place was my first piece for symphony orchestra, and I was fascinated by how the LSO, all 90 + of them, play as one. How do they negotiate the relationship between conductor, sections, soloists? And what happens when I play around with it?
The result: I wrote a scherzo which is subject to ‘chance’, with material which may, or may not, get played according to the performer as an individual. Performance directions like ‘play if you’re a man’, or ‘play if you have blue eyes’ divide players in the orchestral sections unnaturally.
When arranging A Dancing Place for CD, the tapping of music stands, and other gestures intended for the visual nature of concert performance had to be refined for the purely sonic medium! However, much of the aleatory remains, and it shapes the piece in a way that is specific to this particular performance, and to the line-up of performers booked for that session. A passage with the direction to ‘play if you’re a woman’ means that only one line of the woodwind is heard on this recording at one point.
When composing, I consulted some musicians more experienced than myself, who cautioned that this application of ‘chance’ could be misinterpreted as an insult, such is the respect for regulation in a large ensemble. Thankfully, the LSO had a great sense of humour (one flautist even brought her own baton to the original workshop). Really, I was laughing at no one but myself, and marvelling at the power of many people coming together.
A Dancing Place takes its name from the meaning of 'orchestra' in ancient Greek and points to Classical notions of democracy. Although I wrote this back in 2010, events over the decade since have shown how society can change faster than we might imagine, and how rights, which we thought were self-evident, can be forcibly removed.
I’d like to thank the LSO for supporting me and my music over the years since our first encounter at the Panufnik Composer Scheme. In turn, I’ve enjoyed supporting the young artists who are local to LSO St Luke’s at their ‘LSO Digital Technology Group’. As an associate of LSO Soundhub, I’ve also written for the LSO Gamelan with LSO Strings, and for the LSO Community Choir with LSO Brass. Most recently, I became the LSO Composer-in-Residence at 575 Wandsworth Road, a role initiated and supported by LSO patron Susie Thomson and hosted by the National Trust.
Listen to Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian's A Dancing Place 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.