For those who don’t know your work, how would you describe what you do?
I’m a composer residing in the fantastic musical landscape somewhere between classical, folk and indie music. I have written an opera, many many songs, for installations and a fair bit of instrumental music. I love collaborating with writers and working with text and narrative. This is where I’m happiest as a composer!
Tell us a little bit about Rest, your new song cycle, which Lady Maisery will be performing on Wednesday 12 June.
In Toby’s words:
” Rest is a secular requiem, a domestic requiem, a pop-up requiem.
The idea is very simple:
Rest is a set of mourning songs, to be sung – among friends – in memory of someone who has died, for consolation.”
Rest is the third song cycle I have written with Toby Litt and it completes our trilogy together which we started in 2006. Rest is a secular song cycle, a domestic requiem, a pop-up requiem. It has been written to be sung – among friends – in memory of someone who has died, for consolation. I heard Hazel Askew of Lady Maisery sing with her sister one night (The Askew Sisters) and fell in love with her voice. When I heard she had an a capella vocal trio I knew they would be the perfect group to premier and tour the cycle. I have had the good fortune to workshop the work with them along the way and their input has inevitably shaped the piece. Rest was supported with funds from the PRS for Music Foundation.
Why write a secular requiem?
Toby and I felt that there was a shortfall of music to sing at funerals or memorial events that wasn’t religious. We wanted to create something on a modest scale that could be sung in someone’s sitting room at a memorial event by any group of assembled amateur singers. It can be sung in its entirety or in part.
Rest, it is hoped, will offer its singers and its listeners the chance – by gathering in music both to receive and to give consolation.
Rest is the third part of a trilogy; what are the other cycles like, when were they written and who have they been performed by?
Befalling is the first cycle and is a collection of love songs, mostly about unrequited love. This was the first collaboration I ever made with Toby and the songs have been performed by many different types of singers, from classical tenor Rob Murray to singer-song writers Mara Carlyle and Olivia Chaney. Toby and I then wrote a song cycle for Mara about motherhood. This 45 minute cycle weaves the highs and lows of the life-changing event of having your first child. A set of mourning songs seemed like the natural conclusion to our trilogy.
What have you got lined up for the future?
I have quite a few choral commissions, one for Britten’s Centenary from Aldeburgh, one for the Centenary of the outbreak of WW1 which will be performed all over Europe next year and another for Wigmore Hall Learning. I’m also working on an opera/concept album for The Opera Group with an icelandic writer called Sjon who has penned many a lyric for Bjork!
Rest will appear soon in a version for SATB, scores are available from www.composersedition.com
Folk group Lady Maisery will be performing Emily Hall’s work on Wednesday 12 June at Hoxton Hall. Ticket prices range from £5 to £15, and can be booked via our website. See below for a preview of Rest.