Paston 600 Footprints composer Sarah Rodgers – part one

Commissioned to compose a new work as part of our upcoming ‘Paston 600 Footprints‘ project with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Sarah Rodgers shares insight into the composing process in the first of a series of updates tracking the progress of this new composition.

Paston papers provide inspiration for contemporary composer

Composer Sarah Rodgers

One of the most enlivening aspects about being a composer is ‘the phone call’ (or nowadays the email) that says, we want you to write us a new piece. My most recent one came in December with enough information to intrigue me but it wasn’t until the beginning of February when I met with Stuart Bruce, Orchestras Live Partnership Manager and Cherry Forbes, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Education Director (and oboist) that this proposal revealed its full fascination and inventiveness. 

In a nutshell, (if that’s possible), the new piece is to celebrate the anniversary of the Paston Papers – a collection of correspondences between members of the Paston family and others connected with them in England between the years 1422 and 1509.  A nationwide celebration, the focus is Norfolk as the birthplace and home county of generations of Pastons – I have lived here a mere decade, but love Norfolk’s history and individuality. 

I knew the nutshell wasn’t going to be big enough! The new piece, (title still to be decided) will bring together the OAE Chamber Orchestra, the North Walsham Church Choir (North Walsham is central to Paston history) and a solo soprano, all facilitated by Orchestras Live in partnership with North Norfolk District Council.

I’m going to focus on the letters of the Paston women, who intriguingly, were just as prolific in both their letter-writing and the politics of family life as were the men folk.  In a year when the centenary of women’s suffrage is being celebrated and also when St Nicholas, North Walsham are starting a new girls choir, this seemed an affirming decision.

There will be all sorts of challenges. First I have to put together the text for which there is a superabundance of material. Then I need to understand the characteristics and qualities of a period instrument orchestra. Lastly, the new music has to be possible to draw together with diverse forces in a relatively short amount of time.

Can’t wait to get stuck in – and I’ll keep posting progress.

Sarah Rodgers

(published 15 March 2018)

The world premiere of this new work will be performed by Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in North Walsham, Norfolk on Sunday 1 July 2018. More details here.

Find out more about Sarah and her work here.

Read part two of Sarah’s blog series here.