This year's Cumbria Calling/Share Sound project culmination showcased a host of new music co-created with young musicians over the last two years, with an atmospheric premiere of their new piece Corvus
Since writing their new pieces earlier this year with James Redwood and Alice Phelps, our Cumbria Calling young composers have handed over to Cumbria Youth Orchestra (CYO) to rehearse this term in preparation for their end of year concert. It was great to see young composers who weren’t already members, join CYO keen to rehearse and perform their new music.
CYO's year began with a coaching day back in October with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to rehearse the music they had written for Share Sound in 2021 and perform at the end of the day for their families. As their year started, so it ended, with the RPO joining them for a final coaching day in Carlisle to prepare for their first public performance since before the pandemic. With so much new repertoire this year, four co-created pieces (Found in Darkness, We are the Stars, Corvus & Dorian Jam) plus James Redwood’s Share Sound Fantasia, the Cumbria team and Music Education Hub had built a varied musical programme for the orchestra around the new pieces – there was much to rehearse!
At the start of the day, one of the young composers introduced the new piece to the orchestra, telling its story. The idea of Corvus came from 2 photographs young composers bought to their residential, one of a bird, the other of a storm. The piece charts a raven’s journey and the young composers left it to the audience’s imagination as to what happened to the raven. One of the privileges of my job is to observe the development of these new pieces, from initial idea to performance, and it’s always a joy to hear them take shape and come to life. This was particularly so in Cumbria this year, as our previous trainee music leader Alice Phelps heard her first orchestral composition live for the first time.
We then moved on to rehearse We are the Stars, a beautiful song accompanied by a quintet written with Yshani Perinpanayagam over zoom. Alongside Alice, two of the Share Sound composers from last year stepped forward to sing the verses of the song they had co-created, joined by the whole orchestra in the chorus.
The other strand of the creative work this year had been working on a devised and improvisational piece with James Redwood. James was unfortunately ill and unable to join us in Carlisle but with a music leadership team on this project, Alice could step in to prepare and lead the performance, ably supported by our current trainee music leader Raye Harvey. Remembering an improvisational piece you’d created a few months ago is no small feat, even when you have a recording and a lead sheet to work from. The young composers rose to the challenge, offering their ideas and musical contributions to shape the piece. Dorian Jam showcased a different kind of creativity and the smaller ensemble (young composers, the Cumbria tutors who had supported the project and RPO musicians), provided a contrasting musical moment in the concert that was a wonderful example of the equality working through improvisation brings, with each musician supporting the other to create a unique musical performance.
Through our partnership with Cumbria Music Education Hub, since 2016 young composers have now written 9 new pieces of music, many of them springing from the stories and landscape of the county. From the orchestral rock fusion of Found in Darkness and uplifting song We are the Stars, to the atmospheric programmatic Corvus, the variety and depth of the music co-created with young musicians in Cumbria is inspiring. During the concert, it was wonderful to see just how many young composers from the last two years were performing and CYO certainly rose to the occasion. The energy and joy of performing together again and the pride in the fantastic new music they had written was plain to see.