BP Contemporary Ensemble and beyond
In June 2019, following a global audition call, an international group of performers and composers met for the first time to start what should have been a year on the Britten Pears Young Artist Programme. Under the guidance of Mark-Anthony Turnage and Colin Matthews, each composer was tasked with writing a new piece within 10 days at Snape Maltings. Each day, the newly written music was to be handed in by noon and quickly printed by a superhuman team of support staff to be on the stands of the musicians that afternoon. On the final day the pieces were presented as works in progress, alongside existing repertoire, in an informal concert under the baton of Jessica Cottis. The young composers were then to have a year to develop the works before scheduled premieres at the 2020 edition of the Aldeburgh Festival.
The pandemic meant that one year became three, and we are delighted that these pieces are now able to be premiered at the 2022 Aldeburgh Festival! It feels so important that this will happen with the original group of musicians, the ones who experienced the works grow day in and day out, who questioned each change and pushed for more, or less, or a different way of understanding. Come and celebrate these new works with us on 5th June – full programme details and tickets available here.
Back in 2019, at the start of the course, we all assumed it would be just a one-off, magical summer project. However, as we began the composition workshop process at Snape Maltings, it became apparent that this was an unusual cohort. Not only did those involved commit to delivering their assignment to the best of their ability, but they - composers, instrumentalists and singers - also developed a real community, even commented on by tutors. The dialogue between composers and performers continued late into the evenings as we cooked and ate together, often with a composer rushing into our shared kitchen to ask a question about writing for a certain instrument.
At some point on the train ride back, as we stopped to allow a cow to cross the line, a discussion began with Jessica Cottis about how abundantly clear it was that composers having time to play with a chamber orchestra, like chemists in a lab, is a pretty rare thing – and a brilliant, boundary-pushing, inspirational thing. Wouldn’t it be great if that could be something more widely practised? It was around then that Emily, our resident ultra-soprano, first voiced the idea that would, over the next few months, continue to take root; maybe the magic didn’t have to stop when we got off the train, maybe we could become a professional ensemble. A truly collaborative ensemble built around the core principles on which we had originally operated: commitment to an open-minded and experimental space, foregrounding the process of making a piece, and valuing that the process needs space and time.
Many Zoom meetings later, and following a fantastic residency at Snape Maltings in January 2022 generously supported by Britten Pears Arts, we have begun the process of founding our own collective. We are already taking on the not-insignificant challenges of being spread around the world, and each at the very early stages of our careers. But what we are creating seems more important than any of us individually. The collective will offer a collaborative space for long-term creative and professional relationships between musicians and composers to begin, and to grow, valuing the process of creation as much as that of performance, always with the aim of making inspiring and innovative new music together. Built on our shared talent, ambition and determination, the collective will take flight and provide new opportunities in the contemporary music community.
Our first workshops take place immediately after the concert on 5th June. If you’re interested to hear more about these plans (or have advice on how to choose a group name…), please get in touch. We would love to hear from you!
Before then, however, don’t forget to get tickets here for our final performance as young artists on the Britten Pears Composition & Performance course on 5th June.
Founding collective members are: Emily Thorner, Emily Wilson, Rosie Salvucci, Blair Boyd, Euchar Gravina, Laura Shipsey. Detail on future plans to be released soon.