02 Jun Young talent at St Andrew and St Mark
Inconvenient inspiration produces outstanding musical composition
Ever wonder how composers find inspiration? It comes at odd times and sometimes at inconvenient times and places, like a biology lesson.
In March one of the church’s two young organists, Felix, played his own composition, Toccata in A Minor. “I was looking at the famous Bach D Minor. It looked a lot like finger exercises but also music,” says Felix. “Bach wrote [the D Minor] in an interesting way. I liked the idea of writing something that works as both a piece of music as well as a way to practice – cram a lot of exercises into one.”
Bach is a favourite of Felix. Bach’s varied output, including fugues, preludes and chorales are a source of inspiration as well as enjoyable to listen to and satisfying to play for Felix.
Another source of ideas comes from a music composition sharing website where another young man around Felix’s age is a source of inspiration. “Hardly anyone has heard of him, but he has composed a lot of music: I’m quite interested in his harmonic and melodic ideas. ”
Felix dedicated his latest composition to his sister for her birthday. (She was in the church to listen and, he says, admitted she liked it.)
Future compositions in the pipeline include a saxophone concerto. This is where the biology comes in. Since his biology teacher is a saxophone player, he requested a concerto of the budding composer.
“It’s taking a long time. I have GCSEs and not much time to compose. I like the idea but it’s come at an annoying time. Most of compositions do. I had an idea on Christmas Eve and wrote the Toccata in A Minor during the holidays while I was also busy revising for mock exams in January,” Felix confesses.
Taking up the organ was a logical progression for Felix, who was already playing the piano. “I wanted to take up a new instrument but I wasn’t sure I wanted something completely different or if I should stick to what I knew,” he says. The organ matched both criteria.
While Felix is leaving his options open regarding where his musical studies will take him, he does know he prefers composition to performing. “Once I got into composing, I preferred it to the performing: nerves, stage fright.”
Alongside Dr Julie Ainscough who teaches him at school, St Andrew and St Mark’s director of music Simon Harvey has been a great influence on Felix, “He’s been amazing, getting me involved with things like playing at Guildford Cathedral for the choir’s evensong there and helping me to get my teeth into the music at SASM,” says Felix.
At present Felix still has his GCSEs. One of them is music along with science, maths, English, philosophy and religious education and two languages: German and Mandarin. Quite a full plate even without the music interests.
“I’m not sure when I’ll finish the concerto but when I do I am hoping it will be played by the school orchestra and my music teacher there has suggested I try to conduct it. He said he would help me learn how to but I think it will still be quite nerve racking,” he says.
Adding to the list of commissions for the budding composer is one from Simon. He has asked Felix to try his hand at a choral composition, something he has not yet tackled.
Meanwhile, Felix continues to help with SASM music, most recently trying his hand at accompanying the choir during the service and playing the communion hymn as well as playing the Hindemith 2nd Organ Sonata after the service.
Fellow young organist Edward recently played Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C Minor BWV 549 at the end of one of the St Andrew services. He, too, is becoming more involved with music at SASM, joining the choir as a bass and also trying his hand at playing a hymn during a service.
“Felix and Edward are great lads but very different personalities. They complement each other effectively and both are rising to the challenge of service playing. They will grow into the role as time goes on,” comments Simon.
“It will be fascinating to have them around for the next two or three years and to see how they develop,” he adds.
Both Felix and Edward will continue to support the choir and congregational services with organ playing at St Andrews and St Marks, says Simon.
SASM Children’s Choir will next sing on Sunday June 4th. Parents interested in children joining the choir should contact Robert or Simon through the SASM website or email the church office on firstname.lastname@example.org. Rehearsals are held on Fridays at St Mark’s from 4.30pm-5.30pm around five to six weeks before the choir sings.
Come and Sing Faure Requiem will take place at St Andrew’s on Saturday, June 10 from 230pm-430pm with a “performance” of the requiem at 6pm. Simon Hancock, director of music at St Matthew’s, will be conducting and Simon Harvey will accompany. Cost is £5 to cover music hire and tea/cakes at the break.
SASM choir will join St Matthew’s choir on Sunday, July 2, 2017 at St Andrew’s church for the “dry run” of the music in preparation for singing choral evensong at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday, July 29, 2017. Music includes Reading responses, canticles by Wood in E Flat and Sumsion’s “They that go down to the sea in ships” as the anthem.