Psappha launches Very Young Composers Scheme in collaboration
with the New York Philharmonic
• Psappha’s Composing For… bring 24 new works to fruition
• Psappha première Anna Appleby’s Tin Man with Joss Arnott Dance
• Psappha première Pay the Piper at Glyndebourne – a new youth
opera from a team of four female composers
• Psappha’s 30th anniversary recording featuring 7 Psappha
commissions released by Psappha and distributed by NMC
• Psappha pays homage to Peter Maxwell Davies as Tim Williams
passes the baton to Benjamin Powell [pictured]
Psappha is not just the North West’s only stand-alone professional
contemporary classical music ensemble, but over the 30 years it has been
single-handedly responsible for commissioning and premiering more
chamber music than any other independent group in the country. The
current tally is over 500 works, of which more than 140 were written by
emerging composers.
The dogged determination behind Psappha comes from percussionist Tim
Williams whose comprehensive school in a Liverpool suburb boasted an
inspired music teacher. Said teacher wrote a xylophone concerto for the 15-
year-old Tim and the fascination of working with ‘living’ composers began . . .
now, in addition to copious commissions Psappha has devised and
developed numerous schemes that nurture composers from as young as 10
to as old as it gets.
The latest of Psappha’s schemes is a collaboration with the New York
Philharmonic that comes to fruition in April. Building on the invaluable
Psappha Kids, an online resource for children from Keystage 2, Very Young
Composers Scheme will initially be rolled out to schools in Knowsley and
Sefton. The New York Philharmonic began the scheme 25 years ago
specifically for children with no prior experience or musical training. Its free
one-hour afterschool club enables children to experience musical
instruments up close and, crucially make decisions about the music they
want played. The programme has been so successful in the US, that it has
been taken up in Finland, Hong Kong, South Korea and China.
Creating opportunities for emerging and early years composers, Psappha
launched Composing For… nearly 10 years ago. The programme provides
sustained, one-to-one contact with expert musicians and this year 24
emerging composers will each benefit from four sessions with ‘their’
musician, one day of filming, plus an ‘intervention’ day led by a composer of
national standing.
Over the next couple of months, Psappha will introduce dance audiences to
Anna Appleby’s Tin Man performed by the Joss Arnott Dance Company;
and opera audiences to Glyndebourne’s Pay The Piper. Jointly composed by
the four participants of Balancing the Score, a development programme
exclusively for female composers set up by Glyndebourne. Anna Appleby,
Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Cecilia Livingston and Ailie Robertson have teamed
up with librettist Hazel Gould and designers Natalia Orendain and Joanna
Parker to create a reimagining of the Pied Piper of Hamelin Story. Anna,
Ninfea and Ailie are all graduates of Psappha’s Composing For… scheme and
have previously composed for Psappha, in addition Ninfea was the recipient
of Psappha Ensemble’s Peter Maxwell Davies Commission.
The work commissioned from Ninfea was Patdeep Studies, an exploration of
the traditional Hindustani rag Patdeep and written for sitarist Jasdeep Singh
Degun. It is one of a collection of seven commissions featured on Psappha’s
30th anniversary disc, Commissions, which will be released by Psappha and
distributed by NMC at the end of March as part of a new partnership that
launched in September 2021. The disc features Black Milk by Mark-Anthony
Turnage, Psappha’s Patron since 2018, as well as works by John Casken,
Tom Coult, Tom Harrold, George Stevenson and Alissa Firsova.
At the end of March, Psappha will present a homage to Peter Maxwell Davies
and to Orkney, The Last Island. Opening with a Psappha commission from
Ben Gaunt followed by Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Sola for viola and
electronics, the concert includes the world premières of four short Psappha
commissions which will accompany a film highlighting the natural beauty
and landscape of Orkney produced by Tim Williams. The programme ends
with Maxwell Davies’ The Last Island, synchronised to a film of Holms of Ire
(Orkney) the two deserted islands which inspired the piece.
Inspired by Peter Maxwell Davies and motivated by The Fires, Psappha
began life as a six-piece ensemble – flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello and
percussion – subsequently adjusting players and instrumentation to
collaborate with musicians from different musical backgrounds including
folk, African, Indian Classical and jazz. Following this 30th anniversary concert,
Tim Williams’ will pass the baton to Benjamin Powell, Psappha’s pianist
since 2014.