Gennel/Ginnel/Guinnel & Love

Despite it being just over a month ago, I’m still reeling from hearing the first live music of mine in the flesh since March 2020. On the 23rd of July I took my first trip to London since 2019(!!) to hear Gerry Cornelius conduct mezzo soprano Camille Maalawy and the London Sinfonietta in a new commission setting some delicious words by the most excellent Kayo Chingonyi.

It was a good day.

I’ve set the embedded YouTube link here to start at mine and Kayo’s piece as it was the last in the programme and this is, well, my website. But do listen to the whole thing with great pieces and readings from Gavin Higgins with Joe Kriss, Robert Mitchell with Fatima Zahra, and a particularly moving collaboration between Kerry Andrew and Nazneen Ahmed as well as Kayo reading some of his work.

It was so good to be commissioned to write some new music for a live performance after so much working online. It was also strangely contrasting. Compositionally the previous year was dominated by a new record for The House of Bedlam which involved everyone recording at home and sending to me for mixing and producing. While remote, it was a process that brought us together against the odds. This experience, for reasons beyond any of our control, meant that Kayo and I weren’t able to chat about the piece, and I didn’t know that Camille would be singing until after the piece was finished.

But in this case I love how this has shaped the music. The poems, that exist like short fantastical dictionary definitions, capture some of the very private delight of leafing through dictionaries when I was a child (and as an adult), tiny windows into colourful worlds that are briefly completely absorbing, then gone. I’ve tried to capture this in these short songs, with a first poem that gradually incorporates musical ginnels (narrow alleyways between terraced houses) with increasing gaps in the music and a second poem, three definitions of love, that consider sentimental and harder-edged possibilities simultaneously. I’m really happy with how this piece has come together, largely down to Gerry and Camille’s skill and warmth, and the razor sharp London Sinfonietta.

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