On Sunday 31 October, the John Armitage Memorial Trust (JAM) travels up North to Aberdeen for the first time to showcase music by James MacMillan, Gabriel Jackson, Tarik O’Reagan and Aberdeen-based composer Paul Mealor, performed by choirs from Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen. Edward Armitage, JAM Chairman, tells us a bit more about the mission of the trust itself…
“One of the great things about commissioning music is hearing them for the first time! JAM has been doing it for ten years, and the thrill has not dimmed one jot.
On Saturday I heard for the first time the combined voices of the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, the Edinburgh University Chamber Choir and the University of St Andrews Chapel Choir sing Paul Mealor’s Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal.
JAM commissioned the piece as part of its tenth birthday celebrations and especially for this Scottish tour, which reaches Aberdeen and the sound festival on Sunday. The work sets four poems, all referring to roses. It is wonderful! It shows off the large choir beautifully; its dynamic range is enormous – from the quietest whisper to a full-throttle roar – and from the lowest register to the highest possible. And of course, being a work by Mealor, it is melodic, approachable and quite beautiful. It is obvious that the massed voices enjoy singing the work. This is essential at a first performance when trying to convince an audience that they like hearing it too!
Mealor and JAM first ran into each other in 2002, when Paul submitted a work to the Trust during its first Call for Music. It was immediately obvious that here was someone with something to say, and with a very special voice. It is therefore a great thing to be commissioning Paul now, and bringing it to his adopted home – Aberdeen – along with other new pieces to Scottish audiences.
On the afternoon of 31st October, St Machar’s Cathedral will ring to music by Mealor, James MacMillan, Gabriel Jackson and Tarik O’Regan, performed by the above choirs, Thistle Brass, Tom Wilkinson (organ), conducted by Michael Bawtree. To be performed at the concert, The Spacious Firmament, by Jackson, won the choral category of the British Composer Awards last year, and last week it was announced that O’Regan’s The Night’s Untruth has been short-listed for the 2010 award.”