The winner of our inaugural RPS Duet Prize for Young Composers, Freya Ireland, talks about her career as a young composer, her learning experiences with the National Youth Orchestra’s Creative Hub and ‘bananagrams’…
I joined South West Music School when I was about 12 as a clarinettist, and I remember in my interview for it – I think it was the first interview I’d ever done. I said that my main musical ambition was to learn how to play all the instruments in the orchestra. Gradually I came to realise the true meaning behind the idiom “Jack of all trades”, and my mentor, Jon James, suggested that I have a go at composing (at SWMS, each person has a mentor who they meet about every month). In fact I have him to thank for most of my composition success, since, without him, I doubt I’d have got so into it. (I say most, because I did, when I was 7 or 8, write a piece called ‘boa constrictor’, which if I remember correctly was pretty much just a chromatic scale, but I’m sure if I had continued with clarinet, it would have been unearthed and considered a great masterpiece.)
I was lucky enough a couple of years ago to win the National Centre for Early Music’s award for young composers. This really helped me to get a number of commissions with local choirs, since a few people heard the piece broadcast on Radio 3 by the Tallis Scholars, and I find that’s a good thing to say to get people listening! I do generally prefer writing for instruments, but vocal pieces have other interesting challenges, and setting specific text is a really rewarding thing to do, as well as helping to give a really strong framework for the piece.
In 2014 I joined the National Youth Orchestra as one of 6 composers. One of the main questions the composers get asked by instrumentalists in orchestra is “What do the composers actually do?” So I thought I’d start by explaining that! The composers join the full orchestra for all of their residencies – winter, spring and summer – and during a residential will usually write one main piece of music each which is then performed, and will prepare all the parts and all the material for that on the course. There are also usually a number of other projects. Generally, as well as writing a main piece for members of the orchestra, we will each create some electronic music which we generally do to a tight brief and a short time-scale…Read the rest of Freya’s blog here