Ground Aflame: Andrew Howes composes for MAXed OUT Company

Artistic collaboration has always been a strength of Moorambilla Voices. Our second composer in residence, Andrew Howes, has been influenced by visual artist Frank Wright in creating his two world premiere pieces for MAXed OUT Company.

Currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Andrew’s works have been commissioned and performed by Sydney Youth Orchestra, the North Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Willoughby Symphony, Orchestra Victoria and Sydney Symphony.

MAXed OUT composer Andrew Howes

MAXed OUT Company composer Andrew Howes

“This is the first chance I have had to write music for young voices,” says Andrew. “When Michelle Leonard gave me Frank Wright’s story of Biggi Billa the Echidna for inspiration, I really latched onto it.  In a lot of my work I am interested in strata or layers of particles usually belonging to features in nature, like rocks or air. While I watched Frank paint the amazing backdrop which strongly features the Echidna, I was immediately attracted by the idea of smoke, rising from the ashes of a bushfire before dawn.”

Frank Wright painting Biggi Billa onsite at Moorambilla Voices, Baradine

Frank Wright painting Biggi Billa on-site at Moorambilla Voices, Baradine

Andrew composting on site at Moorambilla Voices in Baradine

Andrew composing on-site at Moorambilla Voices in Baradine

“After putting together a short set of poems, I started to create a single line for the choir to sing, based around a general modulation upwards of a tone. When Michelle and I started to experiment with the company, we found that the best result was for one of our amazing MAXed OUT choristers, Nathan Byron, to sing freely as a solo, which gave our choreographer Eric Avery a chance to create a piece for the whole company.

“It’s been very interesting, experimenting with some of the other treble voices, and Michelle and I have come up with interesting ways to incorporate some of the other singers into the middle of the piece, which I have called Smoke Rising.

“After several days at the camp, I was so impressed with the rhythmic sense of the company that I decided to compose an additional piece, based on the idea of a raging fire, which I have called Ground Aflame.”

MAXed OUT learning Andrew's new piece

MAXed OUT Company  learn Andrew’s new piece with Michelle Leonard

Andrew's composition blends with Taiko  as the children work with TaikOz percussionists

Andrew’s composition blends with percussion as the children work with TaikOz drummers Anton Lock and Graham Hilgendorf

Now  Andrew has composed the choral lines, he has been turning his hand to the orchestral arrangement.

“Writing for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows is the most delightful and interesting challenge I am considering at the moment,” he says. “The ensemble is fantastic, and are all very good and dedicated players who are highly skilled. Having said that, there can be balance issues when you add 50 or so voices plus Japanese Taiko drums. I am also very happy to be working with saxophonist Christina Leonard.

“Also, while on the camp in Baradine, I experimented with creating a few unusual ‘instruments’ to work into the piece – including crackling dry grass and the snapping of twigs and swishing of leafy branches… you’ll have to wait until the concert to see those!”

Smoke Rising

Smoke rising,

Embers gently glowing

Like fireflies; lights dancing

In the night;

Pale beams, glimmering

Particles of gold,

Silver light and blue;

Luminous white

Lights, bright

Shining in the night.

Ground Aflame!

Ground aflame!

Blazing white

Red and burning gold!

Soul flying!

Spirit soaring in air.

Earth song;

In the red land come from fire!

In the red land come from fire!

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