The Robertson Graveyard
in Hong Kong
May 2012. The Hong Kong New Music Ensemble presents an afternoon concert of music by Andrew Ford on Sunday 20 May at its new home, SOUTHSITE in Aberdeen. Ford will introduce and present the radiophonic version of Elegy in a Country Graveyard, framed by performances of two early works: Swansong (played by William Lane) and Like Icarus ascending (played by James Cuddeford).
> Event details (Hong Kong New Music Ensemble website)
> Robertson Cemetery image gallery
C.P. Cavafy's poem provided Andrew Ford the text for his new work Waiting for the Barbarians.
Barbarians at the gate
in Sydney and Parramatta
May 2012. The Sydney Philharmonia Symphony Chorus under guest conductor Graham Abbott will give the first performances of Andrew Ford's Waiting for the Barbarians on 20-21 July 2012 at St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta and St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney. Commissioned jointly by Sydney Philhamonia Choirs and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus, Ford's setting of the C.P. Cavafy's famous poem had been contemplated by the composer for the best part of 40 years. The piece, for mixed a cappella chorus, uses a new version of the poem made by Ford himself.
> Event details (Sydney Philharmonia Chorus website)
Illegal Harmonies back in print
October 2011. Coinciding with the republication of Andrew Ford's book Illegal Harmonies by Black Inc., in a revised third edition, ABC Classic FM is currently rebroadcasting the original radio series each Sunday lunchtime until the end of November. First heard in 1997, the radio version of Illegal Harmonies consists of ten 90-minute episodes, each covering the music of one decade in the 20th century. The series can also be streamed from ABC Classic FM.
> Listen to episodes online
> Buy Illegal harmonies from Readings (Melbourne)
Andrew Ford's history of 20th century music, Illegal Harmonies, based on his celebrated radio series of the same name, has been republished in an updated, 3rd edition by Black Inc.
> Buy Illegal harmonies from Readings (Melbourne)
New book: The Sound of Pictures
November 2010. Andrew Ford's new book is The Sound of Pictures: Listening to the Movies, from Hitchcock to High Fidelity. Published on 22 November 2010 by Black Inc., the book looks at the ways directors have used music and other sounds in more than 400 films. How did Alfred Hitchcock use music to plant clues in his films? Why do some 'mix-tape' soundtracks work brilliantly and others fall flat? How do classics from A Clockwork Orange to The Godfather, Cinema Paradiso to High Noon, use music and sound effects to enhance what we see on screen?
In addition to Ford's own essays, there are his interviews with five composers Ennio Morricone, Richard Rodney Bennett, Dick Hyman, Lalo Schifrin and Howard Shore) and five directors (Bruce Beresford, Sally Potter, Wim Wenders, Peter Greenaway and Peter Weir).
> Buy The Sound of Pictures online from Readings, Melbourne
Premiere of Black Dyke
November 2010. The world-famous Black Dyke Band will give the first performance of Andrew Ford's The Rising at Manchester's annual Festival of Brass on 28 January 2011. Commissioned by Black Dyke, The Rising is Ford's first work for brass band and was inspired by the terrifying natural phenomenon of Australian bush fires.
The composer will attend the premiere at the Royal Northern College of Music, which will be conducted by Black Dyke's Principal Conductor and Director of Music, Dr Nicholas Childs. In March 2010, Andrew Ford visited Black Dyke's headquarters in Queensbury, West Yorkshire, to see the historic band room for himself. In rehearsal, the band still uses the original wooden music stands made for it 155 years ago.
> Read a program note of The Rising.
The Scattering of Light for the University of Queensland
November 2010. The climax of the Centenary celebrations of the University of Queensland will be the first performance of Andrew Ford's new piano quartet, The Scattering of Light. Commissioned by the University of Queensland in honour of its first hundred years, the 15-minute quartet was written especially for the University's new ensemble in residence. The Scattering of Light will be heard for the first time on December 10 at the University's Senate Dinner. Further (public) performances will follow in 2011.
> Read a program note of The Scattering of Light.
The Waltz Book on CD
September 2010. Ian Munro's studio recording of The Waltz Book is finally available on CD (Tall Poppies TP209). The 60 one-minute waltzes were commissioned by Munro in 1998 and composed over the following four years. Some of the individual waltzes were premiered as soon as they were composed, but Munro gave the complete premiere of the work in Hobart in March 2003.
Since then a dozen other pianists have taken up all or some of the work, playing it in Canada, Finland, Poland, the United States, the United Kingdom and throughout Australia.
The new recording, a tour de force, was made in Sydney at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place, and Tall Poppies have released the CD, together with a bonus data disc containing a video interview with the composer and PDFs of 10 of the waltzes for printing out and playing.
> Order this CD through the Australian Music Centre - scores of The Waltz Book, 10 easy waltzes from The Waltz Book and 10 more easy waltzes from The Waltz Book also available.
> Order this CD through Buywell
Aimez-vous Brahms? Nine fantasies for piano trio
August 2010. Andrew Ford has always loved the music of Brahms, though he is aware that this is not necessarily a fashionable enthusiasm. His new piano trio, commissioned by Selby and Friends for TrioZ, is entitled Nine Fantasies about Brahms and is a sequence of speculative variations on themes from the German composer's D minor piano concerto.
The work receives its first performance on 4 September in Bowral, followed by five further performances in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide. See the news page for details.
Andrew Ford premieres
The Musical Child
May 2010. Two new works will have their premieres on 20 May at the Australian National Academy of Music under the baton of its outgoing artistic director, Brett Dean. Rauha and The Musical Child were composed during Andrew Ford's residency at ANAM in 2009, and between them they employ all the musicians of the Academy. Rauha is scored for wind, brass, keyboards, percussion and double basses, The Musical Child for piano duet and string orchestra. The latter work, to a text by Cathryn Strickland, also involves a speaker (Ford himself in the premiere) who plays the role of William Crotch, the benighted child of the title. Crotch was an English contemporary of Beethoven and a musical prodigy, horribly exploited by his mother. In Ford and Strickland's piece, he is a 4-year-old boy in the body of a 72-year-old man. (Image: premiere performance at ANAM - click to enlarge.)
> Read program notes of The Musical Child and Rauha.
A Green Room Award for Rembrandt's Wife
March 2010. Rembrandt's Wife has been named as the best new Australian opera of 2009 at the annual Green Room Awards in Melbourne on 15 March. The premiere season of Andrew Ford and Sue Smith's 75-minute work had already met with considerable critical acclaim. The first full commission by Victorian Opera, in April 2009 Rembrandt's Wife received five performances by the company under its music director, Richard Gill, bass-baritone Gary Rowley sing the role of Rembrandt van Rijn. Read reviews.
Read composer's note.
Read the libretto (pdf 111 KB) of Rembrandt's Wife by the award-winning TV writer Sue Smith (Bastard Boys, The Leaving of Liverpool, Brides of Christ). Read librettist's note.
Image: Roxane Hislop as Geertje Dircx in Rembrandt's Wife (Victorian Opera 2009).
Tahu Rhodes and WASO
to premiere new work
with Tim Winton's words
January 2010. The gala opening concert of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra's 2010 season begins with the world premiere of a newly commissioned vocal piece by Andrew Ford.
A Dream of Drowning sets to music a passage from Tim Winton's latest novel, Breath. Composed especially for the baritone voice of Teddy Tahu Rhodes, the short piece is scored for the unusual combination of vibraphone, harmonium, celesta, harp and strings.The first two performances will be in the Perth Concert Hall on 12 and 13 March, and the WASO will be conducted by its principal conductor, Paul Daniel.
Read a program note and Tim Winton's text.
Premieres at Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville
December 2009. Andrew Ford was composer-in-residence at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Queensland in August. The program included the first performance by soprano Margaret Schindler and pianist Kevin Power of the festival commission, Three Shakespeare Songs and the long-awaited premiere of The Past, by countertenor Russell Harcourt with the Camerata of St Johns, flautist Lorna McGhee and didjeridoo player William Barton. The work is a setting of the poem of the same name by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, cross-cut with entries in Captain Cook's ship's log from his arrival in Sydney cove in 1770. According to one critic, The Past is 'a powerful, atmospheric work, swirling and thundery'.
Image: Lorna McGhee, William Barton, Andrew Ford and Russell Harcourt in Townsville
(click to enlarge).
Ford's ANAM residency:
three premieres in Melbourne
July 2009. Andrew Ford is Resident Composer at the Australian National Academy of Music in 2009. In addition to working with students in preparing performances of his music throughout the year, he is composing new works for them. These include Rauha (the Finnish word for ‘peace’) for wind band, piano, percussion and bass, and The Musical Child for string orchestra and piano duet, with a speaking role for the octogenarian tenor Gerald English. Based on a specially written text by Cathryn Strickland, The Musical Child is the cautionary tale of William Crotch, the late 18th-century child prodigy who, at the age of four, gave organ recitals in London, managed by his ambitious mother. The concert containing the premieres of both works will now take place in 2010.
Another ANAM commission is “ ...in Paradiso” for flute ensemble. It is one of several specially composed pieces to be interleaved between the movements of Haydn's Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross in a Melbourne Festival performance at St Patrick's Cathedral on the evening of 14 October 2009.
Another highlight of the residency comes on 18 September (concert details), when ANAM's artistic director Brett Dean conducts the musicians of the Academy in the second performance of Ford’s Symphony, the work he premiered, to some acclaim, at ANAM in November 2008. Watch the premiere performance at The Music Page. Read program note.
Ford to be composer in residence
at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, Townsville
July 2009. Andrew Ford's music will be featured at this year's Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, Queensland. The program includes two world premieres. Soprano Margaret Schindler will sing the festival commission, Three Shakespeare Songs (with pianist Kevin Power) and countertenor Russell Harcourt with the Camerata of St Johns will give the long-awaited first performance of The Past, a setting of the poem of the same name by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, cross-cut with entries in Captain Cook's ship's log from April 1770. Ian Munro will play a selection from The Waltz Book and Paul Dean will become the latest clarinetist to play Ford's quintet Oma kodu (with the Goldner Quartet).
Gary Rowley and Jacqueline Porter in Victorian Opera's Rembrandt's Wife
- a critical success
May 2009. The premiere season of Andrew Ford and Sue Smith's opera, Rembrandt's Wife has received considerable critical acclaim. The first full commission by Victorian Opera, the new work received five performances by the company under its music director, Richard Gill. Bass baritone Gary Rowley was “compelling and impressive” in the demanding central role of Rembrandt, Jacqueline Porter sang the twin roles of his late wife Saskia and his final muse, Hendrickje Stoffels (“truly a 21st century Bathsheba”), mezzo-soprano Roxane Hislop was “glowing” and “riveting” and tenor Paul Biencourt brought “energy and individuality” to his six roles. Read more reviews.
Read composer's note.
Read the libretto (pdf 111 KB) of Rembrandt's Wife by the award-winning TV writer Sue Smith (Bastard Boys, The Leaving of Liverpool, Brides of Christ). Read librettist's note.
Libretto of Rembrandt's Wife
now available online
March 2009. Andrew Ford's new opera Rembrandt's Wife will have its world premiere as part of Victorian Opera's 2009 season. Read the libretto (pdf 111 KB) by the award-winning TV writer Sue Smith (Bastard Boys, The Leaving of Liverpool, Brides of Christ).
Ford's ANAM residency: three premieres in Melbourne
July 2009. Andrew Ford is Resident Composer at the Australian National Academy of Music in 2009. In addition to working with students in preparing performances of his music throughout the year, he is composing new works for them. These include Rauha (the Finnish word for ‘peace’) for wind band, piano, percussion and bass, and The Musical Child for string orchestra and piano duet, with a speaking role for the octogenarian tenor Gerald English. Based on a specially written text by Cathryn Strickland, The Musical Child is the cautionary tale of William Crotch, the late 18th-century child prodigy who, at the age of four, gave organ recitals in London, managed by his ambitious mother. The concert containing the premieres of both works is on 26 November (see: concert details).
Another ANAM commission is “ . . . in Paradiso” for flute ensemble. It is one of several specially composed pieces to be interleaved between the movements of Haydn's Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross in a Melbourne Festival performance at St Patrick's Cathedral on the evening of 14 October.
Another highlight of the residency comes on 18 September (concert details), when ANAM's artistic director Brett Dean conducts the musicians of the Academy in the second performance of Ford’s Symphony, the work he premiered, to some acclaim, at ANAM in November 2008. Watch the premiere performance at The Music Page. Read program note. Read the libretto of Rembrandt's Wife (pdf 111 KB).
A Singing Quilt now on CD
May 2009. Andrew Ford's piece for choir and percussion, A Singing Quilt, is now available on a CD single. Involving nearly a hundred singers from choirs throughout the NSW Southern Highlands, together with the DRUMatiX percussion group from the Australian National University, the premiere was conducted by the composer in November 2008 at the Bundanoon Soldiers' Memorial Hall. This performance was recorded and Wingecarribee Shire Council, the commissioner of A Singing Quilt, has now released that recording on CD. It can be purchased from the Council.
Read what the Southern Highland News wrote (pdf 420 KB) about the event. Read a program note about the piece.
- opera premiere in April
January 2009 . Andrew Ford's new opera Rembrandt's Wife to a libretto by Sue Smith will have its world premiere as part of Victorian Opera's 2009 season. Gary Rowley will star as Rembrandt and Jacqueline Porter as both his late wife, Saskia, and his muse and lover Hendrickje Stoffels. Roxane Hislop sings the role of Geertje Dircx and Paul Biencourt sings the six tenor roles.
Directed by Talya Masel and conducted by Victorian Opera's Music Director, Richard Gill, Rembrandt's Wife will open at the CUB Malthouse in Melbourne on 18 April for a season of five performances. Tickets are available online through Ticketmaster.
Premiere of Ford's Symphony at ANAM
December 2008. On Friday 28 November, in a concert to celebrate the achievements of the Australian National Academy of Music, Artistic Director Brett Dean conducted the Orchestra of the Academy in the first performance of Andrew Ford's Symphony. Composed mostly during the first half of 2008 and written with the Academy's line-up of musicians in mind, Ford's first symphony is in a single movement of around 18 minutes. Read program note. Watch the performance at The Music Page.
A Singing Quilt in Bundanoon
November 2008. On 1st November, Andrew Ford conducted the first performances of his piece for choir and percussion, A Singing Quilt. The piece was commissioned by Wingecarribee Shire Council and the performance involved nearly a hundred singers from choirs throughout the NSW Southern Highlands. Read what the Southern Highland News wrote (pdf 420 KB) about the event.
The sung texts are drawn from interviews which Ford recorded with local residents and their own voices were also heard in the piece, together with drums, bells, gongs and rains sticks of the percussion ensemble ANU DRUMatiX, directed by Gary France. There were two performances at Bundanoon Soldiers Memorial Hall. Listen to a sample (mp3 832 KB) of the prerecorded voices. Read a program note about the piece.
Local Portraits at the Casula Powerhouse
September 2008. Local Portraits is an exhibition of double portraits, visual and sonic. Jim Rolon photographed 70 residents of New South Wales, 35 from the 2168 postcode area of Liverpool and 35 from Robertson in the Southern Highlands. Andrew Ford interviewed these same people about their favourite music. Visitors to the exhibition are given MP3 players and, as they look at the photographs, are able to listen to the corresponding interviews, as well as the musical choices.
Local Portraits is at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre until 16 th January 2009. Visit the ABC's Local Portraits website. Read reviews: The Sydney Morning Herald and StageNoise.
Image © Jim Rolon.
Night and Dreams
now available on Decca label
July 2008. Universal Music Australia has released a CD of Andrew Ford’s music-theatre piece, Night and Dreams: the death of Sigmund Freud on its super-budget Eloquence label. It was composed with librettist Margaret Morgan for the veteran tenor Gerald English.
English was a founder member of the legendary Deller Consort in 1950; he sang under the batons of Stravinsky, Ansermet, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Barbirolli and Beecham; he premiered works by Tippett, Henze, Berio and Dallapiccola. He has premiered 12 pieces by Andrew Ford. The latest of these, the one-man music-theatre piece Night and Dreams, was commissioned by the 2000 Adelaide Festival. We find ourselves in the exiled Freud's London home in September 1939, as the father of psychoanalysis confronts his own death while dreaming of Vienna, Schubert and a strange, unidentified naked girl.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Roger Covell wrote of the premiere: English . . . acts out Freud's reveries with a keen sense of timing and humour. The feeling of physical presence in the last hours of the great theorist is vivid. Described by other critics as 'stunningly intelligent, intensely moving' ( The Age), 'powerful and eerie' ( The Australian) and 'electrifying' ( The Canberra Times), Night and Dreams had sell-out seasons at the 2001 Sydney and Melbourne festivals, and this ABC studio recording of the 75-year-old English's 'virtuoso performance' (UK Opera magazine) is now commercially available for the first time. It is paired with Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon, the work of another Viennese in exile. Schoenberg composed his brilliant setting of Byron's sardonic ode in Hollywood in 1942, scoring it for reciter and piano quintet. Gerald English recorded the work with the London Sinfonietta for Schoenberg's centenary in 1974, and this is its first release on CD.
Thin Air at the Sydney International Piano Competition
July 2008. Andrew Ford’s piano piece Thin Air was commissioned by the 2008 Sydney International Piano Competition. It is one of two Australian works that will be played by contestants in the Quarter Finals stage of the competition at Sydney’s Seymour Centre on 21st and 22nd July. Contestants must play either Thin Air or Roger Smalley’s Morceau de concours.
The sheet music of Thin Air is now available as a free download for a limited time Download a pdf file (188 KB). Read a program note.
Ox Life for viola
and double bass
March 2008. On March 22, violist Heidi von Bernewitz and bassist Robert Nairn will premiere Andrew Ford's Chorales from an Ox Life at Penn State University. The gently obsessive nine minute duo was developed from an early sketch for Ford's forthcoming opera, Rembrandt's Wife, its title making reference to Rembrandt's 1655 painting of the butchered carcass of an ox. Bernewitz and Nairn will also record the duo for Tall Poppies.
The opera itself, with a libretto by Sue Smith, has been commissioned by Victorian Opera – the new Melbourne company's first full commission – with its premiere slated for 2009.
A Singing Quilt for Wingecarribee
February 2008. Andrew Ford is presently working on a new work for choir and percussion, A Singing Quilt. Taking words from interviews with people throughout the NSW Southern Highlands, the piece aims to present a musical representation of the look and feel of the place. In addition to the singing and percussion (drums, bells and gongs to the fore), the piece also weaves in the sound of the original interviews, so that the spoken words can be heard alongside their sung transformations.
A Singing Quilt is commissioned by Wingecarribee Shire Council with financial assistance from Regional Arts ACT through STARTS (Southern Tablelands Arts). The first performance, involving local choirs and Gary France's ensemble DRUMatiX from the ANU School of Music in Canberra, all conducted by the composer, will take place at Bundanoon Hall in the Southern Highlands on Saturday 1 November.
The Music Show book is out now
March 2008. Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz is the title of a new book of interviews from ABC Books in which, as the subtitle has it, '170 musicians get vocal on The Music Show'. Ford has presented this radio program – something of a ABC Saturday morning institution – since 1995, and the new book, edited by Anni Heino, brings together conversations with guests such as John Adams, Victoria de los Ángeles, Robyn Archer, Pierre Boulez, David Byrne, Harry Connick Jr, Bob Geldof, k.d.lang, Tom Lehrer, Yehudi Menuhin, Pete Seeger, Mavis Staples, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mitsuko Uchida.
Visit the website of The Music Show, buy the book online or visit the special Online Companion to Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz.
'Elegy' shortlisted for Prix Italia 2007
October 2007. Andrew Ford's Elegy in a Country Graveyard was one of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's offical entries for the 2007 Prix Italia, held this year in Verona. The judges liked the piece, one of them referring to it as a "radio requiem", and together with entries from Radio France and Radio Belgrade, Elegy made it to the final shortlist, ultimately losing out to Jonathan Pontier's work for SRF.
Working with producer Andrew McLennan and sound engineer, Russell Stapleton, Andrew Ford made this piece at the ABC's Sydney studios in October 2006 and February 2007.
Meanwhile more concert performances of Elegy are in the pipeline for 2008. In the concert version of Elegy in a Country Graveyard, although many of the sounds (including the speaking voices) are identical to the radio piece, the choir and brass band play live.
The photograph below was taken at the conclusion of the first live performance of the piece at Arts in the Valley, at the village hall in Kangaroo Valley, NSW, in April 2007. The composer conducted the Berry Court House Choir and Southern Highlands Concert Band. For photos of the Robertson graveyard, see the cemetery gallery (pop-up window).
Performance of 'Elegy' at the Arts in the Valley festival. Photo © Ray Moxon.
A Folly for Michael Kieran Harvey
September 2007. Michael Kieran Harvey will give the first performance of Andrew Ford's Folly for solo piano in Hobart on 11 October 2007.
To compose some new variations on the 16th-century melody, 'La Folia', could certainly seem like folly, given that the world already has more than 300 sets of variations on that tune. But Ford's piece is also especially virtuosic (when Michael Kieran Harvey commissions a piece he likes to tell the composer, 'Make it really hard') so that anyone embarking upon learning this particular set of variations would need to be slightly crazy in the first place.
Ford's other, recent piano pieces include Thin Air, for the 2008 Sydney International Piano Competition, and Broadway Boogie Woogie (score available for free download, see below). Michael Kieran Harvey has recently recorded Broadway Boogie Woogie for release on the Move label.
The first bars of Folly (2007):
Bagpipe Music (for Louis MacNeice)
September 2007. Bagpipe Music for harp and recorder, commissioned by harpist Marshall McGuire, was given its first performance in the Utzon Room concert series at the Sydney Opera House.
McGuire is the curator of this series, but he also performed in the world premiere of Bagpipe Music on 23 September. The piece was written for McGuire and recorder virtuoso, Genevieve Lacey – specifically for her tenor and alto ganassi recorders – and the title alludes not only to the presence of the drones, Scotch snaps and jig-like rhythmic patterns that dominate the piece, but also to the poem of the same name by Louis MacNeice. The centenary of MacNeice's birth falls in 2007, and Ford's Bagpipe Music is dedicated to the poet's memory.
Sydney Symphony to premiere Headlong
June 2007. On Wednesday 1st August, Jeffrey Tate will conduct the Sydney Symphony in the world premiere of Andrew Ford's Headlong. Commissioned by the SSO for its 75th anniversary season, the seven-minute piece consists of a single melodic line which ricochets around the different sections of the orchestra, generating an ever-changing harmonic context for itself.
Essentially celebratory in spirit, Headlong contains many solos and showcases each section – though especially the brass. There will be four performances in all in the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House (see Performances 2007).
Pictured: extract of the manuscript of Headlong.
Elegy in a Country Graveyard on the Internet
June 2007. On Saturday 28th July, ABC Radio National will broadcast Andrew McLennan's documentary Elegy about the composing of Elegy in a Country Graveyard. McLennan, who as producer worked on the piece with composer Andrew Ford, visited Robertson in the NSW Southern Highlands, where Ford lives and the graveyard is situated.
The documentary will be broadcast in Into the Music (Saturday 28th July at 17.05, Friday 3rd August at 15.05) and for one month following, it will be possible to download Elegy in a Country Graveyard for free from the Into the Music website.
Commissioned with funding from the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts and ABC Radio, Ford’s Elegy evokes the cemetery at Robertson, in the NSW Southern Highlands, with voices, instruments and a backing track of pre-recorded sounds. The live version of the piece was premiered in April 2007 in the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival.
For more photos of the Robertson cemetery, see : Robertson cemetery photo gallery
Scenes from Bruegel at the Totally Huge New Music Festival 2007
April 2007. This year’s Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth features two of Andrew Ford’s works. The Stump-Linshalm duo will play Snatches of Old Lauds (2002) on two bass clarinets, while Brett Dean will conduct members of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in the Australian premiere of Scenes from Bruegel (2006).
The piece for chamber orchestra and pre-recorded sounds was jointly commissioned for WASO and the New Juilliard Ensemble, which gave the world premiere at New York’s Lincoln Center in April 2006. THNMF runs from 20 April – 6 May 2007. (Pictured: Bruegel's painting Hunters in the Snow.)
NY premiere of Scenes from Bruegel.
Robertson children in Scenes from Bruegel
Elegy in a Country Graveyard
at the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival
April 2007. On Sunday 22nd April, the inaugural Kangaroo Valley Arts Festival concludes with the world premiere of Andrew Ford’s Elegy in a Country Graveyard. Commissioned with funding from the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts and ABC Radio, Ford’s Elegy evokes the cemetery at Robertson, in the NSW Southern Highlands, with voices, instruments and a backing track of pre-ecorded sounds.
The backing track was made at the ABC studios in Sydney and is a collage of weather, birdsong and voices (senior Robertson residents reminiscing about the cemetery and some of those who are buried there) all overlayed above a long, slow-moving sequence of chords played on vibraphone, harmonium, piano and harp. The performance at Kangaroo Valley Hall is by the Courthouse Choir and the Southern Highlands Concert Band, conducted by the composer.
See also: Robertson cemetery photo gallery
A musical birthday party in a cave
December 2006. In March 2007, Andrew Ford will celebrate his 50th birthday in a cave in central New South Wales.
As part of the 2007 Kowmung Festival, a concert of Ford’s music is scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday 18th March (the birthday itself) in Abercrombie Caves, near Bathurst.
The highlights include Jane Edwards singing Ford’s prize-winning folksong cycle Tales of the Supernatural, Eva Gruesser, concert master of the American Composers Orchestra, in the Australian premiere of War and Peace, for violin and percussion, and bass clarinettist Catherine McCorkill playing Snatches of Old Lauds over a drone from deep within the cave. Ford himself will introduce the pieces.
Full program details will be available soon from the Kowmung Festival website and booking enquiries can be made by emailing: bookings [at] kowmung.com.au
Photo © Stephen Fearnley.
Four first performances announced for 2007
November 2006. Performances of Andrew Ford’s music in 2007 (now available from the news page) include several world premieres. In April, Arts in the Valley, the new festival at Kangaroo Valley in New South Wales, features two premieres in two days. Yvonne Kenny will sing Chimney-sweepers, Ford’s setting of Shakespeare’s words from Cymbeline, ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’, and the composer himself will conduct the first performance of Elegy in a Country Graveyard with the members of local choirs and the Southern Highlands Concert Band.
The graveyard in question is at Robertson, in the NSW Southern Highlands, where Ford lives. (See also the Robertson Cemetery photo gallery) Composed with the assistance of the NSW Ministry for the Arts and ABC Radio, Elegy draws on environmental sounds and the speaking voices of local Robertson residents. Also in April, at Perth’s Totally Huge New Music Festival, Brett Dean will conduct the Australian premiere of Scenes from Bruegel with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. One of the works composed during Ford’s two-year Australia Council Fellowship, it was first performed by the New Juilliard Ensemble at New York’s Lincoln Center in April 2006.
In May, clarinettist Catherine McCorkill and other members of the Australia Ensemble will premiere Ford’s clarinet quintet, Oma kodu, while in August the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Jeffrey Tate will give the first four performances of the Ford’s new orchestral work, Headlong.
Pictured: The Robertson Cemetery (click for a larger image).
In Defence of Classical Music reprinted
October 2006. Andrew Ford’s latest book, In Defence of Classical Music, has been reprinted by ABC Books after its first print run sold out. It is available from all good bookshops in Australia, and online from ABC Shops.
In the book, Ford asks how the symphonies of Beethoven and string quartets of Brahms can possibly be relevant to a post-9/11 world. He argues that it is precisely because we live in discordant times that classical music is more valuable than ever.
‘Classical music is not escapism,’ Ford maintains, ‘it is a form of consolation. A retreat, certainly, but a retreat into reality rather than away from it.’
The distinguished author and musicologist Wilfrid Mellers writes of In Defence of Classical Music, ‘The book is brilliant – especially Part I, which is a necessary prelude to everything I have ever written about music, though neither I nor anyone else has ever done it!’
Other books by Andrew Ford include Composer to composer: conversations about contemporary music and Speaking in Tongues: the songs of Van Morrison, co-written with Martin Buzacott.
See also: the books page.
A Reel, A Fling and A Ghostly Galliard
and other new works
July 2006. Andrew Ford has recently completed his String Quartet No 2 for
the Grainger Quartet. Entitled A Reel, a Fling and a Ghostly Galliard, the 10-minute piece was commissioned for the Graingers by two of their supporters, Pamela Pearce and Wally Patterson.
The new work will be heard during the quartet's inaugural concert tour in November, beginning in Sydney, then travelling to Adelaide, Melbourne and Hong Kong.
Ford is currently working on an orchestral piece, Headlong, for the Sydney Symphony and Jeffrey Tate (August 2007), and has composed the first part of his Symphony for the Australian Youth Orchestra (first performance in 2008). The latter is one of a series of pieces undertaken
during the two-year fellowship awarded by the Music Board of the Australia Council at the end of 2004.
The fellowship has so far produced five new works, including Barleycorn, which was given its first performance in the 2006 Brisbane Festival by the Southern Cross Soloists and folk singers Warren Fahey and Dave de Hugard.
Pictured: Southern Cross Soloists with Dave de Hugard (front left), Andrew Ford (front centre) and Warren Fahey back right). Click image for larger view.
Performances and lectures
in the USA
May 2006. Andrew Ford spent most of April in the United States, attending rehearsals
and performances of his music and lecturing on a variety of topics.
At Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he addressed the entire school on the subject of music as an international language, discussed the blues and early jazz with students in classes devoted to the history of American popular music, and worked with the school orchestra rehearsing his 1999 piece, The Furry Dance.
At the end of his week at the Academy, he presented performances of his solo and chamber music and discussed the works with the audience. After New Hampshire, Ford went to Boston where he gave an illustrated lecture about his work to composition students at the Boston Conservatory, and then at the Juilliard School in New York he led a seminar looking at Australian music since 1945. The American visit ended with the successful premiere at New York's Lincoln Center of Scenes from Bruegel, composed for and performed by the New Juilliard Ensemble under conductor Joel Sachs.
Click here to hear Andrew Ford discuss his piece with John Schaefer of WNYC.
New York premiere for
Scenes from Bruegel
March 2006. Andrew Ford's Scenes from Bruegel will receive its first performance by the New Juilliard Ensemble under its conductor Joel Sachs on April 24. Composed during Ford's two-year fellowship from the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts (the Australian Government's arts funding and advisory body), Scenes from Bruegel is in three movements, each taking as its
starting point one of the most famous paintings by the 16th-century Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Throughout the work, the orchestral music is supplemented and often inspired by sounds recorded in and around the New South Wales Southern Highlands, where Ford lives. New Juilliard Ensemble's performance is in Alice Tully Hall at New York's Lincoln Center on Monday April 24 at 8pm.
Please follow this link to read a program note of Scenes from Bruegel. You can also read more about the involvement of the Robertson primary school band, pictured here conducted by Andrew Ford.
There is also a concert of Andrew Ford's music by the Music Department of the Phillips Exeter Academy (details) on Friday, 14 April in Exeter, New Hampshire.
Brodsky Quartet plays Ford
in Sydney Festival 2006
January 2006. Making its return to Australia after an absence of eight years, the Brodsky Quartet will perform Andrew Ford's Tales of the Supernatural: folksongs for singer and string quartet in its Sydney Festival concert on January 24 at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place.
The songs, about love and ghosts, are from Finland, Scotland, Sweden, England and the Appalachian Mountains. Soprano Jane Edwards, who sang in the world premiere at the 2004 Adelaide Festival, will again be the singer. Tales of the Supernatural was commissioned by the Ian Potter Foundation and in 2005 won the APRA Award for Best Vocal Piece.
Music and Fashion on ABC Classic FM
January 2006. Music and Fashion is a six-part series commissioned by ABC radio, written and presented by Andrew Ford. The programs can be heard on ABC Classic FM at 2 pm each Sunday from New Year's Day. You can also listen online and read transcripts.
Music and Fashion asks why certain types of music have been fashionable at certain moments in history, and what this might tell us about the way in which human beings hear, appreciate and use music.
in Scenes from Bruegel
December 2005. Andrew Ford's
piece for the New Juilliard Ensemble,
Scenes from Bruegel, includes pre-recorded sounds from his home in Robertson, New South Wales.
Some of these are environmental
sounds (birdsong, for instance), but in the final movement, inspired by Bruegel's famous painting, 'The Peasant's Wedding Dance', the New York players will be joined by the pre-recorded sound of the primary school band at Robertson Public School.
Scenes from Bruegel is being composed
under the terms of a two-year Fellowship from the Music Board of the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government's arts funding and advisory body.
The New Juilliard Ensemble, under its conductor Joel Sachs, will give the first performance of Scenes from Bruegel at Alice Tully Hall in New York's Lincoln Center on 24 April 2006.
Picture:Recording session of Scenes from Bruegel with the Robertson Public School band.
(Click to enlarge.)
An die Musik premiere in Adelaide
December 2005. On Saturday 10 December, at St Peter's Cathedral, Adelaide, the Adelaide
Chamber Singers will give the world premiere of Andrew Ford's An die Musik, especially composed for the choir's 20th anniversary in 2005. The concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM and and streamed on the internet at 20.30 Eastern Summer Time (Australia) or 09.30 GMT.
Click here to find out more about the piece and to read the texts by David Malouf, Thomas Shapcott and Gwen Harwood, as well as folk poetry from Malaysia, Finland and the Pueblo Indians of America. You can also download the texts as a pdf file (20 KB).
In Defence of Classical Music
in bookshops 16 September
September 2005. In his new book, In Defence of Classical Music, Andrew Ford asks how the symphonies of Beethoven and string quartets of Brahms can possibly be relevant post 9/11. He argues that it is precisely because we live in discordant times that classical music is more valuable than ever.
'Classical music is not escapism,' Ford maintains, 'it is a form of consolation. A retreat, certainly, but a retreat into reality rather than away from it.'
Following the essay which gives the book its title, there are ten shorter essays on individual composers: Dowland, Haydn, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Sibelius, Ravel, John Adams, Kaija Saariaho and Ross Bolleter. Finally, in an attempt to take the reader into the mind of a composer, Ford turns to his own music, with discussions of The Waltz Book, Learning to Howl, and Manhattan Epiphanies.
All details and a sample of the book are available on the books page.
Tales of the Supernatural
wins APRA award
July 2005. Andrew Ford's Tales of the Supernatural has been named Vocal Work of the Year by the Australasian Performing Right Association. The prize was announced on Monday 18 July 2005, at the annual Australian Music Centre/APRA Awards held at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
Subtitled 'folk songs for singer and string quartet', Tales of the Supernatural was composed in 2002 for the Australian String Quartet with funds provided by the Ian Potter Foundation. The piece weaves songs from various folk traditions (Finnish, Swedish, Scottish, English and American) into a continuous musical fabric lasting some 30 – 35 minutes. The six songs share the twin themes of love and the supernatural – ghosts, demons and other shape shifters.
Tales of the Supernatural received its first performance at the 2004 Adelaide Festival by the ASQ with Jane Edwards. In a message read out at the awards in the composer's absence, Ford thanked them for their 'magical' first performance, and paid tribute to the 'anonymous men and women' who had made up the original folk songs.
This is the fourth national award for Ford's music in just over two years. In March 2003 The Waltz Book won the Jean Bogan Memorial Award, and in 2004 Learning to Howl won both the AMC Award for Best Work by an Australian Composer and the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize.
New radio series scheduled
July 2005. Music and Fashion is a six-part series commissioned by ABC radio, written and presented by Andrew Ford. It asks why certain types of music have been fashionable at certain moments in history, and what this might tell us about the way in which human beings hear, appreciate and use music. Beginning with the most visible of musical fashions – dance crazes – Ford moves on to the role of religion in both inspiring and denying novelty in music, to musical entrepreneurs, the transitory (and often non-musical) nature of fame, the rise and decline of the recording industry and finally to nostalgia – the fashion that keeps on renewing itself.
Episode 1, 'Dirty Dancing' airs on ABC Radio National in the Big Ideas slot at 5.05 pm on Sunday 17 July. More information about the programs is available on the Music and Fashion website .
Sad Jigs and Dance Maze
in Sydney Symphony Orchestra's
Contemporary Music Festival
June 2005. Two pieces by Andrew Ford will be showcased during the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's 2005 Contemporary Music Festival. On Sunday 10 July, Sad Jigs (2005) will receive its world premiere by participants in the SSO's string fellowship program for whom the piece was commissioned. Earlier that same day, festival director Reinbert de Leeuw will conduct members of the SSO in a performance of Ford's 1996 composition, Dance Maze.
Commissioned by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble and first performed by the group in January 1997, Dance Maze has since received several performances by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra's New Music Ensemble under Roger Smalley and by the Sydney Alpha Ensemble under Carl Rosman. In 2003 it was given a second US performance by the New Juilliard Ensemble under Joel Sachs.
All performances in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra's Contemporary Music Festival will take place at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The performance of Dance Maze will be preceded by a talk by the composer. Also, at the invitation of the festival, The Music Show will broadcast live from the Conservatorium on Saturday July 9. Further details are available on the SSO website.
'Speaking in Tongues: the songs
of Van Morrison' out now
May 2005. Speaking in Tongues: the songs of Van Morrison (ABC Books 2005) is now out.
Authors Andrew Ford and Martin Buzacott will discuss their book in a session at Sydney Writers' Festival 29 May at 10 am.
Speaking in Tongues is not yet another biography but a book about Van Morrison's music and lyrics. It falls into two main parts. Part One, 'A Sense of Wonder', examines the themes and variations in his songs: images of childhood; musical heroes; transcendence and religion; responses to nature and literature; and Morrison's consistently truculent relationship with the rest of the world's population.
Building on this exploration of the building blocks of Morrison's work, Part Two, 'A Working Man in His Prime', looks at Morrison's studio work album by album, song by song. Finally the book returns the reader to the central concern in any Morrison song – the sound of his voice.
See also: the books page.
Photo: Andrew Ford (left) & Martin Buzacott.
April 2005. Andrew Ford has completed three new works so far in 2005. These are the piano solo Broadway Boogie-Woogie for Dutch pianist Marcel Worms, the vibraphone and marimba duo Soave sia il vento for West Australian percussionist Callum Moncrieff, and a string quintet entitled Sad Jigs. The quintet—for string quartet plus double bass—was commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for its 2005 string fellows. It will also exist in a version for string orchestra. It is dedicated to the memory of Ford’s former teacher, John Buller, and its title is a cast-off from Debussy. Gigues tristes was Debussy’s first idea for a title for the first movement of his orchestral Images. He ended up calling it simply Gigues.
This concentration on composing has been made possible by the awarding of a two-year fellowship from the Music Board of the Australia Council. Between now and the end of 2006, Ford will compose the large ensemble piece Scenes from Bruegel for the New Juilliard Ensemble and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra New Music Ensemble, a symphony for the Australia Youth Orchestra, and Barleycorn, a second folk-song cycle following on from Tales of the Supernatural, for the Southern Cross soloists. There will also be a solo piano work, Folly, for Michael Kieran Harvey, and Domestic Advice, a new song cycle for soprano Jane Edwards and pianist Ian Munro. Other works in the pipeline include the choral piece An die Musik for the 20 th anniverary of the Adelaide Chamber Singers. The sung texts are poems on the subject of music by David Malouf, Thomas Shapcott and Gwen Harwood. Ford is also planning a piece entitled Elegy in a Country Graveyard which will exist in two forms, one radiophonic, the other a live performance piece for singers and players incorporating taped voices and environmental sounds. This work has been made possible by a grant from the NSW Ministry for the Arts.
Meanwhile before the end of 2005, the writing about music which has occupied Ford over the past two years will bear fruit in the form of two books and a new radio series.
Learning to Howl wins
the Paul Lowin prize
Composers Andrew Ford and Liza Lim with
the patron of the Lowin prizes, Kenneth Tribe.
Photo © Elizabeth O'Donnell
November 2004. Learning to Howl has won its second national prize of 2004, following the AMC award it garnered in July. The Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize, awarded every three years together with a prize for an orchestral work, was announced at Government House in Sydney on November 3rd.
The judges found Ford's piece was 'vocal writing at its very best. The word-setting is masterful, the orchestration wonderfully well-handled.'
The Lowin awards are Australia's richest composition prizes. The orchestral prize was this year won by Liza Lim's Ecstatic Architecture. During the ceremony, Belinda Montgomery (soprano) and Margery Smith (soprano saxophone) gave the first performance of Three Songs for the Lady Pan, extracted from the larger song cycle.
New percussion pieces
from Andrew Ford
October 2004. Andrew Ford has spent much of 2004 composing music for percussion. Two pieces are now complete, with two more still to come. A solo work, The Armed Man, was written in August at the request of Claire Edwardes, the Australian percussionist now based in The Hague. It is for snare drum, with tom-toms and pedal operated bass drum and hi-hat. A drumming duo, The Crantock Gulls, completed in September, will receive its first performance next year from Daryl Pratt and Alison Eddington.
Still to come are two more duos. The first, commissioned by Callum Moncrieff, is for vibraphone and marimba. Entitled Soave sia il vento it shares both its title and some of its notes with the trio from Act One of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte. The violin and percussion duo War and Peace for Antipoduo (Sarah Oates, violin, and Claire Edwardes, percussion) is scheduled to receive its first performance in Amsterdam on 29 January 2005.
As for performances of Ford's ensemble works, Tim White's percussion group Defying Gravity played After the Ball Was Over twice in Perth in September, and Daryl Pratt will conduct performances of Tattoo, for 12 timpani and four pianos, at the Sydney Conservatorium on October 26 and November 27.
Learning to Howl wins
Australian Music Centre award
July 2004. Andrew Ford's song cycle, Learning to Howl (2001) was named Best Composition by an Australian Composer at the 2004 Australian Music Centre/APRA Awards at the Sydney Conservatorium on July 12. The event, broadcast live on ABC Classic FM, honoured music first performed in 2003. The judges commented that Learning to Howl was an 'impressive work . . . beautifully crafted . . . that reaches into the heart of the listener'.
In the composer's absence, the work's dedicatee Jane Edwards accepted the award. Learning to Howl will feature at this year's Melbourne International Festival when Merlyn Quaife will perform the cycle at the BMW Edge, Federation Square, on
Saturday October 9.
Ananda Sukarlan plays
Fear no more . . . in Sydney and Jakarta
July 2004. In 2002, following the terrorist bomb that killed more than 200 people in a Bali nightclub, the Indonesian pianist Ananda Sukarlan asked 20 composers to write short memorial pieces. The Australian composers who contributed works were Betty Beath, Barry Conyngham, Elena Kats-Chernin, Peter Sculthorpe and Andrew Ford, and these pieces have now been heard in many countries around the world.
In July 2004, Sukarlan, who lives in Spain, will bring the In memoriam concert to Australia for the first time, before taking it on to Indonesia itself. He plays the complete concert at the Eugene Goossens Hall on Sunday July 18, and will also perform the pieces by Kats-Chernin, Sculthorpe and Ford at the Australian Music Centre/APRA awards night in Sydney (and live on ABC Classic FM) on Monday July 12. Andrew Ford's piece, Fear no more . . . takes its title from the funeral oration in Shakespeare's Cymbeline:
Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy earthly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta'en thy wages;
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.
2004 Adelaide Festival
February 2004. The Adelaide Festival of the Arts (27 February-14 March) will present the world premiere of Andrew Ford's Tales of the Supernatural. Subtitled "folk songs for voice and string quartet", the half-hour cycle draws on songs from Finland, Scotland, England and the Appalachian Mountains to explore the world of love and ghosts. The piece was commissioned by the Ian Potter Cultural Foundation in 2001 and composed the following year. The Adelaide premiere will be given by the Australian String Quartet together with soprano Jane Edwards. Also in the festival, Gerard Willems will play selections from The Waltz Book (see also The Waltz Book page by Ian Munro) and the Elder Conservatorium Mallet Ensemble will play After the Ball Was Over, Ford's new arrangement of five of the waltzes for a quartet of tuned percussion. See below for details. The performance of After the Ball will be part of Writers' Week, where Ford will be the focus of one of the Meet the Author sessions.
More performances and performers
for The Waltz Book
January 2004. The Waltz Book is steadily being taken up by pianists. Ian Munro commissioned the work and gave the first complete performance in March 2003 (see also The Waltz Book page by Munro). He played it again at the Sydney Opera House Studio on October 20 and at the Melbourne Festival on October 25 (see details below). Simon Docking played the first 24 waltzes at a concert in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in April 2003, and a complete Canadian performance is planned for 2005. In the meantime, both Lisa Moore and Gerard Willems will take up the piece in 2004. Andrew Ford's most recent work for solo piano, Fear no more . . ., dedicated to the victims of the Bali bombing "and all innocent victims of violent men", has received performances in New Zealand, Spain, Norway and Denmark from its commissioner, Ananda Sukarlan. Diana Blom has been playing the piece Australia and Simon Docking gave the Canadian premiere in October 2003. Scores of The Waltz Book and Fear no more . . . are available from the Australian Music Centre.
The Waltz Book
wins the Bogan Prize
April 2003. Andrew Ford's monumental work for solo piano, The Waltz Book, has won the 2002 Jean Bogan Memorial Prize, Australia's national prize for piano compositions. Announced in March 2003, this is the first time the prize has been awarded to a sequence of pieces. The Waltz Book, which coincidentally received its complete world premiere in Hobart, Tasmania, two days before the prize was announced, was commissioned by the pianist and composer, Ian Munro, with financial support from the Australia Council. Comprising 60 minute-long waltzes, ranging in mood 'from frenetic aggression to lilting calm', The Waltz Book takes an hour to play complete. But it was always intended that individual waltzes would have lives of their own, and that pianists might also make selections from The Waltz Book, presenting these groups of pieces as ad hoc suites. Visit the special website for The Waltz Book and listen to extracts.