Gagarin lands in Kidderminster

Posted in News on February 28th, 2018 by Nigel – Comments Off on Gagarin lands in Kidderminster

The Premiere of “Christina’s Memory Garden” – An Operatic Melodrama for Soprano, Trumpet, Storytellers & Symphonic Wind Orchestra

Posted in News on January 4th, 2018 by Nigel – Comments Off on The Premiere of “Christina’s Memory Garden” – An Operatic Melodrama for Soprano, Trumpet, Storytellers & Symphonic Wind Orchestra

by Malene Sheppard Skaerved




Malene Sheppard Skaerved writes about her work:



Across time, cultures, nations, we share one memory: we are all born by a mother.  Ironically this universal experience is unremembered, often ignored, considered taboo, inappropriate, too dirty to discuss.

Childbirth is miraculous and perilous.  It has killed many women and infants throughout history.  It still kills.  It ought to be commemorated.

This movement uses data from an actual birth (my son) woven with the history of childbirth, and with the memories of deities who protected fearful women from its danger.  It finishes with a lullaby, perhaps the only completely female oral tradition, sung to babies of all cultures.

`Christina’s Memory Garden’ is dedicated to singer and aspiring scientist: Christina Ippoliti, cornet & trumpet player: Harmen Vanhoorne, conductor: Matthew J. George and the University of St Thomas Wind Ensemble in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

In the honour of the soprano, Christina Ippoliti, the piece explores historical Christinas, and pays homage to both famous and anonymous women, their stories and choices.  Prominently featured, are Queen Kristina of Sweden (1626-1689), Andrew Wyeth’s painting, Christina’s World (1948) and unknown Christinas telling their stories.



Queen Christina of Sweden (`Drottning Kristina av Sverige’) was an extraordinary woman (1626 – 1689).  She was a great life-force, a wit and highly intelligent.  But most significantly, she did as she pleased.  At times, the consequences of this were severe, but not because of her sex.  Her father, King Gustavus Adolphus the Great,defender of the protestant faith through the 30 year war, changed Swedish law to make her Queen.  But by 28, tired of Sweden, Christina abdicated and travelled to Rome where she converted to Catholicism.  She is one of only three women buried in Saint Peter‘s in Rome.  Her life veered between the inspirational and disastrous. She was susceptible to flattery and was often cheated, and once had a servant killed in a manner that shocked her contemporaries, even in her blood-soaked age.  She spent money she did not have, but loved Art, Music and Science. In defiance of Pope Sixtus V, she let women perform on stage.  She is remembered as an early prototype for modern woman.



We all live on one planet, humans and animals together.  Whatever happens to the Earth, both natural and manmade disasters, affects us all, no matter what we believe.  We humans can both create and destroy; often we forget we are not the only inhabitants of this world. In the future, how will we choose to live? Who will we be? In this final movement, the animals come up with some answers.  Humans are stupid, they sing (Often I wonder – is that true?).  Animals and the humans sing together, about the Environment, Knowledge, Art, reminding us that we all make important, consequential choices, every day.  Life may be universal but as the privileged few, we have a duty to live it responsibly, dutifully, carefully. We hope that we might leave the Earth a better place for all, animals and humans alike.


Malene Sheppard Skærved



About The Music

I have had the great privilege to have recently soundscaped, Malene Sheppard Skaerved’s operatic melodrama `Christina’s Memory Garden’. My function as the composer, has been very much the same as if scoring for a feature film – The music is always secondary, functional and has to be at all times loyal to the script. Often in a stage-drama or film, music is at it’s best when it goes unnoticed, camouflaged and intertwines and melds with the story. It has often been said that John Williams score to `Star Wars’ is that of a `space opera’ – Though this drama, is not set “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”, I have gone with this tried and tested approach to scoring `Christina’s Memory Garden’. While Malene’s script leads throughout, the backcloth of music is an artistic device to reflect, pre-empt and comment on the drama at hand. It would be true to say, that the music takes on the role of an invisible-actor, gently encouraging the audience to respond to the writer/creators thoughts, ideas  stories and emotions. `Christina’s Memory Garden’ was commissioned by the University of St Thomas faculty member, Dr Thomas Ippoliti. I am thrilled that Malene’s drama features two soloists’ throughout, Soprano Christina Ippoliti and Cornet/Trumpet player Harmen Vanhoorne.  Nigel Clarke



Composition & Craft 1st December 7.30pm

Posted in News on November 8th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on Composition & Craft 1st December 7.30pm

City of London Symphonic Winds perform “A Richer Dust”

Posted in News on October 9th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on City of London Symphonic Winds perform “A Richer Dust”

Musicweb International Review TOCC0412

Posted in News on October 7th, 2017 by Nigel – Comments Off on Musicweb International Review TOCC0412




Nice Review for: Nigel CLARKE – Music for Symphonic Wind Orchestra Toccata Classics





See link:

Nigel CLARKE (b. 1960)
Music for Symphonic Wind Orchestra

Mysteries of the Horizon: Concerto for Cornet and Wind Orchestra (2012) [22:28]
Symphony No. 1, A Richer Dust, for speaker and wind orchestra (2014) [48:30]
Harmen Vanhoorne (cornet)
H Stephen Smith (speaker)
Tennessee State University Wind Ensemble/Reed Thomas
rec. 2015/17, MTSU Wright Hall, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Two substantial scores for wind orchestra adding in one case a cornet solo and in the other a speaker. Unsurprisingly these are first recordings.

Clarke’s four-movement Cornet Concerto has a fanciful Magritte-inspired title and each movement likewise: I The Menaced Assassin; II The Dominion of Light; III The Flavour of Tears; IV The Discovery of Fire. These suggest a fantasy game for the X-Box. In fact, it’s a flightily accessible piece. Amid the acrobatics in the two outward-facing movements there’s plenty of positive and testing feel-good activity. As for his style, it’s a little like a John Williams film score – melody meets supple and electric fantasy. The second movement is mysterious with the soloist still called on to look lively and jump through hoops … but quietly. The most successful movement is the crooning and consolatory The Flavour of Tears. Harmen Vanhoorne is in complete command whether in display or in a few islands of humour. Clarke assures us in the liner-note that the solo can also be taken by a trumpet. The work began in a brass band version but was rewritten for wind orchestra.

The words used in A Richer Dust, Clarke’s First Symphony, are by a long roll-call of writers and assembled into a sequence by Malene Sheppard Skærved. They focus on humanity’s addiction to the deathly consumption of lives and wellbeing through war. In this work Clarke is no passive onlooker; his role is a furious protester. In every movement of the symphony there are instances of the orchestra speaking words but usually quietly.

Throughout the Symphony the atmosphere is more tense and weighty than in the concerto. That said the symphonic aspect is inevitably de-focused by the narration although this is done with plenty of imagination by H Stephen Smith. In this pattern Clarke follows in the tradition of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait but over a much longer time-span. The movement titles give a good flavour of what to expect bearing in mind that in his music Clarke is not going to take you anywhere near Darmstadt. The titles are: I Still We Drudge in this Dark Maze; II Living Picture of the Dead; III Other Flowers Rise; IV The Larks, Still Bravely Singing.

Clarke’s technique includes having the words spoken over the music. Issues of balance are adeptly handled. The music in the first movement broods, heaves and power-steps its remorseless way forward in a blood-curdling march. More sinister, spiralling, wailing, spectral and skeletal pages dominate the Living Picture of the Dead. It’s a litany of loss and destruction. I like the way the narration slots in naturally, if disturbingly, with the music. The two (words and music) are interdependent. It is as if the flow of words and ideas are integral to the score; just as it should be. This is most tellingly achieved at the end of the second movement.

Other Flowers Rise is a horrific boiling picture – very active and militaristic in the manner of one of the nightmare episodes in Malcolm Arnold’s late symphonies. It’s all searing and rasping brass with belligerent clashing percussion. The image is of a nightmare horde that half shambles and half tramps across a denuded cordite-smoking landscape. The finale begins with the sort of quietude practised by Andrzej Panufnik in the outer movements of his Sinfonia Elegiaca. In fairness Clarke is, at this point, more incident-packed and varied. Nobility and virtue are found in the narration. This is in fact the most moving and civilised of the four movements. The recitation is of what most of us regard as the good things of life. This listing meets music that feels as if it is integral to the eternal humanist beatitudes spoken by the narrator. The movement is over 13 minutes long. After a fairly passive and inspiring confidence in the future it rises to a stirring portrayal of war. It’s impressive and I liked it a great deal but does it fit with the message? Clarke is no doubt making the point that heroic portrayal of war, flags flying and exultant shouts from the troops, is one thing but reality is another. The words intoned by the narrator, after all that heroic brouhaha, drive that message home.

Nigel Clarke already has a presence in the catalogue; not numerous but to be noted. Toccata is already out there with his Music for Thirteen Solo Strings while Naxos have a military band disc.

The notes, in English only, are fulsome. There are essays by the composer, by the writer and by the conductor. All the words are provided.

This well recorded disc is definitely worth trying although some of us will have to adjust our ears to the sound of the wind orchestra.

Rob Barnett