Great Scott

Great Scott

22nd January 2021

This year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Sir Walter Scott, the great Scottish writer. A few years ago, I managed to visit his house, Abbotsford, when I was up in Edinburgh for the book fair. Sadly, the fair didn’t take place last year, but hopefully it will be back later in 2021. […]

We Love Endpapers

We Love Endpapers

15th January 2021

Workwise, this past year has really been a case of making it through. So it’s been really heartening to see another creation of mine, the Facebook group We Love Endpapers thrive. Set it up in May 2016, and the subject of an article in The Guardian a couple of years ago, it now has almost […]

Magi viderunt stellam

Magi viderunt stellam

6th January 2021

As today is Epiphany, I thought I’d share another piece of mine, an experiment in using a cantus firmus within a modern musical idiom, from 2007. The chant itself comes from a setting by the Portuguese Renaissance composer Pedro de Cristo (1545/50–1618), which I decided to pair with words from Lancelot Andrewes’ Christmas sermon for […]

Three little hazel twigs

Three little hazel twigs

17th December 2020

I was recently reminded about the German tradition of the Barbarazweig, and thought I’d share a short Advent piece by Hugo Distler (1908–1942) which I translated some years ago: I first sang it back in December 1995, when I was living in Germany, and found it quite charming. Distler’s work is little known in the […]

Letters from Wetzlar

Letters from Wetzlar

9th December 2020

The preface to this little book from 1821, by Major James Bell of the East York Militia, reads: ‘The Letters which I am about to lay before the public, form all together but one small leaf in the history of literature; but it is a leaf which relates to the leading era in the life […]

Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams

26th November 2020

This Sunday is Advent Sunday, a day which marks an important step in my composing. As I wrote back in the summer, I wrote my setting of Rowan Williams‘ poem ‘Advent Calendar’ in 2006. Two years later, on Advent Sunday 2008, it was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 by the Choir of St John’s College, […]