UYMP’s James Weeks and Hilda Paredes win Ivors Composer Awards

UYMP is delighted to announce that Hilda Paredes was awarded the 2019 Ivors Composer Award for ‘Stage Work’ for her composition Harriet and James Weeks was awarded the 2019 Ivors Composer Award for ‘Small Chamber’ for his composition Leafleoht.

The Ivors Composer Awards, now in its 17th year and previously known as the British Composer Awards, celebrate and honour the best new works by UK contemporary composers in Classical, Jazz and Sound Art. They celebrate the art of composition and are sponsored by PRS for Music. The event is in association with BBC Radio 3 providing exclusive broadcast coverage.

The Ivors Academy announced The Ivors Composer Awards 2019 winners at a glittering ceremony on December 4th, 2019 at the British Museum in London, presented by BBC Radio 3’s Kate Molleson and Tom Service.

Weeks was the first to receive his ‘Small Chamber’ Ivors Composer Award for his work Leafleoht for string quartet. Leafleoht (the title means 'leaf-light' in Anglo-Saxon) arose from a memory-image of wind in the leaves of a hedge near the sea, the intricate and supple motions of the leaves, and bright (morning) sunlight refracting through the plant and reflecting off the leaf surfaces. This image is the focus of the first part of the piece; the second part is more serene and still (perhaps airier, or more concerned with the light alone) and the last is an extremely soft trembling, as of grass. The musical materials are elemental: different lengths and types of bowstroke creating different rhythmic lines and textures; Just Intonation harmony founded on the open strings of the instruments; whistling and murmured speech alongside the playing. As with other recent pieces, Weeks is interested interested in our relationship to what we call the natural world, specifically our embeddedness or indwelling within it. Each part is a single image; as the critic Adrian Searle wrote about an exhibition of Bridget Riley (quoted in the spoken text of the third part), the music attempts 'just to be here, in this light'.

Written for the leading Canadian new music ensemble Quatuor Bozzini, Leafleoht was premiered in Durham University’s MUSICON concert series in November 2018. It was subsequently recorded by BBC Radio 3 and broadcast in October 2019.

Paredes then was awarded the ‘Stage Works’ Ivors Composer Award for her work Harriet (‘Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman’) for mezzo-soprano, percussion, violin, guitar, and electronics. Harriet is an opera, a musical and theatrical portrait of the African American freedom fighter Harriet Tubman (ca. 1822-1913), who saved countless slaves. The libretto is based on poetry by Mayra Santos-Febres and a selection of dialogues by Lex Bohlmeijer. Its ambitious and powerful narrative details Tubman’s journey from captivity into activism, depicting both the suffering she endured and the spiritual experiences that spurred her onward. One particularly interesting aspect of the work touches upon the coded instructions that Tubman would send to slaves; she would hide these instructions in spirituals and in music. Some of the tunes that Tubman used also feature in Paredes’ work.

Harriet was produced by Muziek Theater Transparant with funds provided by Operadagen, FONCA, Coordinación de Difusión Cultural UNAM,Festival Internacional Cervantino and The Composers’ Fund, a PRS for Music Foundation initiative in association with Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. This work was premiered in the UK by Claron McFadden, Naomi Beeldens and HERMESensemble, conducted by Manoj Kamps and directed by Jean Larnonerie at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on November 20th, 2018.

During the ceremony, Crispin Hunt, Chair of The Ivors Academy, said: “It is a privilege for The Ivors Academy to honour these exceptional composers, and we’re especially delighted to have so many first-time winners this year. The works recognised today – and the creators behind them – adventure far into the evolving musical landscape. We’re thrilled to award such a rich variety of talent. Our congratulations go out to all the nominees and winners.”

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a programme dedicated to The Ivors Composer Awards at 9pm to 11pm on Sunday, 8th December.

Here at UYMP, we would therefore like to congratulate Hilda Paredes and James Weeks on their incredibly prestigious awards.


Photo credit: Mark Allan

(5 Dec 2019)

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