How did you come to be involved with education work at Glyndebourne?
‘I came to Glyndebourne as Assistant Chorus Master in 1987, and immediately became involved in workshops for the education department, initially focussed on the repertoire of the Glyndebourne Touring Opera [now Glyndebourne Tour] programme. Katie Tearle and Anthony Whitworth-Jones wanted to commission an opera for some schools to perform, and I suggested enlarging the project to take in a whole town. That was the beginning of our first community opera, Hastings Spring.’
Did you face any particular challenges in writing a community opera?
‘It was insanely ambitious to think of writing for so many different instrumental groups of widely varying ability, and inviting the cast to help to compose the music they would sing. I had no experience of structuring a full-length through-sung drama: the composing alone was a huge challenge but, on top of that, I was conducting rehearsals all over town, cycling frantically from one to another, and then, after the rehearsals, writing the end of the opera alone in the ballroom at the end of the pier.’
What is the most rewarding aspect about composing for amateur voices?
‘Amateur performers are always amazed to discover that they can achieve so much more than they thought, and their enthusiastic energy radiates to everyone.’
Hastings Spring, 1990. Photo: Tom Fenn
Who do you believe has had the greatest impact on your music?
‘Benjamin Britten: he showed that a whole community can be involved in a thrilling new work.’
What has been the most memorable moment working with Glyndebourne?
‘Probably the arrival of the samba band in In Search of Angels, bursting into Peterborough Cathedral and leading 600 performers and as many audience out through the market square into a shopping mall where young angels came singing down the escalators.’
[Information collected 07/10/16]