composer Andrew Wilson

‘The artist is the barometer of civilisation’: Composer Andrew Wilson takes on our Q&A challenge

Composer Andrew Wilson get in touch with some responses to our artists’ Q&A. In the past year Andrew’s music has been performed all over the world, including at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

Also in 2016, he has had a number of commercial recordings released of his orchestral, chamber and keyboard music which have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

In February this year, “The Mintage of Man”, commissioned by clarinettist, Don Jenny, received its world premiere at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

His children’s opera “The Green Children” was produced to great acclaim at the Woolpit Festival.

He has won numerous awards for his compositions: most recently first prize in the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir’s “Celebrating Dorset Competition” 2016, the International Small Choirs Competition 2015 and the “Harvest of the Sea” City of London Prize 2015 and finalist in the Greyfriars’ Kirk, Edinburgh Competition 2015 and the New Cambridge Singers Competition 2016.

He has been the organist of several important churches, including All Saints’ Worcester and Upton-upon-Severn and is now the organist and Musical Director of Okehampton Parish Church.

Events planned for 2017 include the premiere of the concert overture “Hartland Point” commissioned for the North Devon Sinfonia, choral and brass incidental music for the Tavistock Passion Play. In April, the Dante String Quartet with renowned pianist mark Bebbington will launch “Conversation Pieces” for Piano Quintet.

Who are you and what do you do?
Andrew Wilson, composer.

Why do you do what you do?
I am a compulsive musical creator.

How do you work?
At my desk in my shed looking over the Tavy Valley.

What’s your background?
I was a school music teacher for many years before taking the plunge into full time composing.

What’s integral to the work of an artist?
Discipline and self-criticism.

What role does the artist have in society?
The artist is the barometer of civilisation.

What has been a seminal experience?
Reading the Ladybird “Lives of the Great Composers” as a child.

Explain what you do in 100 words
I write music in the classical tradition from large scale orchestral and choral works to miniatures for chamber groups and soloists; from stage works to liturgical sacred pieces. I usually work with particular performers, venues and occasions in mind and have had many works published, professionally performed and broadcast. I have held music festival composer residencies and often conduct and perform my own work.

How has your practice changed over time?
When I started, computer music programmes were unheard of and while my training means I still largely work with pencil, paper and rubber, the computer is a great tool for taking the drudgery out of making the final score and parts.

What work do you most enjoying doing?
Writing big orchestral scores: I love the intellectual challenge of marshalling my forces on paper and then seeing the piece come to life in rehearsal and performance.

What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?
Singing in a church choir.

What themes do you pursue?
I work in musical shapes, colours, landscape and stories rather than themes: except in the melodic sense of the word, of course!

What’s your scariest experience?
The first performance of “Omfra’s Laugh” in the Royal Albert Hall.

What’s your favourite art work?
Beethoven’s symphonies.

What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
As a student I loaded aeroplanes at Luton Airport! My first musical job was as a repetiteur for a Dancing School. I was Director of Music at Kelly College, and I am Director of Studies of the National College of Music, London.

What food, drink, song inspires you?
Coffee made to my own exacting standards! “The Suite of Sweets” (recorded by the Gelachter Trio) was inspired by a box of chocolates and “A Cider Press Trio” is a depiction of different cider apples.

Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
It can be lonely in the shed, but that’s all forgotten when you are rehearsing and performing.

Name something you love, and why.
My wife and daughter: my best supporters and hardest critics.

Favourite or most inspirational place (in Devon)?
The River Walkham (pictured in “The Three Bridges Concerto”)and Hartland Point (depicted in the new Overture commissioned for the North Devon Sinfonia by the Tavistock Festival).

Andrew Wilson, thank you!