The start of a New Year is a good moment to take stock and reflect on the achievements of the past year and while all years have their ‘ups’ and ‘downs’, for me 2023 was a particularly eventful and creative time. I would just like to share a few of the highlights from last year.
The most important new work of 2023, was the composition of my song cycle ‘Out of the Shadows.’ This major commission from Robert Venables KC was written in celebration of his thirtieth anniversary with his partner Gary Morris. The cycle consists of six songs to texts by Cavafy, Brown, Tennyson, Symonds and Warren that explores the general theme of ‘male love’. Although several of the poems were written by gay poets, I also wanted the cycle to show different aspects of the love of man for man and especially to acknowledge the deep love that is found in a long-lasting relationship. This is a love that transcends sexual categories and is at the heart of a humane world where gay people no longer need to hide in ‘the shadows.’ The cycle ends with such a poem by the late 19th century American poet Edward Percy Warren.
Body and Soul
The calm of heaven is mine; and now I know
that what I dreamed is so:
that love can melt the body and soul in one;
but warmer yet and softer
than any dream, more still than heavenly calms
the cloudland of thine arms
wherein I love thee more daily and after.
Another highlight was the release of the premiere CD recording on Albion Records of Portraits of a Mind in May. Commissioned by the Ralph Vaughan Williams Society to celebrate the composer’s 150th Anniversary, the work was recorded in November 2022 by the acclaimed young tenor, Alessandro Fisher, with the Navarra Quartet and pianist William Vann.
For a short video made during the recording sessions please click the following link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCbzs9r3imY&t=12s
“Portraits of a Mind confirms Venables’s reputation as the finest writer of such songs today” Simon Heffer, The Telegraph
“an exceptional recording. Virtually an hour of pure listening pleasure” Alan Cooper, British Music Society
The CD’s programme opens with RVW’s On Wenlock Edge, and concludes with his Four Hymns in a masterly new arrangement for piano quintet by Ian Farrington which was also commissioned by the RVW Society and John Francis.
To purchase the disc and for more information please CLICK the following link: https://rvwsociety.com/portraits-of-a-mind/
The recording can also be heard on Spotify by clicking the following link:
and on Apple Music https://music.apple.com/us/album/portraits-of-a-mind-i-the-lark-ascending/1679394900?i=1679394902
One of the most memorable events of last year was the Elgar Festival’s concert performance of my Requiem in June. The work was performed magnificently in its orchestra arrangement by the Worcester Cathedral Chamber Choir, the St Cecilia’s Singers from Gloucester, the English Symphony Orchestra, organist Jonathan Hope, conducted by Stephen Shellard. Listening to it in Great Malvern Priory was a deeply moving experience and I really could not have asked for a finer interpretation. In his excellent review of the concert for ‘Seen and Heard’ John Quinn commented, “What I now heard reinforced the view I have held since first hearing the piece: the Venables Requiem is one of the most significant recent English choral compositions and a work of great emotional depth which makes a very direct connection with performers and audiences.
To read the full review, please click the link: https://seenandheard-international.com/2023/06/ian-venables-masterly-and-moving-requiem-performed-with-conviction-at-the-elgar-festival/
In July, two ‘in depth’ articles were published about my music. The first, was Simon Heffer’s superb Hinterland column article in The Telegraph entitled, ‘Classical music has been irredeemably devalued – this British composer is fighting back.’
For the Full text please CLICK: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/classical-music/classical-music-vaughan-williams-ian-venables-merton/
The second, by Roderic Dunnett is the most comprehensive survey of my music to date. Entitled, ‘A Spiritual Journey’, Dunnett ‘takes an extended look at the career of English composer Ian Venables, and listens to a recent performance of the orchestral version of his Requiem.’ Please Click the link below for the full article published in Classical Music Daily:
2024 may well turn out to be another busy year with new commissions and several important concerts already pencilled in the diary. Compositionally, I am currently composing a Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for this year’s Three Choirs Festival Evensong to be held at Worcester in July. I have also accepted an important commission from the Dante String Quartet and the American tenor Brian Thorsett to compose a chamber song-cycle based on texts by American poets.
On the recording front, the young Taiwanese violinist, Chu-Yu Yang, and pianist, Eric McElroy will record my Violin Sonata and Three Short Pieces for a disc of British violin and piano music on the SOMM Records label.
Latest Publication From Novello
Premiered at the Elgar Festival in 2021 by the tenor, Mark Wilde, and pianist David Owen-Norris the song cycle was composed in the bicentenary year of the poet’s birth in 2019.
It comprises four settings of the poems, ‘Shine, shine, shine’, ‘Out of May’s Shows Selected’, ‘As at Thy Portals also Death’ and ‘The Last Invocation.’
The published score can now be ordered online from musicroom.com
To purchase please CLICK the following link: https://www.musicroom.com/the-last-invocation-dam1346586?returnurl=%2fsearch%3fq%3dian%2bvenables%26count%3d50D
Concert dates for your diary
Saturday 10th February at 7 p.m
St Peter’s Church, Belsize Square London, NW3 4HJ
‘My Heart Makes Songs On Lonely Roads’ – Song Recital
Rachel Roper (mezzo-soprano) and Claire Habbershaw (pianist)
Taking inspiration from living composer Ian Venables’s cycle The Pine Boughs Past Music op.39, British pianist Claire Habbershaw curates and musically directs, a multimedia recital of Ivor Gurney’s music, settings of his poetry and his influences and inspirations.
To purchase advanced tickets please Click the following link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/my-heart-makes-songs-on-lonely-roads-tickets-787580192557?aff=oddtdtcreator&utm_experiment=test_share_listing
Sunday 3rd March at 5.30 pm
The Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square London WC1R 4RL
The Dante String Quartet Quartet and Brian Thorsett (tenor) plus Pre-Concert Talk with Ian Venables and Robert Hugill
The Dante’s programme opens with Beethoven’s Op.135, his last completed work, premiered a year after the composer’s death. The rest of the evening in devoted to British music. Firstly Ian Venables’ Invite to Eternity, inspired by the works of the Northamptonshire-born poet John Clare (1793-1864). A selection of songs by Gloucester composer Ivor Gurney completes the first half, before the Dante conclude their recital with Elgar’s String Quartet, composed in 1918.
For advanced tickets please CLICK the following link: https://www.conwayhall.org.uk/whats-on/event/dante-quartet-brian-thorsett-pre-concert-talk/
Monday 11th March at 7.pm
Perrins Hall, The Royal Grammar School, Upper Tything, Worcester
The Dante String Quartet Quartet and Brian Thorsett (tenor)
N.B The programme for this event is the same as the above Conway Hall concert
Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Op.135, Venables’s song cycle, ‘Invite to Eternity’ Op.31
Four Songs by Ivor Gurney, By a Bierside, In Flanders, Severn Meadows, Lights Out (Arr. Ian Venables) and Elgar’s String Quartet Op.83
For advanced tickets please CLICK the following link: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/thewaverleyensemble/1104490
Sunday 28th April at 6 pm
St John the Evangelist church, 109A Iffley Road
Oxford, OX4 1EH
Phoenix Piano Trio with Gareth Brynmor John – SJE Arts International Piano Series
Piano Trios by Ireland and Schubert and the premiere of Out of the Shadows, a song cycle by Ian Venables, scored for baritone, violin, cello and piano.
For advanced tickets and further details please CLICK the following link: https://sje-arts.org/event/phoenix-piano-trio-with-gareth-brynmor-john-sje-arts-international-piano-series/
The Three Choirs Festival, Worcester 27th July – 3rd August
Friday 2nd August at 7.30 pm
Ian Venables – Requiem Op.48
Three Choirs Festival Youth Choir and the Philharmonia Orchestra
For further details please CLICK the following link: https://3choirs.org/whats-on
A Celebration of Twentieth Century English Composers
By Stephen H. Smith.
Albion’s Glory gives a complete overview of the history of English music and the composers who brought it to life. I was delighted to discover that I had been included in “The Best of the Rest” section of this book. To purchase please CLICK the following link: