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Neither is the work in any way rewarded in terms of effort, at any rate in this country. Very few composers earn a living by composition alone, except for those who undertake commercial work -- which many, including John, are not ashamed to do, or think beneath them. There is, or should be, considerable art in writing a good film or TV score. Some composers arrange for pop writers, some teach, some -- but fewer -- perform, John amongst them. And he enjoys performing, saying that it brings him into contact with audiences in a way that he would otherwise miss, while also ensuring that he understands the problems of performing musicians in dealing with contemporary music (and living composers!).

David Justin as Uther Pendragon and Sabrina Lenzi as Igraine in the 2000 BRB production of 'Arthur Pendragon'. Photo: Bill Cooper/BRB

Generally, however, he tries to keep the two activities apart, explaining that composing and performing require quite different musical attitudes and thought processes. Normally there would be periods of time devoted to composition (though other requirements and demands of life obtrude, naturally), and others given over largely to playing the piano. However, over the entire period of composition of the cycle this hopefully-planned arrangement began to pull apart, largely because BRB were to have their home theatre, the Birmingham Hippodrome, redeveloped between the last performance of Arthur Part I, and the première of Arthur Part II. Naturally the builders ran late. The première of Arthur was put further and further back, and in the end it was decided to wait no longer, but to give the world première in the Sadler's Wells Theatre, London. All of this brought its own complications to us, and John had some horrific periods when he was desperately trying to finish an act, while also practising a Mozart concerto, or for one of his well-filled recital programmes (Copland, Webern, McCabe and Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis was one such).

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Copyright © 24 April 2001 Monica McCabe, Kent, UK







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