Robin Grant

for oboe and string quartet

duration: 13 minutes


Persevera (Black Country Dances II)

Persevera (1999), scored for oboe and string quartet, is the second of a series of chamber works, each subtitled Black Country Dances (the Black Country is an area of central England, roughly spanning north Birmingham to Wolverhampton, the cradle of the industrial revolution). Robin's use of the Black Country theme began with large scale schools cantatas, Iron Mad Wilkinson (1994, published by Goodmusic), Owd Jonah's Ghosts (PRS Composer-in Education project, 1996) and This Land, Our Land (millenium commission from Wolverhampton Borough Council for performance in the Dome, July 2000). With The Nailmaker (song cycle for tenor, piano and tape, 1997) Robin introduced the theme (and dialect) to the professional concert hall. Miniature Mechanisms (Black Country Dances I), scored for flute (alto), bass clarinet, harp and string quartet, was included in an spnm workshop performed by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at the Warwick and Leamington Festival, 1997.

The title Persevera is taken from the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company motto of 1845, a clever play on Latin words:

Persevera · Per Severa · Per Se Vera

It may be translated as 'struggle on through adversity, truly alone'.

The title of a monograph by local historian Michael Hale, 'The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Through The Black Country' was subjected to a cryptographic process to generate a melodic set of sixty-three pitches. In turn this melodic curve was attenuated, step by step (by a semitone) until reduced to a single pitch. This resulted in eighteen variant melodic sets, each set containing a diminishing number of pitches (the eighteenth containing just one pitch, the starting note). All eleven transpositions of this process were systematically used, transposed up a perfect fourth each time until the starting point is reached at the coda. Sometimes all the sets were used, sometimes just one. Random number values of one to three (Persevera, Per Severa, Per Se Vera) were used to generate scalic and duration material. This data provided the basic building blocks freely used in the construction of the work.
© Robin Grant

Robin Grant
was born in the English Black Country and lives in Wolverhampton. He studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music with Anthony Gilbert, and visiting tutors Harrison Birtwistle and Simon Bainbridge, graduating in 1986. Since then he has worked as a freelance composer.

Robin was awarded the John Clementi Collard Fellowship in 1996 partly due to the success of his chamber opera I Am... In Search of John Clare. The work was commissioned by the RNCM as part of the Manchester Year of Drama, 1994. The opera critic, Michael Kennedy (The Sunday Telegraph) wrote "It's combination of song, folksong, off-stage chorus, speech and melodrama is highly imaginative... it is a genuine work of art".

More vocal works followed, including A Dot On The Sun (chamber opera, UCL commission, 1996) and song cycles A Pretty Wench (Wendy Nieper, ABH 12/95) and The Nailmaker (Julian Pike, ABH 4/97). His instrumental works include Out Of The Dark (chamber concerto), Persevera (oboe and string quartet), Miniature Mechanisms (septet), Anima Mundi (string quartet) and When Sirens Sing (unaccompanied oboe, published by Emerson Edition).

Robin's works for young musicians include Iron Mad Wilkinson (chorus and orchestra, published by Goodmusic), included in the Redbridge Schools Choral Festival at the Royal Albert Hall in 1996, and several sets of pieces for student instrumentalists published by Faber, Boosey & Hawkes, Chester Music, Goodmusic and the Associated Board.

In 1994 Robin was awarded a post-graduate diploma (distinction) in composition by the Birmingham Conservatoire. Since then he has held a part-time teaching post at the Conservatoire where his classes include composition, orchestration and twentieth century music analysis at both under-graduate and post-graduate levels. In 1999 Robin was made an Honorary Member of Birmingham Conservatoire (BC Hons).

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