Robert Howard

The Island
for chamber orchestra

duration: 5 minutes

The Island (1999) for chamber orchestra

This piece was composed under various working titles; Line With Accompaniment (Kandinsky), 25 Spirals (Terry Frost), The Spiral (new wing at the V & A Museum) and Line on a Walk (Paul Klee - Pedagogical Sketchbook). My final choice, The Island, refers to a spectacular viewpoint in St. Ives, Cornwall. This site features in many paintings by Alfred Wallis and lies close to the Tate St. Ives.

The Island has a special significance for me; it was where I viewed the total solar eclipse on 11 August 1999 and where I actually completed this work. Though not completely surrounded by water, The Island is a hill with the tiny St. Nicholas Chapel at its peak. My piece takes Klee's notion of line as melody 'on a walk', representing the path which circles the base of The Island. Monody occasionally diverges, or is harmonised before splitting into a contrapuntal texture. This ascends in pitch, just as the walker makes their way up the hill to the chapel. The work concludes with the transformation of the opening line into a brass chorale and woodwind plainchant.

Robert Howard (b. 1977) previously studied at the Royal Northern College of Music Junior School. He has performed, conducted and composed extensively for youth orchestras on Merseyside. Robert received first class honours in Music from the University of Birmingham (1995-8) where he composed Mirage Sextet (1996) for a masterclass with Judith Weir, Variations on Eleven Tones (1997) for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and various other works for the University New Music Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra. Robert's piano music has won first prizes in music festivals throughout the country.

Robert is currently studying PhD composition with Philip Cashian as well as teaching at Goldsmiths' College, University of London. There he has composed four works for Gemini including Family of Man (1999) and Dual Form (2000), and Single Form (2000) for Colin Lawson. His String Quartet No.l. (1998) won the 1999 Gregynog Young Composers Award of Wales and The Island (1999) was selected by spnm for rehearsal by the City of London Sinfonia. Robert continues to play bassoon, conduct and compose extensively for amateur groups such as COMA and the Goldsmiths' Sinfonia, most recently in a series of works called Promenade.

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