next stop is... Angel
large chamber ensemble
fl/picc, ob, cl, bn, hn, trp, trb, 2 perc, hp, pno, 2 vn, vla,
duration: 7 minutes 15 seconds
The next stop is... Angel
During the early part of the year 2000 I had been suffering from a virus
which affected my central nervous system. This caused severe balance and
visual problems. Whilst in this state I had to take a tube train to Angel
station (in London) and the jarring of the ride, the slamming of the doors
and constant stopping and starting, made a considerable effect on me.
I experienced pronounced dizziness and vertigo, which led to a feeling
of an intensified white knuckle ride. Eventually the train approached
my stop and a disembodied computer voice announced "the next stop
is........Angel". The strangeness of the announcement, with its ironic
portent of death, coupled with the intensity of the journey led to the
writing of this piece.
The piece itself is conceived as an energetic danse macabre - an unwilling
dance of the brain as it is jolted by the train and the effects of the
virus. Although the content initially stemmed from a serious event I was
able to revisit the dark days of the illness with a sense of relief and
some lightheartedness. The insistent rhythmic figures are constantly and
inexorably being reinvented. The only escape is through flights of melodic
fancy, which, since the illness started during a tour of Scotland, are
rendered as distorted bagpipe music! Inevitably each melodic section is
interrupted as the brain is unwillingly forced to dance again. Eventually
even the melodic figures become grossly distorted as they in turn fall
victim to confusion. Only in the coda do things start to settle down.
However the final groan of the cuica (lion's roar) asks the question "but
for how long?"
Stephen Roberts was born in London
in 1952 and received his first music lessons from Sir Harrison Birtwistle
and Alan Civil. He studied the horn at The Royal College of Music and
composition at Birmingham University with John Casken, John Joubert, Jonty
Harrison and Vic Hoyland.
Whilst at Birmingham Stephen co-founded the Fine Arts Brass Ensemble with
whom he spent twenty years performing all over the world in more than
60 countries. He also arranged most of the ensemble's repertoire and helped
to commission over 50 new original works for brass. Stephen has been musical
director of various brass bands and written a large number of arrangements,
which are now standard repertoire in this medium. As a freelance horn
player Stephen has performed with nearly all of the UK's orchestras.
Having spent over twenty years as a performer, arranger and conductor
Stephen has more recently been focusing his career on composition. His
'debut' work was a clarinet quintet (Three Aquarelles) for
the 1994 Aberystwyth Festival. This resulted in a commission for a Concerto
for Orchestra, How Night Came (1995) for the inaugural concerts
of the English Symphony Youth Orchestra at Birmingham's Symphony Hall.
These two scores were submitted to the BBC Composer's Forum and produced
a commission from the BBC Symphony Orchestra for a Concertante for
Four Horns & Orchestra (1996) which was broadcast on Radio
3 in 1998. Further commissions followed including; Dances of Persephone
(1997) for the Zanfonia Trio; Kentucky Derby (1998) (Trumpet
& Piano) for Angela Whelan; Among the Nightingales (1999)
for the English Symphony Orchestra; Pantomime Suite (1999)
for the Bochmann Ensemble and Carnival Batuque for Brass
& Steel Bands (2000) for the Millennium Festival of Brass Bands held
at Birminghams Symphony Hall.
His two most recent works were written without commission; The next
. Angel (2000) has been shortlisted by the spnm;
Five Ancient French Brawls (2001) for Wind Octet was "highly
commended" by the Gregynog Composition Competition 2001.
In 1998 Stephen was one of the featured composers in the spnm's
highly successful Film Music Project. He is now increasingly in demand
as a composer with several commissions in the pipeline, and lectures part
time in composition and orchestration at Birmingham University.
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