Stephen Roberts

The next stop is... Angel
for large chamber ensemble

fl/picc, ob, cl, bn, hn, trp, trb, 2 perc, hp, pno, 2 vn, vla, vc, db

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 Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

His two most recent works were written without commission; The next stop is…. 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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