South Liverpool Orchestra Celebrates 40 Years of Music-Making

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As conductor of the South Liverpool Orchestra since 2011, Robert was delighted to lead them in celebrating their 40th anniversary on 17th May.

The programme at the gala concert featured the best of British composers, including Benjamin Britten, Edward Elgar, William Walton and Robert Howard himself.

His 1995 orchestral piece Procession was originally written as an A-level music submission, and was first performed by – and dedicated to – the Wirral Youth Orchestra under conductor Anthony Ridley.

Alan Humphreys captured the occasion on camera, and you can soak up the festive atmosphere yourself by viewing the full album on the SLO Facebook page.

In other composition-related news, the Liverpool division of the Royal School of Church Music recently chose Robert’s Ave Verum Corpus – written for Good Friday 2016 for Prescot Parish Church Choir – as part of the programme for a ‘Come & Sing’ workshop featuring choirs from across the diocese.

Dr Ian Sharp conducted, with George Swift at the organ. The Passiontide anthem, written with flexibility, simplicity and singability in mind, has generated interest from several church choirs.

And in case you missed it, back in March, one of Robert’s older compositions was given new life again in a London performance by the KNM Campus Ensemble of Berlin.

Howard Piece Performed at Contemporary Music Festival

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Robert’s 2000 composition Promenade IV  was performed on Saturday 5 March at King’s Place, London, as part of the two-day Festival of Contemporary Music for All (CoMA).

The performance took place in the second-level atrium, which was ideally positioned outside several of the rooms being used for workshops, as well as being directly visible from the venue’s main coffee shop and meeting space.

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The 10-piece KNM Campus Ensemble from Berlin performed Robert’s flexibly scored piece on three violins, four flutes, bass flute, bass clarinet and keyboard. During the performance, an image of Anthony Caro’s Promenade sculptures which inspired this (nd several other pieces was projected onto the wall above the artists.

The short concert featured two other works, one of which was composed by the ensemble themselves. The 75-strong audience clearly enjoyed all three performances, and afterwards the conductor of the group intimated that Promenade IV was the group’s favourite piece to perform!

New Choral Work: Ave verum corpus

[Update: The recording of the premiere is now available to listen to online.]

Robert Howard has composed a new setting of Ave verum corpus, to be sung by Prescot Parish Church Choir, with Tim Hall accompanying on the organ, on Good Friday 2016.

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The composer wrote the music to the traditional Latin text with simplicity and singability in mind, especially for the younger members of the choir, which has recently had an intake of six eight- and nine-year-olds.

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It is structured in two parts, the second of which repeats the first (musically) with some variations. The singing fades as the opening lines – translating as ‘Hail the true body’ – return, mirroring the dying of Christ on the cross.

All are welcome to hear the first performance at the Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Prescot, L34 1LA, at 2pm on Friday 25 March 2016.

Click the thumbnail to view page 1 of the choral score.

London Performance of Howard’s Promenade IV

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The KNM Campus Ensemble are performing Robert Howard’s 2000 flexibly scored piece Promenade IV on Saturday 5 March at King’s Palace Concert Venue in King’s Cross, London.

The ensemble hail from Berlin, Germany, and are taking part in the concert as part of the Festival of Contemporary Music for All. The programme features several works inspired by images, to be performed alongside a projected display.

Robert gained inspiration from the Promenade sculptures of Anthony Caro (1996), currently on display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The artwork inspired several companion pieces, forming part of his PhD thesis (2003).

A recording of the performance will be among the first to be uploaded to a newly relaunched CoMA website. The score was originally published in Forum London Composer’s Millennium Pack 2000, and will be republished in a future volume of CoMA’s Open Score.

Click here to view or download the flyer (PDF) for the event, and click here for an earlier recording and sample page from the newly typeset copy of the Promenade IV score. More information about the concert on 5 March is online at kingsplace.co.uk.

A Babe Is Born: New Arrangement Receives Premiere

Thursday 10 December saw the premiere of Robert Howard’s new arrangement of his 2002 Christmas carol ‘A Babe Is Born.’

The performance, by tenor David Kernick (pictured), with the composer at the piano, took place at St Mary’s Church, Prescot, as part of the Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert.

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More than 350 people attended the concert, which raised an impressive £1,053.05 for local charitable causes Willowbrook Hospice and Prescot Army Cadets. A programme of carols and popular festive tunes featured Liverpool Brass Ensemble and several local school, church and community choirs.

The annual event is organised by the Prescot Festival, of which Dr Howard is Founder and Artistic Director.

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Photos: Christopher Lyon Photography

Private Premiere: Reclining Figure (2015)

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Earlier this month saw the completion and premiere of a new short piano piece, Reclining Figure, by Rob Howard, after the sculpture by Henry Moore and dedicated to Reverend Jeff Engel on 25 years of ministry.

The first performance was given to a private audience of the dedicatee and members of Prescot Parish Church at Gladstone’s Library, Hawarden, North Wales, on Saturday 3 October.

The piece attempts to capture the character of Reverend Engel through a sequence of mini-variations depicting biblical images as detailed in the score: chorale, lullaby, harp, drums, celesta, waves, dance and ascension.

View a score excerpt and listen to a recording of the premiere on the Compositions page.

Upcoming Concerts

Dr Robert Howard will be conducting and performing in the following concerts between now and the end of the year:

  • Saturday 17 October 7.30pm at All Saints Church, Abbey Road, Liverpool – Phoenix Concert Orchestra
  • Tuesday 1 December 8pm at St James’ Methodist & United Reformed Church, Church Road South, Liverpool L25 7RJ – South Liverpool Orchestra Christmas Concert
  • Thursday 10 December 7pm-8.15pm at Prescot Parish Church – Mayor of Prescot’s Charity Christmas Concert

Dr Howard also looks forward to another full programme of Christmas events, concerts and services at St Edward’s College, Liverpool.

Rob Howard Accepts Festival Award

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Dr Robert Howard was proud to accept a local award on behalf of the festival he founded over ten years ago.

At Knowsley Sports & Cultural Awards on 9 October, the Prescot Festival was named Cultural Group of the Year. Presenting the award, ceremony host Steve Hothersall praised the annual festival and its year-round programme of music and arts.

Robert founded the festival in 2005 as a way to make quality music accessible to ever-wider audiences in his hometown. Starting as a weekend-long event, it has now grown to span 10 days every June.

Pictured: Robert displays the award following the ceremony at Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park.

Successful Fundraiser, Premiere of Flautando

A September fundraiser raised over £370 for the historic church of St Mary’s, Prescot.

The concert of ‘Brass & Organ Classics’ featured organist Tim Hall, trumpeter Pete Moss and the Brassworks quintet, but a particular highlight of the evening was the first public performance of a new work by Robert Howard.

Performed by its dedicatee, flautist Laura Bonnett, Flautando used the whole range of the flute and a plethora of techniques to fill the vast 17th-century church with beautifully haunting sound.

Listen to recording of the first performance below, and explore Rob’s other compositions (score excerpts and audio) here.