The blog of Limelight‘s publisher Andrew Batt-Rawden – July 2014


I don’t know what it is like for every other composer in the world, but for me, every new work is a huge rush of endorphins, adrenaline… and then a bit of terror. I won’t lie, my ego swells when I’m asked to write a new work. It is an even bigger rush when the work is for a sizable ensemble. When there are a lot of performers in a work, every single dot on a manuscript page has a lot weight – and not just because there are multiple voices or instruments that are going to interpret it. The weight of that 2B lead on 80 gsm A4 is added to by the admin time to put those performers together, the marketing, the public liability insurance, the audience, the venue, and the concept of the event itself.

This is my first time writing for choir. Sure, I’ve written for voice – works for the Song Company, solo works with performances by Jessica Aszodi, ensemble works for Halcyon, Orkest de Ereprijs… but never choir.

Michelle Leonard heard the Song of the Virtues that Chris Mansell and I had written for the Song Company in dedication to Penny Le Couteur to perform during their Christmas season last year (It was actually at the Melbourne Recital Centre performance of this work that I firmly decided to publish Limelight, but that’s a totally different story). Michelle liked the work so much that, when we’d met for a subsequent coffee, she decided to commission me.

Ego inflated. Endorphins ran wild.

She described Moorambilla choirs, what had gone on in previous years, the possibilities for 2014, and the theme I’d be working with – a traditional story about the Emu and stars.

Adrenaline – I was so ready for this. A maelstrom of music ideas filled my mind.

Then she mentioned the instrumentation. Choir – the Maxed Out Choir of Moorambilla Voices… including Taikoz, members of the Song Company, an ensemble and a whole bunch of choristers.

Terror. 

That’s not only a lot of performers to write for but a diverse instrumentation and a lot of lines. Having produced a few festivals and a heap of concerts, I know just how much effort goes into putting that together; hence I started feeling that weight. 

That was in December, 2013.

Michelle ended up talking to Julie Christensen about my work. Julie organizes the Pemulwuy National Male Voice Festival (10-13 July) and she ended up asking me for a work as well…. For boys choir and piano accompaniment. That was decided sometime in February.

The Pemulwuy brief wasn’t so daunting, especially given it was only for a 3 minute piece. For text I turned to my favourite Australian poet Chris Mansell… we’d been working together for quite a while by then so she was a natural choice for me, and she provided a text called The Tree which was perfect… it has a clear musicality to both the phrasing and the message, so off I went.

After re-writing this work 6 times (in between starting a publishing company and doing a composer camp in the Netherlands) with guidance from a plethora of mentors and mates, I came up with a 3-part work that uses canonic imitation, patterns (additive and diminutive) and layering in a way that can be taught and remembered without choristers having to read music. For the first time in a long time I wrote in an actual major key.

So The Tree is being premiered as part of the Pemulwuy Male Voice Festival on Sunday 13 July 2014 at Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

A little ironic, as I’m meeting the marketing team of QPAC to see if I can discuss the many benefits of advertising in Limelight Magazine. One must always bring one’s many hats with them, particularly the ones that earn one’s living. You never know when you have pull out the fascinator or the top hat!

In August however, I’m workshopping the big choral work with Michelle for Moorambilla choirs! If Clive thinks my writing is good enough, and it is worth writing about, I’ll post another blog note on here to let you know how it goes!

If you’re a composer and you’d like to share your composing stories, drop me a line – [email protected]au – I love publishing creative development stories on our website!