The best-selling choral composer is now writing for the harp, but it’s not all choirs of angels.
You’ve often written for harp in an orchestral context, but your new album Blessing, with harpist Catrin Finch, is the first time it’s taken centre stage. What attracts you to the instrument?
Oh gosh, I started my musical life as a boy soprano, and one of the pieces that came round one Christmas time was Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, which famously has a harp accompaniment. I was a cheeky little kid, a ten-year-old sort of thing, and I went up to the very grand lady harpist, and I said “Er, Miss”, I said, “can you show me, how does it work?” And she should have said, “Go away, you horrible little toe-rag”, but she gave me a demonstration of all the things you can do on the harp. Since then it’s been an instrument that I always had a place for in my mental sound-picture.
The harp is a typecast instrument in a lot of ways. You’ve said that “angels” were the starting point for your Suite Lyrique. Is it impossible not to slip into those associations?
Ah, I did say that. But...