Year’s End 年末


The end of the calendar year is always a special time for music. Christmas music is a genre of its own, of course. In Japan there are various pieces and musical events associated with New Year, too. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is an end-of-year institution, along with NHK’s Red and White Song Contest on New Year’s Eve; and then there’s the Tokyu Silvester Concert, a classical “countdown concert” in which the conductor has to end the piece to coincide with the bang of streamers exactly at midnight.

This year I aimed for an “end-of-year double”. I was trying to get a new Christmas carol performed in London and a New Year’s piece performed in Tokyo. I managed one out of the two. The Tokyo piano trio Irodrio gave the first public performance of Joya no Kane (New Year’s Eve Bell) on 20 November at the “Little Concert” series organized by the Foundation for the Promotion of Chofu City’s Culture and Community. I have been working closely with Irodrio this year and next year promises to be quite special. I will give more details in my first blog of 2023!

Alas, the second project was unsuccessful. I submitted a piece to a composition competition in London. It did not win, but a kind email from the organizers explained just how tough the competition had been. As a result, however, another piece I have kept silent about since completing it in March can now be announced. It has also been published online.

The piece is called Music on Christmas Morning. It is a carol scored for choir (SATB) and organ. The words are a poem by Anne Brontë (1820-1849). I was attracted to this poem for a number of reasons, not least the opening words, “Music I love”. The poem is a composer’s delight. The contrasting moods of the verses just invite a composer to experiment with different scoring, textures, and harmonies. For example, the first line of the second verse, “Though Darkness still her empire keep”, lends itself to an ominous minor key, while the first line of the third verse, “To greet with joy the glorious morn”, begs to be set in a bright major key with full organ echoing around the high vault of a church. Such contrasting episodes effectively make the final carol a theme (verse 1) and six variations (verses 2 to 7). Perhaps it came across as more of a Christmas “anthem” than a Christmas “carol”. Hopefully Music on Christmas Morning will get a first performance near Christmas 2023.

As we approach 2023, my new year’s resolution will be to write something simple for next year’s competition. It is all too tempting (one might say “obligatory”) for the aspiring composer to try and demonstrate a certain level of technical ability in each piece, especially when entering a competition. But the most famous carols are all desperately simple, both melodically and harmonically. Herein lies the catch, and the eternal problem for composers. The hardest thing to write is something desperately simple that nobody has done before. What I want for Christmas is a little bit of inspiration.

28 November 2022



今年は「年末の2大プロジェクト」を狙っていました。ロンドンでは新しいクリスマス・キャロルの演奏を、東京ではお正月作品の演奏を目指していたのです。結果として、後者の実現に漕ぎ着けることが叶い、2022年11月20日に、調布市文化・コミュニティ振興財団主催のコンサート「小さな小さな音楽会」において、「除夜の鐘」がピアノトリオ・彩三重奏 Irodrioによる演奏で初演を迎えました。Irodrioとはこの一年を通じて密接に作業してきましたが、来る2023年はかなり特別な年になる予定です。詳しくは2023年最初のブログ記事にて、お伝えしたいと思います!


新たな作品は「クリスマスの朝の音楽」と名付けました。混声四部合唱とオルガンのための作品です。歌詞には、アン・ブロンテ(1820-1849)による詩をあてました。この詩に惹かれた理由はいくつもありますが、特に冒頭の「Music I love」( 私は音楽が好き*)という言葉に惹かれたことが大きいです。この詩は、作曲家を大いに刺激します。対照的な雰囲気の連から成るこの詩を前に、作曲家は様々なスコアリング、テクスチュア(響き)、ハーモニーを試さずにはいられません。例えば、第二連の一行目「Though Darkness still her empire keep」(暗闇がまだその帝国を守っており*)には不気味な短調が、第三連の一行目「To greet with joy the glorious morn」(輝かしい朝に喜んで挨拶せよ*)にはフルオルガンの音色で教会の高い天井に鳴り響く明るい長調が相応しいと感じます。こうした対照的な区切りによって、最後のキャロル(祝歌)は、主題(第一連)と6つの変奏(第二~七連)で効果的に構成されています。この詩は、クリスマス「キャロル」というより、クリスマスの「賛美歌」として浮かんだ作品なのではないかと思われます。2023年のクリスマス頃に、私の「クリスマスの朝の音楽」が初演を迎えることを願っています。


*藤木直子 訳、『アン・ブロンテ全詩集』、大阪教育図書(1998年)より