Category Archives: Composition

Am I a Composer?

I have this problem – I have great difficulty claiming to do something, or be something in an amateur capacity.  For example, I know people who’re brilliant at patchwork and quilting.  I just do patchwork as a hobby, and I wouldn’t claim to be a quilter at all.

Similarly, I certainly am an organist and choir director – indeed, I’m paid to be.  But it’s not my day-job.  Can I call myself an organist and choir director? Well, just about.

And then there’s my attempts at composition.  I certainly do arrange music with a modest amount of success, but call myself a composer?  That bothers me!  I have colleagues who are professional composers, accept commissions, are performed at concerts and festivals – who am I to claim to be a composer, then?!

Anyway, I’ll be brave and share this one.   Worrying about Brexit a few months ago, I wrote a quintet for reed instruments (oboe, clarinet, cor anglais, saxophone and bassoon) and called it, simply, Apart.  The Brexit mess has got much messier since then, so I had another listen to it.  I think I dare share it publicly.  It’s only a Finale computerised rendition, because I haven’t tried to find five instrumentalists willing to humour me with a run-through.

‘Apart: A Lament For Reeds Quintet’ on…

If you go to SoundCloud, you’ll find more of my efforts.  See what you think.


Can I write a set of strathspeys?

Well, I made a valiant attempt, anyway! My set of strathspeys is called, whimsically, “My Foot Has Gone to Sleep” – partly because I really prefer watching dancing to actually doing it, so the title is just one of my excuses for not joining in!  Having said that, this weekend I found I would have to play Clavinova rather than organ at church (an electrical problem), so both my feet had a rest.  I played my strathspeys after a more sedate voluntary.  No-one passed any comment, so who knows if they didn’t notice or were too polite to say they didn’t like it!

The computer-generated audio file for violin, acoustic bass and guitar is horribly artificial-sounding, so I hope that one dayMusard Cherubs Quadrilles someone will play the piece and I’ll have something more human-sounding!

My Foot Has Gone to Sleep


magpie-2364332__340Not content with setting old folk-tunes, this weekend I decided to go one further and write a ballad.  Yes, the whole thing.  Seventeen verses and a couple of different tunes, so the setting uses tune A for a few verses, then B for a few more, and finally back to A again.  We have all the ingredients for a classic ballad – a lovelorn lass, a motherless child, a lone father … and a couple of Glaswegian magpies.  (They exist – I can show you the tree and chimney pot where I spotted them on my way to the bus-stop last Friday morning!)

magpie tree skyI was asked to write something for voice, flute, violin, piano and guitar / accordion.  I’ve done so.  Personally, I think it would be best to have either piano OR guitar / accordion, but not having heard it played by live musicians, I’m willing to be proved wrong.  Here’s the computer audio-file – unfortunately you can’t hear any words!  But if you listen right to the end, you’ll get an audible hint as to how the story ends!

Jackdaw-Jo : a Ballad