Last fall I spent a term at Cambridge University as a Visiting Fellow (at the gorgeous Sidney Sussex College). I wrote and conducted and taught and attended classes, and generally had the time of my life.
I also walked a lot. Every day I would stroll through the streets of Cambridge out to Newnham, a 25-30 minute walk each way, following the idyllic banks along The River Cam. Here are a few pictures of the river I took with my iPhone whilst on my walks:
The Bridge of Sighs at St. John’s College:
Near Trinity College:
As I walked alongside the river these little melodies began forming in my mind, informed by the sights, the sounds, the history of the land and of the University. Day after day I would sing these fragments, not really knowing what they were or what they might become. Around this time the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber asked me to write a piece for his 60th birthday concert, and I knew even as he was asking I would use these fragments as the foundation of the new work.
As the piece was beginning to take form I realized that I was writing a ‘pastoral piece’, undeniably British, with serious echoes of Elgar and Vaughan Williams. I didn’t care. I just tried to follow the thread of the melodic fragments and capture as best I could the quiet and heartbreaking beauty of The River Cam.
The full piece is 10 minutes long, but here are the first three pages of the score:
Here is a very rough recording of the first three pages (from my iPhone again) played here in a reading session by the wonderful Sinfonia Temesa.
The piece was first performed last week at the Royal Festival Hall, played by the extraordinary Philharmonia Orchestra; Julian Lloyd Webber, cello; I was conducting. The piece will probably be in print this fall, available from Chester Music.