LSM Newswire

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ffin Records releases John Hardy composition

Orchestra piece is a step outside reality

With a salary of £30 and a mission to oversee every school in an area the size of England, Anne Ritchie set out on foot and by dugout canoe across vast terrains and wild country. Her letters home paint pictures of a truly foreign world, with schools so poorly equipped they have "children doing arithmetic on their bare arms," and where they found a "python over at St Mary's, but the girls killed it quite happily!"

Forty years after her return, her son John Hardy was commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales to compose an accessible, energetic piece for a series of concerts. His inspiration for the music came from the stories his mother had told of her adventures in Africa. Her letters sent back home gave the piece its name: Blue Letters from Tanganyika. "What I did was to take some of them and use them as the basis for a sort of tone poem," explains John, "describing in music some of the colour and drama of her time there."

The 18-minute piece is split into four movements, each based on a different part of Anne's travels. "The first movement is her arrival there, a dangerous and rough journey, at one point she inadvertently walked through an area patrolled by lions; the second movement is a scherzo which describes travelling on a lake, sometimes calm and tranquil and other times stormy; the third describes the calm and peace of the very long and dark African nights near the Equator and then the last movement is an on-safari finale."

Full of exuberant African colours and textures, the piece is rich with imagery and imagination. Anyone who likes classical, orchestral, classical crossover and big film scores will feel instantly at home with this visual and visceral sound-world. Fresh and bold, Blue Letters from Tanganyika conjures an exotic world where lions are banished by bicycle bells, snakes are frightened away with hymns and the only person who can cure an aching tooth is a German nun.

Following the success of the piece in audience votes, radio broadcasts and five live performances, Ffin Records are releasing the music on Friday 1st May.

The tiny Cardiff-based record label has kept hold of the music in the face of serious attention from major companies who have described the piece as "great" (Universal Classics & Jazz) and "cinemagraphic" (Hyperion Records), praising the "great feel for atmosphere, beautifully scored" (EMI Classics).

Naxos even put in a bid to release the music themselves, noting "the music would appeal to a Classic FM audience." However, Ffin Records is committed to an independent release. "This music needs the attention it can only get from a personal, specialist label," manager Ed Scolding notes, "we know the music best – so we can help everyone experience this extraordinary music in the fullest possible way". Recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Grant Llewellyn, Blue Letters from, Tanganyika will be released digitally on Friday 1st May at Part of the sale proceeds will be donated to charities supporting work around the area of Tanzania described in the letters.

Notes: John Hardy is a highly-acclaimed composer whose concert music has been described as 'utterly engrossing' and 'unique' by the Guardian, 'witty' by the Independent, 'gripping and intensely theatrical' by Opera Now and 'energetic, instinctive' by the Times.

He is regularly commissioned to write substantial choral and instrumental works for organisations such as Welsh National Opera, DV8, BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales, BBC Concert Orchestra, Test Dept. and Westminster Abbey.

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