Jo has been a keen composer since secondary school, and developed her voice whilst studying contemporary composition under Agustín Fernández at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Growing up in a very rural area, she often turns to nature for inspiration in her creative work. Since graduating, she has spent some years travelling, living abroad and gaining teaching experience, while continuing to compose for herself and friends in a modern style, with some use of experimental techniques. There is a strong influence from traditional music from the British Isles and elsewhere, particularly in the scales and rhythms used. She is currently studying with Paul Newland at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, with support from the Trinity Laban Trust.
Mu, four miniatures for orchestra is a piece that explores various cultural and personal associations with different shades of the colour purple, using both conventional and extended instrumental techniques. For example, the inspiration for the piece Amethyst was taken from the fact that Tibetan prayer beads are traditionally made out of amethyst. I’ll leave you to imagine the sources of ideas for the other short movements for yourself. The title Mu is a Japanese sound representing nothingness, a meditative state that one might enter through filling ones mind with a particular colour (for example).
With the Lark was written for trumpeter Ella Vickers and pianist Rachel Murphy to perform at a concert alongside an arrangement of Debussy’s ‘La fille aux cheveux de lin’. The tile is taken from another line of Leconte de Lisle’s poem, and when I was composing the piece I imagined a lark breaking away from its busy life in its nest in the grass to soar and sing ‘for sheer delight’, as de Lisle describes love singing in the poem (you can read more and an English translation here).
Red Sky was a commission for the Trinity Laban Wind Sinfonia, an ensemble made up of first and second year students at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. All of the players in this ensemble are very competent technically, but not necessarily experienced ensemble players and the conductor (Andrew Dunn) told me that they were particularly working on listening. I decided to write a piece that would challenge them in a new way – although it is not technically difficult, this piece is played for large sections without a conductor and requires a high level of collaboration and communication between the members of the band. I also wanted to write something a little light-hearted, so I imagined it as the theme tune for a sci-fi film or show that doesn’t exist yet! The renowned wind orchestra conductor Tim Reynish was helping to coach the ensemble and said this was the ‘best new piece we’ve had’, a sentiment that was echoed by many members of the ensemble. (This is a rehearsal recording. The concert performance was excellent, and a recording of that will follow soon.)
By the Creekside is a concerto for marimba and strings written for percussionist Phil Howells and the Peckham Chamber Orchestra. The concerto is a full length 3 movement work, but here you can listen to and watch the last movement. Writing for amateurs is a unique challenge that I really enjoy, and I was very lucky to have such an enthusiastic and friendly group to work with. One of the challenges was that there were no double basses in the orchestra but LOTS of cellos – because of this, the piece has no bass part and 2 cello parts. I plan to rework it at some point in the future for a more conventional line-up!
Window is a short piece for string quartet that I wrote for the Greenwich String Quartet Composition Competition in 2015. This is a recording of the fantastic Piatti Quartet playing it in the final. It’s a fun piece that has some theatrical elements, and was in part inspired by the ‘go to the window’ scene from The Beatles’ ‘Help!’ movie and part by one of my favourite composers Lutoslawski’s string quartet (spot the quote!).
Jo enjoys the challenge of writing for specific individuals and groups, and their particular abilities. She is open to commissions and collaborations with organisations and groups of all kinds.