a CoDI artist-development pathway to writing for organ, in association with Theatr Soar
Organ@Soar was a development pathway for Welsh and Wales-based music-creators of any genre who, over a series of four workshops, explored techniques and approaches with internationally acclaimed organist James McVinnie and lead composer Richard Baker. The project, which took place in the Spring of 2023, culminated in a performance of the final works on the Theatr Soar's newly refurbished on Sunday 21 May.
Participating music creators:
At the heart of Organ@Soar were the Welsh language and the community of Merthyr. Theatr Soar in Merthyr is a community hub and performing arts venue with the development of the Welsh language is central to its purpose. The converted 18th-century chapel is home to a remarkable organ, built in 1893 and recently restored to its former glory.
The 6 selected music-creators met and responded to the local community, and the music they wrote was written specially for the Soar organ and dedicated to the people of Merthyr. Lead composer Richard Baker and the team at Soar are Welsh speakers, and the Welsh language was present throughout this bilingual programme.
The six participating artists were selected by a panel following open call, and each received £500 for their participation. Workshops will took place in Merthyr, but applications were welcomed from music-creators from across Wales and expenses were covered for any artists needing to travel. The pathway culminated in a performance of the works the participants had developed, which were recorded. Music-creators from Merthyr and its neighbouring area were particularly encouraged to apply – but artists from all locations were welcomed.
workshop #1 1100-1800, Sunday 5 March
workshop #2 1100-1800, Saturday 25 March
workshop #3 1100-1800, Saturday 15 April
workshop #4 1100-1800, Saturday 20 May
performance 1100-1800, Sunday 21 May
James McVinnie is an internationally acclaimed organist whose open and inquisitive approach to music-making has led him to collaborate with artists including Philip Glass, Tom Jenkinson/Squarepusher, Angelique Kidjo, Nico Muhly, Martin Creed, David Lang, Bryce Dessner, Darkstar and many more. He has released music on Bedroom Community, Orange Mountain Music and Warp Records.
Richard Baker is a composer based in Ceredigion. His works are often concerned with the transcription and transformation of extra-musical material, and include The Tyranny of Fun (2013, commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, nominated for a Royal Philharmonic Society Chamber-Scale Composition Award); The Price of Curiosity (2019, for the BBC Symphony Orchestra/Radio 3); and Motet II (2020, for Ensemble Télémaque, Marseille). He is currently working on a piano trio for the ATOS Trio, a commission from Wigmore Hall. Since 2004 he has taught composition at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where he is currently a Research Fellow.