Wales-based composer Jasper Dommett responds to his orchestral piece Night Music being shortlisted for an Ivors Composer Award.
I am incredibly honoured to be shortlisted for this award. The Ivors Composer Awards (until 2019 British Composer Awards) are such an important part of contemporary music in Britain. Each year a number of composers are nominated for a work premiered in the previous 12 months, over a range of categories. Receiving this nomination, I can’t help but experience severe impostor syndrome. Past artists who have been shortlisted, particularly for the orchestral category, have been towering figures whom I truly look up to – Harrison Birtwistle, Helen Grime, Kenneth Hesketh, Raymond Yiu, and many others. To be shortlisted for a piece which I wrote for BBC NOW is also very special to me. The orchestra has been integral to my development as a composer – not only because they performed my own works in 2019 & 2020, but also through their expansive programming. Experiencing a diverse range of live music on a regular basis is a composer’s best education; over my last four years at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, I have been fortunate enough to attend many extraordinary concerts by BBC NOW. I also look forward with excitement to the orchestra’s future with the new team of director Lisa Tregale and principal conductor Ryan Bancroft at the helm – whom I know have some very exciting ideas up their sleeves.
Meurig Bowen interviews Jasper Dommett prior to the premiere of Night Music by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales
photo: BBC NOW
As a development body for Welsh Music, Tŷ Cerdd has been critical to my development as a composer. Their support through composition schemes such as CoDI and BBC’s Composition: Wales is incredible. Their close partnership with BBC NOW has ensured that Composition: Wales is constantly developing and improving, and 2021 will be no exception. As part of the scheme, Tŷ Cerdd commissions three of the featured composers each year to write a piece for performance at St David’s Hall’s contemporary music series, named (confusingly enough in this context!) NightMusic – composer Freya Waley-Cohen curates the series, which takes place on Level 3. In January 2020 I was fortunate enough to be one of these composers, writing for the piano duo George Fu and Thomas Ang.
George Fu and Thomas Ang performing Jasper Dommett's Tŷ Cerdd commission for St David's Hall NightMusic series, January 2020
photo: Matthew Thistlewood
My composition Night Music has a very special place in my heart. Dedicated to my late grandmother, Mary Dommett, I feel it is not only a celebration of her life but also a goodbye letter, after a long illness. She is embedded in the piece with the main melody, which underpins the whole work, outlining a whistle call which we would do to each other to find one another when we were exploring. If anything, I see this nomination as a tribute to her, without whom I would not be where I am today. While this piece has this deeply personal connection, the programmatic nature is one that explores nighttime and my emotional response to it – conjuring up images of stillness, juxtaposed with moments of energy to give a sense of all the nighttime creatures rustling around. Through different lenses the audience can interpret this piece in many different ways and I am okay with that. Gone are the days where a piece is set into its own programme note and that is the universal means to listen to the work. Music picks up where our words fail and therefore should leave a room for each of us to imagine our own world when we listen.
photo: Derri Lewis
Jasper Dommett is an award-winning composer studying at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. His music has been performed by soloists and ensembles such as BBC National Orchestra of Wales, London Sinfonietta, Berkeley Ensemble, Young Artists Sinfonia, Fenella Humphreys, and George Fu & Thomas Ang, with performances at St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Davids Hall, Dora Stoutzker Hall & BBC Hoddinott Hall.
Recent works include Night Music for BBC NOW and Rothko Room, designed to be performed at the Tate Modern. After the success of Night Music, Jasper received the Welsh Music Guild Paul Mealor Award for Student Composers, which included a commission for a song-cycle for the Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams.
Having last year been selected to work with the contemporary music ensemble Psappha as part of Tŷ Cerdd’s CoDI Mentors scheme, Jasper is currently taking part in CoDI Opera under the direction of composer Robert Fokkens and writer/dramaturg Sophie Rashbrook. Looking toward 2021, Jasper is collaborating with opera director and librettist Fleur Snow on his first opera, Coram Boy, based on the play of the same name by Helen Edmundson.