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Nathan James Dearden choral work to be performed at ISCM World New Music Days  

Nathan James Dearden's i breathe has been selected by the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) to represent Wales at this year's World New Music Days. The piece will be performed as part of the ISCM's festival which takes place in South Africa from 24 November – 3 December 2023. ISCM announcement

i breathe was commissioned by National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, in partnership with Steinberg Media / Dorico and premiered by the Choir under the baton ofRobert Brook at Framlingham College on 21 August 2021.



Our connection with our environment has never been more important. When thinking about what the National Youth Training Choir of Great Britain could sing about after such a long period of online meetings only, I turned my attention to the outdoors. And particularly the outdoors of my home country, Wales.

Working with Welsh haiku specialist, poet Paul Chambers, we amalgamated three gorgeous haiku written by Welsh poets that express human’s connectivity (or lack of) with their surrounding landscape. The prose directly influenced the music, and allowed me to breathe, reflect, and think about my own connection with the landscape I find myself in.

There are moments in this work where performers (or an optional selection of performers) are asked to create a blanket of murmurs. This is where each performer individually whispers/softly freely recites one, or a selection, of the following short phrases in the Welsh language:

Y bryniau hyn / dim byd i'w ddweud / a bwrw ymlaen / anadlu

('These hills have nothing to say and go on breathing')

A performative aspect can be built into this piece, where either performer turns towards the audience on entry of their ‘murmuring’ or lift their heads from a dropped position. The reverse could happen for the ending of the work.


Described as “a champion of his generation” and whose music is “hauntingly beautiful’ (Media Wales), Nathan James Dearden is an award-winning composer, conductor, and educator. He has been performed and featured by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Tippett Quartet, Genesis Sixteen, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, National Youth Orchestra of Wales, Heath Quartet, Grand Band, Fidelio Trio, Hebrides Ensemble, CHROMA, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, and Dunedin Consort. His music regularly features in concerts across the UK and overseas, including at the Cheltenham Music Festival, Dartington International Summer Festival, International Young Composers' Meeting, CROSSROADS International New Music Festival and Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music. His music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Resonance FM, RTÉ lyric FM, S4C and Soho Radio, and has been released on NMC Recordings and Delphian.

Recent notable performances and projects include: anthem, commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; love songs for the broken with saxophonist Robert Burton, as part of the Magnum Opus Residency with Britten Sinfonia; a Welsh tour of Everything about us in collaboration with poet Rufus Mufasa, commissioned by the National Youth Choir of Wales; and First Service as part of a live BBC Radio 3 Choral Evensong broadcast (Choir of Royal Holloway).

A champion for bringing audiences and communities diverse and exciting programming, Nathan is also a sought-after conductor, arts advisor, event curator and educator. He is currently Interim Director of Composition and Lecturer in Music Composition at Royal Holloway University of London, Lead Composition Tutor at Centre for Young Musicians (Guildhall), Associate Artistic Director at MusicFest Aberystwyth, Conductor of the New Voices Consort and New Music Collective, and holds arts advisory roles with several international organisations. 

Nathan Dearden was one of six composers short-listed by the Welsh panel for consideration by the ISCM. The other composers were:

Bethan Morgan-Williams

Voices Go With You (2021) for alto flute, cello, percussion, piano

"It is an honour to be selected to represent Wales on the ISCM shortlist, again. It means that my piece, Voices Go With You, might get an outing in South Africa, which would be the first performance of my music on African soil. Exciting!"

Joseph Graydon

Ophelia (2022) for violin and piano


"Receiving the opportunity to be shortlisted to represent Wales at ICSM 2023 means a huge amount due to the opportunity to showcase recent work to new audiences at this early stage of my career. I’m very excited to be working with Tŷ Cerdd and wish the other shortlisted composers the best of luck in their respective categories."

Kiko Litang Shao

The leaf says… (2022) for mixed octet

"I am absolutely thrilled to have been selected for the first time as one of the six composers for the ISCM Welsh Section this year. ISCM is a great platform to provide an incredible opportunity to meet diverse composers from all over the world and to learn more about the various forms of contemporary music. I feel incredibly grateful to have been chosen for this shortlist. Thank you so much for this opportunity."

Richard Barrett

until you are that ghost (2022) for soprano, flute, clarinet

"Most important for me about my composition being submitted to the ISCM World Music Days is that I’m representing Wales, and, I hope, together with my fellow nominees, helping to emphasise that the work of Welsh creative musicians belongs in an international forum like this."

Richard McReynolds

12123 (2023) for live electronics

"It’s an honour to be shortlisted for the Welsh ISCM.  Creating music and events in Wales is how this piece came into being so it is fantastic to be able to promote the Welsh music scene."

ISCM Welsh Section
ISCM Welsh exists to promote the aims of the ISCM, both within Wales, and in co-operation with the British, Irish, Scottish and other, international Sections. The Society aims to promote contemporary music and raise its public profile, through effective global networking, communication and facilitation of multilateral activities between the members.

Its mission is to:

  • Raise the profile of contemporary music through the collective strength of the Society’s global network and  membership makeup.

  • Pursue exposure, research and performance of contemporary music through initiatives by its membership, as well as collaboration with affiliated bodies.

  • Showcase the diversity of contemporary music worldwide through the World New Music Days Festival.

Mae i breathe gan Nathan James Dearden wedi’i ddewis gan y Gymdeithas Ryngwladol Cerddoriaeth Gyfoes (ISCM) i gynrychioli Cymru yn Niwrnodau Cerddoriaeth Newydd y Byd eleni. Bydd y darn yn cael ei berfformio fel rhan o ŵyl yr ISCM a gynhelir yn Ne Affrica rhwng 24 Tachwedd a 3 Rhagfyr 2023. 

Comisiynwyd i breathe gan Corau Ieuenctid Cenedlaethol Prydain Fawr, mewn partneriaeth â Steinberg Media / Dorico a pherfformiwyd am y tro cyntaf gan y Côr dan arweiniad Robert Brook yng Ngholeg Framlingham ar 21 Awst 2021.

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