Flicker – Claire McCue – Shortlist for Dorico Award for Small/medium Scale Work sponsored by Steinberg

  1. How did the piece come about?

I was invited by GNME (Glasgow New Music Ensemble) to be Resident Composer at the SoundThought 2016 festival, held at Glasgow CCA (Centre for Contemporary Arts). The piece was composed to be performed at a concert there featuring other composers from Paris and Germany, whose work had been selected from a call for scores, as well as a piece by one of the composer’s involved in organising the festival with Glasgow University.

It’s quite a difficult piece for me to talk about as very sadly, my dad had passed away very suddenly a few months before, and I was also diagnosed with a long term health condition which was holding me back from a lot of things and I hadn’t composed since. In fact I hadn’t really played or listened to music either, aside from working with some piano pupil’s The piece was inspired by a little bit of paper I found in my dad’s flat, which said “what happens to a flame when it burns out?, which was quite ironic to read at the time, but also a little intriguing and comforting. 

When I was invited to compose for the festival it was the piece I needed to compose and felt would work well with the instrumentation. I don’t actually really remember much about composing it, just that I found myself staring at a candle in the dark, pondering that question and life, and was trying to find space to think and just be, trying to hold on and let go at the same time in a number of ways. 


  1. It’s a very unusual instrumentation – can you tell us a little about that?

It was the instrumentation that was specified to me and although unusual, I felt it would work well for my idea. I previously did a piece for SATB and clarinet, and love how you can work with the clarinet to have it either blending in with strings / voices, or taking more of a soloistic role. 


  1. What other projects do you have on the go at the moment?

Due to health , a few hospital stays and another bereavement, I have been “off the scene” and not working/composing much over the past 8 months or so, but now that I’m getting back on track I’m writing some more children’s songs for NYCoS just now – I was commissioned to do some last year and though a bit different from the usual level of composing, it was very rewarding to hear lots of children connecting with and enjoying my music (and text), and nice to bring together some of my music education work with my composing . Even better, my nephew loves me singing them to him!  Following that a musical setting of an old Orkney folktale for chamber ensemble and shadow puppetry. Again, another quite different type of project, but I always enjoy collaborating and composing for different settings, and audiences, as well as composing concert pieces. I also enjoy composing for voice and have an ongoing personal project of setting quotations for voice and piano.


  1. Who are the upcoming Scottish composers to watch?

It’s a good question – I have to say that I have always tended to be drawn to particular songs, or pieces rather than artists or bands, but I would suggest Chris Gough, Jay Capperauld and Ailie Robertson. I think there is a lot of talent out there in Scotland though to watch. In other genres, Christopher Duncan, Claire MacKenzie (scottish based) and Lucy Holland.

  1. What other pieces have you seen this year that you found exciting and will stand the test of time? 

As I mentioned above, I have been largely off the scene this year so I’ve not seen very much either, but Gavin Higgins, “Dark Arteries” for brass band which was performed with Rambert Dance Company, James McMillan’s mass setting for RSNO junior chorus and orchestra and a recording of Rory Boyle’s “Di Tre Re e Io” r(trio). 


  1. What is the piece that you would most like to write? 

An orchestral piece called Storm Cell or another dance collaboration for large ensemble, dancers and short film potentially – I have the idea and can visualise it, but it’s hard to get that sort of scale of collaboration.

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