… in Beckett and Feldman’s piece the text and music seem symbiotically linked, even though they were composed 26 years apart … it was totally involving.

The Guardian on BCMG’s performance of Words and Music at the 2013 Cheltenham Music Festival

Howard Skempton’s Only the Sound Remains for viola and ensemble takes its title from the first line of The Mill-Water, a poem on the sad loss of rural industry by Edward Thomas. The sense of nostalgia and elegy that pervades Thomas’ poem is beautifully encapsulated in Skempton’s 35-minute piece. Led by the viola, the ensemble seems to paint a series of long-forgotten landscapes, affirming Skempton’s precious ability to find beauty and expressive power in the simplest musical objects.

BCMG/SaM Apprentice Composer-in-Residence Shiori Usui has been described as a composer with ‘individual ears’ (The Times) and her music has already been performed in Japan, Europe and the US by a diverse range of soloists, ensembles and orchestras. Her new piece takes inspiration from the BBC’s Blue Planet series (originally titled ‘Deep’) and promises to transport both players and audience to the bottom of the ocean.

Skempton’s friendship with Morton Feldman was perhaps his most important single influence. Samuel Beckett/Morton Feldman’s Words and Music deliberates on the comparative power of these two modes of expression. Here presented in a strikingly unusual way, this 40-minute piece, initially written for radio, sees Joe (Words) and Bob (Music), struggle to formulate expressions on themes including love and age under the command of the mysterious Croak. At the heart of the piece is an intensely moving section in which Bob tries to teach Joe how to sing.

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