Last night (13 September) Colin Matthews received the Special Achievement Gramophone Award for his unique contribution to British contemporary music as founder and executive producer of NMC Recordings. Following a wonderful and heartfelt speech from Sir Mark Elder (video & quote extracts below), Colin collected his award and received rapturous applause from the recording industry audience.
Congratulations to our dear Colin!
Extracts from Sir Mark Elder's speech ...
"This is an award for a special achievement – make no bones about it, this is not a lifetime achievement award. This is a life that shows no sign of a diminuendo or a morendo and is still actively going. Everybody knows who it is, it’s Colin. My dear friend and colleague for so many years. One of our most acclaimed composers, a man who can take commissions from any orchestra in the world and as a result be responsible for a catalogue of incredible depth and variety and success. He has, in his very busy life, always been interested in the breadth of his involvement. I’m particularly thinking of his interest in his fellow colleagues, his fellow composers, the generosity Colin shows particularly towards younger composers ...
... Tonight we need to focus on another part, yet another part, of his achievement. 30 years ago nearly, he formed, with Gustav Holst’s daughter Imogen, a remarkable woman, the idea of the Holst Foundation. Now many of you may not be aware of this, Imogen Holst was a visionary and this little plan, these meetings that she and Colin had, turned out to be in the last years of her life. And she wanted the funds to become available, as a result of the success of her father’s music, not to go towards his music but to go towards encouraging other British composers. A wonderful dream, a wonderful aim ... So, 28 years ago Colin formed and launched NMC. NMC, ladies and gentleman – can you believe it? NMC stands for new music cassettes. Now, do you remember cassettes? You know those little things that you put in a machine and they play music? Well, they say they’re coming back, I’m not sure! No wonder it’s now known simply as NMC ...
... Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr, Thea Musgrave, Judith Weir, Simon Holt, Gerald Barry, Helen Grime, Mark Bowden, Huw Watkins – these are names, just a few of the names, that have contributed towards this extraordinary achievement. Almost 300 titles in the catalogue, ladies and gentleman, which speaks for itself doesn’t it? But nobody must think that NMC feels it’s done it and this is the end, and that we’re celebrating something achieved – far from it. Nobody is sitting on any laurels, they are about to launch a series of new education resources for use in schools. Wonderful idea. How do we get young composers to be interested in writing music – to encourage and develop new composers? But also on a more broader base, to foster the idea that one can interest and inspire younger audiences to absorb new music – the openness of young people is a constant inspiration.
And Colin, I know, believes absolutely that if Imogen was still alive she would be thrilled at what this label has achieved. And it’s not the only thing Colin has done, it’s merely one part of his extraordinary contribution to our musical life. If Imogen Holst, ladies and gentlemen, would have been thrilled, surely we are too and I beg you raise the rafters for Colin Matthews."
Colin's full acceptance speech
"Thank you, Mark, for those wonderfully generous words. I’m not sure about cassettes but we have been thinking about vinyl!
This is an extraordinary special recognition of what we’ve been trying to achieve with NMC for now nearly 30 years. As Mark said, a catalogue approaching 300 titles and that represents music of over 300 composers almost exclusively living British composers. NMC has, from the start, been something special – we set it up as a charity. We also are fairly unique in the fact that the entire catalogue is still available – we never delete anything and we’re expanding into Education, as Mark has said. Our digital presence is increasing too. Last year over 11 million minutes of our music was streamed or downloaded, that’s 21 years of listening. We couldn’t do this without the support of our growing circle of NMC Friends – but in particular we owe a debt to our wonderful, our small but wonderful staff, who are so dedicated – and to a very hugely helpful board of trustees. Thank you, Gramophone, for this award. Thank you to PPL and PRS for sponsoring it. Thank you all."
Watch from 27'55 for Sir Mark Elder's full speech celebrating Colin's acheivement at NMC, followed by Colin accepting the award ...
photos 2 & 3 (c) Gramophone Magazine
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) published a feature about our new range of education resources on their blog. Read an extract below and follow the link to read the full article.
NMC Recordings holds a distinctive position in the music industry: we are both a record label and a registered charity.
At first glance, being a charity may seem an unusual business model for a record label. However, for NMC it enables us to carry out a vitally important role in the classical music industry: it ensures we can act as an advocator and promoter of high quality new music, free from commercial restrictions that could hinder other labels.
NMC is more than just a record label. We are delighted to launch a series of initiatives to bring our recordings to eager new ears and younger audiences. Through a range of education resources, aimed at bringing contemporary classical music to the classroom, we hope to assist in the development of emerging talent, and to inspire an interest in and appreciation for new music.
To read the full article, visit ISM's website here.
To exlore our education resources, click here or on the images below:
Date: Thursday 8 June 2017
Time: 18.30 - 20.45
Venue: Rambert Dance Company, 99 Upper Ground, London SE1 9PP
Tickets: £10, available via Rambert
Journalist Jenny Gilbert chairs a panel including Rambert’s Music Director Paul Hoskins, composer (and former Music Fellow) Mark Bowden, pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam and other guests to discuss what makes good music for dance and the role dance organisations play in commissioning new music.
The evening will also feature a performance of Tempus, choreographed by Simone Damberg Würtz and featuring an original score by former Rambert Music Fellow Cheryl Frances-Hoad, played live by Yshani on piano and Commodore 64.
The evening concludes with a drinks reception and a chance to continue the conversation with panel members and performers.
Friday 21 April sees the release of two albums on NMC featuring the award-winning baritone Roderick Williams: Brian Elias' Electra Mourns and Howard Skempton's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Also becoming increasingly well-known as a composer in addition to his work as a singer, Roderick generously took the time to answer a few questions for us, covering everything from composing, singing, poetry and more.
Explore more recordings in the NMC catalogue featuring Roderick Williams, including albums by Hugh Woods, Robert Saxton and Richard Rodney Bennett.
As a singer, performing and interpreting a wide range of texts, how do you balance your own personal interpretation of the text with what the composer has written?
On occasions the way I read a poem and the way a composer has chosen to set a text don’t match; it’s sometimes a difference of emphasis, sometimes to do with layers of subtext. Then I have a simple choice; to stay true to the composer’s vision, as far as I understand it, or impose my own reading on top. Bearing in mind that a composer is already adding a layer on top of the poet’s original, I don’t always feel too bad in adding some of my own thoughts and responses into the mix. Often this can be as simple as simple as giving extra stress to a word, say on an upbeat, which the composer has chosen to down-play. But in the end, I do wish to stay as true as I can to the spirit of the composition otherwise I might just as well leave the song alone and write my own. So the balance is a fine one and that is, I suppose, what we mean by interpretation. I trust my instincts both as performer and composer to see the choices from both sides and opt for something that works.
Versatility as a performer is one of your key strengths. How important do you think it is for performers to engage with contemporary music and do recordings of new music play a role in highlighting the repertoire?
I see that it is entirely possible for performers to make a tremendous career in music, certainly in singing, and avoid any contemporary repertoire completely. I don’t think this affects their legitimacy as artists at all. My own career happens to have encompassed a lot of new music partly because I write some myself and partly because I must have earned a reputation early on as a singer who was not intimidated or overwhelmed by its demands. Once you say yes to one project and make a decent job of it, more are offered to you. I would have been sorry to have ended up singing this repertoire to the exclusion of all else and I’m glad that circumstances never forced me to make such a choice. I count myself lucky to have been offered work in a variety of classical genres from early music right through to contemporary.
If the question is less about practicalities and more about ideology, then clearly someone has to champion new music performance and recording or it will disappear from the concert hall and the studio. And I believe this to be important, not just because I compose and therefore have a vested interest in the promotion of new music, but because it is self-evident that music cannot stand still. If we venerate music of the past to the exclusion of all else, we create lifeless museums.
The recording industry has a huge part to play in this, especially with the global reach of the internet, as new music can reach target audiences wherever they are. New music, whether it be classical or pop, has never been more openly accessible and I think that is very exciting, even if it is a minefield for performing rights law.
Your choral piece Ave Verum Corpus Re-Imagined won a 2016 British Composer Award. How do you find time to compose around your busy performance schedule and what are you writing at the moment? Do you have any top picks from the NMC back catalogue that particularly inspire you?
A freelance career brings with it a lot of waiting, whether it be in hotel rooms, on trains, in airport lounges or wherever. When I am at home, time with my family is precious so I don’t often schedule time to write unless I have a deadline looming. But away from home I can put in the hours required to produce something solid. At the moment I have several pieces on the go, some new compositions and some orchestration too. I am working on settings of Ursula Vaughan Williams poems for the female trio Voices which premieres as the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester this summer.
My favourite NMC recording from the catalogue has to be the Songbook project which was so wonderful as a snapshot of contemporary vocal writing. I love the diversity of compositions, the sheer range of responses to quite a specific brief; three minutes of music for voice and whatever instrument. There are some real gems in that collection.
Many of the works you’ve recorded with NMC have been settings of poems, from authors spanning centuries and styles. Do you have a favourite poet or poem that you would love to set to music yourself, and if so for what voices/forces?
By now I have set a lot of my favourite poetry and poets; I keep coming back to E E Cummings, for example as he really tickled me when I first came across his work as a teenager. Likewise George Herbert. I’m finding Urusula Vaughan Williams’ poetry beautiful to set as she seems to write with a musician’s sensibilities in mind. I hugely enjoy Thomas Hardy’s poetry but I don’t imagine I have the skill to set him as deftly as Finzi did.
More often that not I take a commission and then try to find the text to fit the brief; that’s how I came to choose a selection of New England poets for my Choral Symphony, written for Schola Cantorum of Yale. The requirements of the commission dictated the source of the text.
Your route into becoming a classical singer is perhaps atypical, beginning professional training in your late twenties. Do you have any funny stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the singing world?
I used to be part of an a cappella boy band in the days before The X Factor, The Voice and so on. My brother-in-law and two other friends from choral scholar days at university joined forces to sing covers of pop songs, which we arranged for four voices. Our party piece was Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and we sang that on television in the Grand Finale of Bob Says Opportunity Knocks. The programme reached about 13 million viewers, in the days when families used to sit around the TV together and watch one of the handful of terrestrial channels. We could have been famous. But our careers went their separate ways and it was not to be.
If you had unlimited free time, is there a skill you’d like to learn or hobby you’d take up – musical or otherwise!
I would have loved to have been a dancer. I don’t understand classical ballet at all but I have enormous respect for those who practice it. The regime they subject themselves to is quite astonishing, totally alien to a singer and I marvel at their sense of discipline. But I would love to have been a confident dancer of any sort.
You’re stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what do you sing to keep everyone entertained while you wait to be rescued?
The first is easy; J S Bach. I would just like to watch him work as we sit and wait for rescue. I would try to sing anything he put in front of me too.
Then, Martin Luther King; not for any political reason but because I feel my heart welling up with pride and my eyes with tears whenever I hear him recordings of him speaking. What extraordinary, electrifying charisma. If anyone could keep our spirits up in a lift, it would be him.
Finally, Monica Bellucci; does there have to be a reason? We wouldn’t even need to be rescued that quickly….
NEW ALBUM - 'A Celestial Map of the Sky' - OUT NOW!
Alyssa Aure - girl
Andrew Kwong - boy
Nate Skeen - co-director
Martin Roe - co-director, executive producer
Andrew Sachs - director of photography, producer
Katie Burris - producer
Amir Rakib - 1st AC
Ardy Fatehi - gaffer
Mike Simon - studio teacher
Michael Beaudry - casting director
Chelsea Lapka - hair/wardrobe
Hannah Carpenter - production assistant
Ayra Siddiq - production assistant
Celeste Diamos - editor
Arnold Ramm - colorist
'Fragments from Heart of Darkness' by Tarik O'Regan
Hallé Orchestra/Jamie Phillips
Producer Olugbenga Adelekan's How I learned to stop worrying and love, a remix of 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano by composer Kate Whitley, is released today. Olugbenga, best known as the bassist with Mercury-nominated electronic band Metronomy, talks us through how he produced his reworked version.
"I heard a great deal of optimism in ‘3 Pieces’ as well as a very stark beauty. I wanted to retain that whilst also creating a remix that stood very much as its own thing. It was only my second time remixing something with no vocal track or big melodic top line to hang things around. I had a lot of fun trying to get my head around that! I treated all the audio parts from Kate’s piece like a new sample library – I took some bits to create a piano pad and others to build a new string section. So the only sounds that came from elsewhere were the drums. The sun was shining through a little window into my studio while I was working on the remix and I think some of that light made its way into the music."
Born in Lagos to a Kenyan mother and Nigerian father, Olugbenga now resides by the sea in Brighton. He has travelled the world working as a bass player, vocalist and DJ, performing with groups such as Damon Albarn’s Africa Express, Paloma Faith and La Roux.
As well as touring with Metronomy, Olugbenga has lent his talents as a remixer to the likes of Laura Marling, Janelle Monae, Mew, Alt-J, Depeche Mode and the Scissor Sisters. He was flown out to New Orleans in 2016 to write music for Solange Knowles’ A Seat At The Table. His track Don’t You Wait (co-produced by Sampha, Kwes and Adam Bainbridge) garnered positive comments from fans and critics alike and the album flew to #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 off the back of 36 million streams in a single week.
Olugbenga's remix, How I learned to stop worrying and love, and Kate Whitley's album I am I say are both available now.
r:strng, NMC's new app which allows you to create your own version of Gbenga's remix, is coming soon.