Kirsty Devaney – Founder of YCP
Role at YCP?
Hi! I studied composition at Birmingham Conservatoire with Joe Cutler and Howard Skempton and graduated in 2013. I set YCP up when I left uni due to noticing a lack of composing opportunities for young people in the UK. Although composing is done in schools I found it was often directed by examination requirements and these were restricting creativity. Therefore I wanted to create a place that young music creators could come to experiment and explore new ideas with limited restrictions but in an environment that was supportive and welcoming. I help the day-to-day running of YCP and I lead workshops.
How did you get into composing?
I started arranging music before composing my own. I was in my school orchestra and noticed that the music wasn’t arranged very well for our ensemble size and the abilities. Therefore I arranged music that reflected the abilities of the individuals so that those who were confident could be challenged, and those who had less experience in playing could play something they felt confident with. This then lead to composing my own music for the group. I also started more through doing GCSE and A-Level composing.
What do you enjoy composing?
A lot of my composing work involves composing with and for young and non-professional ensembles. In 2011 I was shortlisted for a British Composer Award for music for amateur ensembles. I have also started to explore freedom and improvisation in my music, for example giving a performer the pitches but not the rhythms.
Mini Fact: I have a phobia of red jelly…
Chris Cresswell – Workshop Leader
Originally from the small town of Cazenovia, NY, Chris Cresswell is an internationally performed composer, guitarist, songwriter, teaching artist, and arts advocate. He can alternately be found composing, helping students write their first songs, advocating for the arts with Congressional staffers, or covering the latest Taylor Swift single at a camp fire. His most recent sound installation, dis- was premiered at The Eden Project in Cornwall, UK and his latest chamber work, From Dreams, We Emerge will receive its premiere in San Francisco, CA with the Wild Rumpus Collective.
Mini Fact: When not working on music, Chris is either out riding his bike or perfecting his ‘Kermit the Frog’ impression.
Roché van Tiddens
Course/Year: PgDip 1
Hometown: Stellenbosch, South Africa
How did you get into composing? I started writing light music at high school. I then started taking composition classes during my undergraduate – Bmus with my first piece for sounds of animals and electronics.
What music are you currently working on? Currently working on a score for unusual percussion (balloons, wire) and trumpet. The piece is called “where does the air go?”
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? Composing a piece called “VerlorenVlei” for orchestra based on the spectral analysis of field recordings made on a farm in South Africa. The farm is beautiful and translating the natural sounds into a score for orchestra was a memorable and fun experience.
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? Working with interesting sounds and trying to create sound worlds. Structure is currently a challenge.
Minifact about you: My girlfriend is jealous of the length and quality of my hair.
Course/Year: BMus 2
How did you get into composing? After spending a large part of my childhood learning piano and percussion, my love for creating music began with alternative folk band, The Offbeat (2010-2014). Being a member of this band taught me a lot about being a working musician, for example, how to compose collaboratively, how to perform, how to create an online platform for your music and how to be a recording artist in a studio environment. All these skills have helped in forming my current singer/songwriter act ‘Rosie Tee’.
What music are you currently working on? I’m currently working towards an E.P of 4/5 songs for my solo act ‘Rosie Tee’. At the moment these songs aim to focus on what is going on in the world around us with a slight political slant on matters and will be expanded from the original setting of piano onto strings, brass and percussion.
I’m also working on a newly formed collaborative project with 3 other musicians with the aim of releasing some studio recorded material in the near future and a small run of live gigs in the new year. This project takes musical influence from artists such as Submotion Orchestra, Hiatus Kayote and The Cinematic Orchestra.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? On 5th September 2012, my former band The Offbeat held an album launch gig for their debut album ‘We Are The Offbeat’ at Lichfield Guildhall. Even after 4 years and many more musical experiences, this still remains the most significant and memorable night of my musical career to date. We reached capacity, selling out the venue and sold enough albums to make back the manufacturing costs in one night! To me, nothing is greater than playing your own music to a packed room full of people who are singing along to your songs…
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I enjoy the freedom of writing whatever you like, sometimes it is easy for your ideas to be swayed by what your friends or your grandma might think – but ultimately I love creating music I would want to hear myself, hoping that I am somehow adding something new to current music culture. The most exciting experience for me personally is performing my own compositions, all the long hours writing and rehearsing finally seem worth while when the music is performed.
Minifact about you: I love to go swing dancing – Lindy Hop is the best fun I have had in ages!
Course/Year: MMus Composition
How did you get into composing? I have always been really interested in various crafts – art, photography, cooking and of course, music! When I started learning an instrument as a child it was not long before I became interested in writing my own pieces of music – I suppose it just developed from there!
What music are you currently working on? I am currently writing a musical entitled ‘The Last Vampire’ based on a book by my grandfather, Willis Hall. The story is about a friendship between young Henry Hollins and Count Alucard, a vegetarian vampire he meets on his family holiday and how together they overcome their differences.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? My grandfather, Willis Hall wrote an evocative war poem entitled ‘Message’ which juxtaposed the formalities of war against its realities. As part of my first degree I composed a piece of music-theatre using his poem and received positive feedback from my peers and supervisors. This was the first time I’d had a piece of music-theatre performed and it gave me a real buzz of confidence to continue writing!
Minifact about you: I am a keen photographer. I recently undertook several creative short courses in photography at Nottingham Trent University and a BTEC in intermediate photography at Central College Nottingham. From this experience, I was able to get work as a freelance photographer – initially as a product photographer for a Nottingham based lace distributor and later as a second shooter for a wedding photographer.
Hometown: Basingstoke, Hampshire
How did you get into composing?I began to take an interest in writing my own music after trying to transcribe computer game music and film music onto piano. Using outdated software and a keyboard, my first compositions were bad imitations of Japanese computer game music from the 90’s to late 00’s. When I studied music at sixth form, I was guided by my mentor at the time Pande Shahov, who greatly influenced my thinking. Pande assisted me in developing my compositions to an extent where I was able to apply for conservatoires and secure a place at Birmingham Conservatoire studying composition.
What music are you currently working on? I am currently working on writing for Incus Ensemble, who will have a concert early next year. I am also focusing on some conceptual ideas integrated with music technology and I am also gathering ideas for an installation piece.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? Composing for film producers I have met over the years. Some of the films that I have worked on have been very successful; it’s a fantastic feeling.
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? The process of ideas forming into further ideas or pieces is a brilliant thing.
I find every aspect of composition challenging though; nothing is ever easy!
Minifact about you: Can happily plough through a packet of chocolate digestives in one sitting.
Course/Year: MMus Composition
Hometown: Hong Kong
How did you get into composing? I did loads of improvisations on my electric guitar during my high school years, and I felt the need to create my own work. However, it is not until I first heard of Stravinsky’s Firebird that I decided to get into the path of composing because this is the first piece of music that leads me to a desperate need to go and start composing.
What music are you currently working on? Recently I am writing a piece called “Isolation” for the Decibel ensemble, in which some the stage setting and some visual elements will be used as part of the music.
What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? I wrote a piece called “The I-Ching” which consists of 64 sets of postcards with 6 musical ideas each, an ensemble is required to pick one of the postcards by flipping coins, and play an open improvisation based on those ideas given. That took me like a month of time in total just to get all 384 ideas written and I somehow felt some smoke coming out from my head when finished.
What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I really enjoy the time when my piece is being played by the performers, it is like making my dreams come true, after spending days and months dreaming and thinking about what the music would sound like. It is always a challenge for me to deal with Sibelius (the software not the composer), where when I got some abstract ideas like lines and shapes to be notated on the score, it always takes some time trying to figure out how to make it nice and clear.
Minifact about you: I hate any kinds of mushrooms, but I like having black truffle as a side for pasta or pizza and I am alright with mushroom cream soup. However, don’t try to make me eating mushrooms solely as I will give a straight German response NEIN!!!
Regular Visiting Musicians & Composers
Joe Cutler – Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire
Role at YCP:
Joe visits YCP 1-2 times a year to give composing masterclasses and small group tuition during the full scheme. Joe also talks to the students each year about studying composition in Higher Education and what to expect in a composition interview and studying at a music Conservatoire.
How did you get into composing?
Initially I just distracted myself with doodling in the violin and piano when I should have been practising, and that developed into composing actual piece. Then at University I really began to take it seriously.
What do you love about composing?
I love the moment when a piece you’ve been struggling with, suddenly clicks into place!
More info about Joe:
Joe Cutler’s music has been described as “propulsive” (BBC Music Magazine), “alluring” (Scotsman), “neurotic” (Re-Diffusion) and “the best thing to come out of Neasden since Twiggy” (Gramophone). His music has been performed in over 30 countries and on 6 continents including performances at venues such as Bang-on-a-Can Music Marathon (New York), Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam), Opera City (Tokyo), Musik Monat (Basle). In recent year he has also written a number of orchestral pieces and has worked recently with the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, The Orchestra of the Swan and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra. Since 2000 he has taught at Birmingham Conservatoire where he is currently Head of Composition.
Jack McNeill – Clarinettist & Songwriter
Role at YCP:
Jack has worked with YCP from the start as a performer and songwriting tutor. In 2016 we commissioned Jack to compose a work for the whole group to perform. The commission was funded by PRS for music Foundation.
More info about Jack:
Jack McNeill is a clarinet and bass clarinet player based in Birmingham and working throughout the UK and Europe. A Britten-Pears Young Artist in 2011 and 2013, he performs as a soloist and is also a member of Ed Bennett’s DECIBEL. His work as a freelance player includes the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Orchestra of the Swan, The Harborough Collective, Chroma Ensemble, and as an on-stage musician/actor with Sebastian Mathias’Danserye and Thom Luz’s When I Die. He completed the flagship AdvPgDip course at the Birmingham Conservatoire studying with Michael Harris, Tim Lines, Jo Patton and Mark O’Brien, gaining a distinction and was awarded the 2012 Conservatoire Principal’s Prize.
Sebastiano Dessanay –
Double Bassist & Composer
Role at YCP: Sebastiano Dessanay has work with YCP from the start as a guest performer and composition tutor.
For about Sebastiano:
Sebastiano is an Italian double bassist and composer. His music is highly informed by a strong sense of melody and attention to textural details. The double bass has often a prominent role in his research and elements of improvisation permeate his compositions. He regularly performs with classical orchestras, contemporary ensembles, jazz bands and collaborates with practitioners of opera, theatre, dance, film and visual arts world. He has also been involved in several community projects.
Mini Fact: Outside music, Sebastiano is a geologist and has recently become a genealogy passionate.
Judith Robinson –
Sound and Music
Role at YCP:
Judith works for Sound and Music, an organisation aiming to ‘maximise the opportunities for people to create and enjoy new music.’ Judith comes to visit YCP to talk to the group about how Sound and Music can support their composing development including the Sound and Music Summer School.