Mealor marks 40th birthday with Symphony No 1

Mealor marks 40th birthday with Symphony No 1
The world premiere of Symphony No 1 'Passiontide' by Novello composer Paul Mealor took place on Thursday November 19 at St Machar's Cathedral, Aberdeen. James Jordan conducted the University of Aberdeen Chamber Choir, McOpera Orchestra, Marischal Chamber Choir in this first performance of a work written by Paul to celebrate his own fortieth birthday. The work is scored for solo soprano and baritone, SATB choir, harp, piano, percussion and strings. The soloists were the soprano Jillian Bain Christie, and the baritone Sean McCarther.

The premiere performance received a five star review in The Scotsman, saying: 
'Occasionally a moment occurs in cultural life which resonates so powerfully it feels as though something has changed, and it is a privilege to witness. One such moment occurred in Aberdeen at a packed St Machar's Cathedral with the world premiere of Paul Mealor's Symphony No 1, Passiontide.' 

Of his new work, Mealor wrote:The idea for composing a choral symphony goes back nearly twenty years to when I was a postgraduate student working in Denmark. I conceived, at that time, the idea of a single work that charts the many emotions and testimonies of those witnesses present at the time of the crucifixion. I did not, however, want to compose a narrative piece like the Bach or Arvo Pärt ‘Passions’. Instead, I wanted to create a work that is fixed in time, examining the crucifixion from many different perspectives. I wanted to explore the feelings of Saint Mary, of Peter, of Mary Magdalene, of Jesus himself and, ultimately, of ourselves.It was not, however, until the illness and subsequent death of my grandmother that I was able to dig into my grief and find, at that time, the emotional strength needed to begin writing this work. The work was therefore a way of dealing with my grief, and a testament to my remarkable grandmother’s strength and deep Christian belief. As it took twenty years to complete, the work is also a record of my compositional development and, one might say, my development as a thinker and a Christian.The symphony is divided into two main parts. Each part consists of an orchestral prelude that presents the main musical arguments of that section, and is then followed by a large choral/orchestral section (which itself is divided into many smaller parts) that seeks to shed light upon those musical arguments, develop them and draw some kind of conclusion from them. Read more...Read an article about the premiere, published in The Scotsman: How Faith drove Paul Mealor's PassiontideFollow Paul on TwitterPaul Mealor has been described as 'the most important composer to have emerged in Welsh choral music since William Mathias' (New York Times, 2001), and in December 2011 became the first classical composer to hold both the classical and pop chart No 1's at the same time, with Wherever You Are, his piece for the Military Wives choir and Gareth Malone. It was nominated for Best British Single in the 2012 BRIT Awards, and has been named by the Official Charts Company as the fastest selling single since Elton John's Candle in the Wind. He was also voted the nation's favourite living composer during the 2012 Classic FM Hall of Fame, and won two Classical Brit Awards in 2012 and 2013.Born in St Asaph, North Wales, in 1975, Mealor studied composition with William Mathias and later with John Pickard, at the University of York (BA 1997, PhD 2002), and in Copenhagen with Hans Abrahamsen. His music has been commissioned and performed at many festivals and by many orchestras and choruses, and broadcast on every major TV and radio station throughout the world.Since 2003 he has been Professor of Composition at the University of Aberdeen. Mealor was catapulted to international stardom in 2011 when 2.5 billion people heard his motet Ubi Caritas, performed at the Royal Wedding Ceremony of His Royal Highness Prince William and Catherine Middleton (now TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). It has since topped the Classical singles charts in the USA, UK, Australia, France and New Zealand. In July 2011, Mealor signed to Decca Records, and agreed a publishing deal with Novello & Co. His first album for Decca, A Tender Light - a collection of sacred anthems recorded by Tenebrae and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - spent six weeks at No 1 of the Classical Charts. His second album for Decca, ‘I saw Eternity’ also made it to No 1, and was Classic FM’s Disc of the Week in 2014.Mealor has also contributed works to a number of other Decca albums, including his song In My Dreams for X factor star Jonjo Kerr and the Military Wives choir, which entered the pop charts at No 1, knocking Bruce Springsteen off the top spot; De Profundis for the St Petersburg Chamber Choir on the album Tranquillity, and the first ever musical setting of St Francis' prayer, You Are The Holy Lord God for Friar Alessandro's debut album. His most recent projects for Decca include contributing works to the two VOCES8 albums, and arranging new settings of Finzi for a forthcoming album.Mealor has composed music for many royal and national occasions, including works for HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; the National World War One Centenary Service of Remembrance; the Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall (in 2011, 2012 and 2013) as well as a work to mark the 65th Birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales, and a choral work, Blessing, to mark the installation of HRH The Duchess of Cornwall and Rothesay as Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen.Professor Mealor has just completed Jubilate Deo, which will be premiered as part of an all-Mealor programme by the Distinguished Concerts New York Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by James Jordan at Carnegie Hall, New York City next February. He will return to Carnegie Hall in May to conduct the Military Wives choir in the world premiere of This Song of Mine. He will also travel to Australia for an all-Mealor concert at Sydney Opera House as well as giving keynote addresses at conferences in Los Angeles, Cambridge and South Africa.Mealor has been honoured by many institutions, including a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts, three honorary degrees in music, an honorary fellowship of the University of Wales, and the Glanville Jones Award from the Welsh Music Guild for ‘outstanding contribution to music’. He is President of Ty Cerdd (the national centre for music in Wales) and is Patron of the North East of Scotland Music School, Con Anima Chamber Choir, CorDydd, Instrumental Music Services Wales, the Harry Ensemble and Choral Music Scotland. He is Curator of JAM on the Marsh (2015 & 2016) and is Composer in Residence with Canada’s top professional choir, Pro Coro Canada, for their 2015/2016 season.

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