A prodigious talent, Cheryl Frances-Hoad won the BBC Young Composer Competition in 1996 at the age of 15 and since then her works have garnered numerous prizes and awards, including the first Robert Helps International Composition Prize (2005), the Cambridge Composer's Competition, the Birmingham Conservatoire Composition Competition, and the International String Orchestra Composition Competition. Recent awards include, in 2007, the Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, resulting in the premiere of "My day in Hell" at the Cheltenham Music Festival by the Dante Quartet (broadcast by Radio 3), and, in 2008 a Leverhulme Trust Artists in Residence Fellowship, and the Wicklow County Council Per Cent for Arts Commission (Ireland), which allowed her to compose her first piano concerto, premiered by Bobby Chen and the Greystones Orchestra in May 2009. In 2010 Cheryl became the youngest composer to win two awards in the same year at the BASCA British Composer Awards.
Her debut CD of chamber works, The Glory Tree, was released in 2011 by Champs Hill records and received excellent reviews in The Telegraph and The Guardian, in addition to being chosen as "Chamber Music Choice" by BBC Music Magazine.
Future works include a 'cello concerto for the 2013 Spitalfields Festival, a new Canticle to be premiered by the Prince Consort on the exact centenary of Britten's birth (at the Wigmore Hall, 22nd November 2013) and a work to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of Bridlington Priory.
Interview with Cheryl:
How did you get into composing?
I started playing the 'cello when I was seven, and started composing straight away - I can't remember why, but I have pieces that I wrote for just the open strings of the 'cello (presumably written before I could use my left hand!). I fully intended to be a cellist when I was younger, but I think it was when I heard my 'cello concerto performed by the BBC Philharmonic during the 1996 BBC Young Composer Competition that I realised it was composing, rather than performing, that was really for me.
What was it about this project that made you so positive and encouraging?!?
Haha! Well, apart from that just being my nature, obviously, I think it's a wonderful project! I love projects that create something new whilst also acknowledging their musical heritage, I love taking inspiration from other composers, and I love the fact that the six works that will be created will have a real musical future ahead of them, for many reasons. I think the creation of six British works for solo violin will be a major addition to the repertoire, and you've identified a real 'gap in the market' that this project will fill! It sounds like 'application speak' I know, but this project really will have a lasting legacy. Pairing each commission with one of the Bach works is such a great idea too, and I think (especially as you are planning to travel to venues which don't usually host live classical performances) that many many people will be introduced to contemporary music as a result of your project.
I've heard or performed music you've written for practically every situation and combination of instruments, from music for ballet to opera, 'cello concertos to small chamber music. Is there an instrumentation or type of music you enjoy writing most?
Not really - I love the variety and wouldn't be without it! I used to think I would just write big 'serious' concert works all the time, which of course I love, but I had a wonderful time last year writing a 90 minute cantata for virtually everybody in Bridlington (Yorkshire), from young children who couldn't read music, through the local (really great) percussion ensemble, to a professional quality church choir. I enjoy spending hours deliberating the most minuscule details in some pieces, revelling in (what I hope!) is great subtlety and emotional depth, but, after a few months of that you need the odd piece where you can just write a bloody good tune and have a bit of fun.
If you had no constraints of time and money, what would you compose next, and where would you go to write it?
I have several projects up my sleeve which I hope will become a reality...a violin concerto, a piano concerto, and a large scale song cycle for male voice and piano. Fingers crossed! And I'd probably stay right here at home, however un-exotic that is, as we just moved and I don't want to go anywhere else for quite a while after all the DIY! To be honest though the project which I most want to write is (usually) the one I'm currently involved in, as once you start searching for inspiration, every piece becomes the most fascinating and most important work to you whilst you are writing it. And what a wonderful source of inspiration (Bach's Partita in E major) I have for the piece I'm writing for you!
If you could meet any composer from any point in history, who would it be, where would you take them, and what would you ask them?!?
It would have to be Mozart, down the pub, and I'd ask if he really did finish the overture to Don Giovanni with a raging hangover on the morning of the premiere. If he said yes I'd then have to console myself with with several drinks, rendering myself utterly incapable of writing anything the next day...