|It All Began With A Performance of Ave Maris Stella....|
Chiswick composer Cecilia McDowall on her work with The Addison Singers
"Fluent melodic lines with occasional dissonant harmonies and rhythmic exuberance" goes some way to describing the work of local composer Cecilia McDowall.
Born in London in 1951 and educated at Edinburgh and London Universities, her music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs, ensembles and at festivals and is regularly broadcast on BBC Radio.
However, her home town of Chiswick will provide the backdrop for a performance of her three Latin motets on Saturday 29th March as part of The Addision Singers concert.
"My association with the Addison Singers goes back to 2004 when the Oratorio choir performed Ave maris stella, a peace anthem commissioned by the Portsmouth Grammar School which was written in the shadow of 9/11." she explains.
"The following year the conductor, David Wordsworth, commissioned carols to celebrate his tenth anniversary as conductor of the Addison Singers. For this occasion I made a setting of a poem by the 17th century Scottish lawyer and poet, William Drummond, who ‘devoted his life to poetry and mechanical experiments.’ The carol was entitled, The Angels for the Nativity. In the following year the Oratorio choir performed the Christmas cantata, Christus Natus Est. The association with David Wordsworth and the Addison Singers has always been delightful."
When asked about the inspiration behind the Latin motets, she said "The Latin motets were specially commissioned for the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir by Janet and Douglas Mackay in memory of their parents and have been recorded by the Joyful Company of Singers"
"Ave Maria is the second and most intimate of the composer's 'Three Latin Motets'. Scored for upper voices, this gentle supplication to the Virgin is built on a plainchant opening, and contains expressive dissonances and suspensions in a setting of great purity and directness.
"Regina Caeli, a hymn to the 'Queen of the Heavens' , is a glorious work, replete with dramatic changes of mood and texture. The majestic chords of the opening bars quickly give way to a spirited section in which unison altos and basses mimic the insistent flourishes of the sopranos and tenors. This pattern of contrasts is repeated throughout the piece before the final jubilant chords fade away to a modest triple piano."
Cecilia McDowall was short-listed for the 2005 British Composer Awards in two categories, the Liturgical section and the Making Music Award. Her works are regularly broadcast on BBC Radio.
A recent commission, Five Seasons, for which she was selected from a large list of composers by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir, was for a choral and instrumental work. This exciting and unique project involved McDowall and the poet, Christie Dickason, taking up mini residences at five organic farms (under the auspices of the Soil Association). The brief for the commission was to ‘celebrate the organic landscape'.