Time, please! An interview with composer Paul Patterson

Gosh, Paul Patterson is a very busy man; catching up with Paul is something of a challenge, as he combines composing with a hectic schedule of teaching and travelling both around the country and abroad. I managed to do so yesterday when Paul was visiting Canterbury on one of his days teaching at Christ Church University, where he is Visiting Professor of Composition; the previous day, Paul had been teaching in Manchester; he recently attended a performance of his Magnificat in Paris, and on the day before the same piece is performed at Sounds New next month, he’ll be attending a performance in Swansea of his Little Red Riding Hood. A busy calendar…

Paul-PattersonPaul has been a significant figure on the British compositional landscape since the seventies, with a profusion of works ranging from a series of large-scale choral pieces to instrumental concerti, with youthful works such as the Sinfonia for Strings, with its bustling, energetic third movement full of rhythmic vitality. His Mass for the Sea, written in 1983, combines movements from a traditional mass with reflections on the Biblical Flood from a variety of sources, and employs the bold structural device of replacing the usual ‘Credo’ with a meditation on the flood, full of high drama. Later works include Little Red Riding Hood for orchestra and narrator, the Cello Concerto, the Viola Concerto, and last year his String Quartet no.2; ‘Dances for Thaxted,’ using folk and dance melodies.

Formerly Head of Composition and Contemporary Music at the Royal Academy, Paul continues at the Academy as the Manson Professor of Composition, and is also the composer-in-residence with the National Youth Orchestra; as well as teaching at Christ Church, he is also Visiting Professor at the Royal Northern College of Music.

A rather rainy afternoon found us sitting in Paul’s office, where we talked about two of his compositions which are appearing at Sounds New this year; his Magnificat, which will be a part of the Choral Day on Sunday 6 May, and Timepiece, which the King’s Singers will be performing as part of the final concert in the festival, at the new Marlow Theatre on Tuesday 15 May. Commissioned by Sir David Wilcocks for the Bach Choir of London in 1993, the epic Magnificat is written for chorus, organ, brass and percussion and will be performed as part of a day-long celebration of British choral music, including amassed choirs from around the county. Timepiece, a commission from the King’s Singers in 1972, finds Adam getting into trouble when Eve sees him wearing a wristwatch, as Paul explains …


I’m very grateful to Paul for finding the time to be interviewed, and for being such a pleasure to talk with.

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