“Composer in the House gave me a release of creativity and enabled me to think and dream in the technicolour possibilities of the orchestral palette.”
Stephen McNeff and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra were the first residency awarded by the Composer in the House scheme.
Though Stephen McNeff’s time as Composer in the House in Bournemouth officially began in the autumn of 2005 , the orchestra had already programmed two of his works in the months leading up to the start of the residency: ‘Consider yourself our friend’ was performed by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary group, Kokoro and ‘Reeling’, by the BSO themselves, the latter being performed to over 35,000 people. In addition, McNeff has been regularly attending BSO concerts, education workshops, and meeting as many of the players and personel at the BSO.
It is this close relationship and interaction with the orchestra that the Composer in the House scheme seeks to establish. Its aim to move away from a conventional residency to one which places the composer at the centre of artisitc development is what appeals to McNeff about the project. The opportunity to compose for and work with Marin Alsop and the BSO players has given him a ‘a release of creativity’ enabling him to ‘think and dream in the technicolour possibilities of the orchestral palette’.
Indeed, McNeff is keen not to be seen as the composer in his ivory tower: ‘You have to be seen on the ground. It’s not good enough just to turn up for a performance of your piece and take a bow. I think that’s an important way of encouraging audiences to understand that a composer is part of their community’.
That the BSO was chosen as the first recipient of the scheme is no accident. The BSO has a key role in the cultural life of the South-West of England, not only in the concert-hall but with its work in education and supporting the surrounding community. The orchestra also has a large, committed audience and as the BSO’s principal conductor remarks, is open to new ideas: (The Bournemouth audiences) “are very interested in new things. They enjoy having a relationship with this orchestra; this is one of the important things in their lives. It’s an ideal place to start a relationship with a new composer.”