Music by Rick Birley (PFDL001)
Volume 1: Selected Songs and Orchestral Works
Streaming and digital release only
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This is the first in a series of streaming / digital download-only releases featuring the music of Rick Birley.
This first streaming is of an earlier recording of a song cycle: “Six Hardy Songs” recorded in the Birley Centre in Eastbourne (named after his father); and 4 Orchestral works that have been “realised” by Sibelius and the East West Orchestral sampling system.
Notes from Rick Birley
Six Hardy Songs
Three of these poems were set as a group in 1990 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the writer’s birth (nos 1, 2 & 5). The other three were added in 2005. These six songs were recorded in the summer of 2016, by Abbi Temple & pianist Duncan Honeybourne, in the very impressive Music Studio built by Eastbourne College which opened in September 2011. This facility, which quickly became a key venue in the town’s cultural quarter (it is used by nearby Glyndebourne Opera) is called The Birley Centre, named after my father who became headmaster here in 1956.
Chamber Symphony No. 1 in Five Movements
This five-movement chamber symphony is a combination of many elements, most of which go back to music that I composed long ago (some of the material is from my student days). The main composing work was done in 1998 as a string quartet, and it is, essentially, this string quartet which, scored out for a chamber orchestra [picc/fl/ob/CA/cl/bass cl/bsn/contra//2 hns/tpt/tbne/tuba//solo string quintet & strings], constitutes this work.
Maverick - a whimsical burlesque (orchestral version)
This is a character sketch of my cocker spaniel "Maverick" out in local woodland where the resident squirrels offered much excitement for him.... This piece was originally composed for 13 solo string players [4,3,3,2,1]. I subsequently rescored it for full orchestra which I think better suits the canine character of the music, offering the full palette of sounds of a large symphony orchestra.
Chansons de France
This is a collection of wonderful little French folksongs strung together in a single movement.
I am the Great-great-great-grandson of Captain Hugh Hornby Birley, who was one of those in command of the Manchester Yeomanry in August 1819. His portrait has been in my family's possession all my life. As I discovered more information about his involvement in the massacre at Peterloo, I came to realise that his actions on that day were directly responsible for the deaths and hundreds of injuries inflicted upon the large and peaceful crowd gathered to listen to "Orator" Hunt on the 16th. Of course I am not accountable for the behaviour of an ancestor in events that occurred 135 years before I was born. However, on the wrong side of this important historical event, I have made it my business to learn about what happened, and the reasons for it. I also felt a strong creative urge to express myself in regards to the Peterloo massacre in the form of a large-scale symphonic poem. This I composed in April 2019, over a three-week period of intense writing.
For more details of this release, please see Recitative – the Prima Facie blog
Rick Birley (b. 1954) is a composer of contemporary ‘classical’ music which adheres to the traditional structures of composition, making his distinctive voice vibrantly fresh yet rooted in well-established forms that render it accessible rather than disturbingly challenging. Rick studied music at UCW Aberystwyth where he gained his BMus degree and developed his piano technique under the guidance of the formidable pianist Geoffrey Buckley. He later studied education at Cambridge University and was awarded a doctorate from Southampton University in 2008. After several years as Head of Department in Comprehensive Schools Rick set up and led the Music Department at Weymouth college very successfully for 18 years. Since 2002 Rick has taught piano, theory and composition privately at home, and had the time at last to concentrate on composing. The majority of the 100+ compositions that make up Rick’s oeuvre date from 2002. The roots of Birley’s musical styles are embedded in many cultural references, including folk idioms, plainsong melody, the rhythm of poetry and the narrative of specific events in history. His language explores dissonance within tonal harmonic contexts and dynamic rhythm set into many varied but discernible beat structures (metric modulation). Through the use of sometimes complex, very personal harmonic language Birley’s music reaches expressive depths that are profound yet recognisable. He makes frequent use of counterpoint, canons & sub melodies, using varied articulations and creating fascinating textural underlays. Of primary importance, always, is melody and its development.