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Four composers at the 2013 International Composers Festival l to R: Polo Piatti, Kenneth Roberts, Robert Draper and Peter Byrom-Smith

Four composers at the 2013 International Composers Festival l to R: Polo Piatti, Kenneth Roberts, Robert Draper and Peter Byrom-Smith

C’mon Hastings! Support the Campaign for Real Music!

Robert Draper, a participant composer in the upcoming International Composers’ Festival, has strong views as to how classical music should be – and they’re not in accord with the thinking of modern academia. Music, he believes, has greater worth when borne of  instinct; when a product of the soul. HOT’s Chris Cormack interviews him on his ideas and the music. Come to the International Composers’ Festival and find out more.

Robert Draper’s love of music started at a pre-school age, when he would wear out his father’s collection of vinyl recordings of Baroque, Classical and Romantic music on an old portable mono record player. From that point on, he was hooked for life.

Draper has written major works for piano, orchestra, choir, as well as chamber works for string quartet and other instruments. A pianist himself, he studied  piano with Russian concert pianist, Evgenia Chudinovich, (aka GéNIA))

The London Gala Orchestra & Winchester Consort performing Robert Draper’s music at the ICF in 2013

The London Gala Orchestra & Winchester Consort performing Robert Draper’s music at the ICF in 2013

Although he received a formal music education in the 1980’s University of London, Robert has always firmly rejected the serialist/atonal approach to composition and aesthetics aggressively promoted in the academic culture.

Robert is  a ‘tonal’ composer:  unapologetically so. His music has its own uniquely dramatic and individual style that is classical in form, but at all times the driving force is the emotional impact that the music has upon him as he creates, explores and develops it.

Hello Robert. Is this the first time your music has been showcased at the International Composers’ Festival? What were your impressions of the earlier Festivals?

No, I had three works performed over the course of the 2013 Festival. My impression was one of being pleased to be involved in an event that sought to even up the odds by supporting composers such as myself. The featured composers that year (as I anticipate will be the same this year) composed in a variety of styles, but each had the common thread of being ‘tonal’ composers. In other words, they composed music based around key centres and the harmonic system of the Western Classical style, used by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, etc, until you get to the early 20th century when everything started to go somewhat pear-shaped.

Robert Draper and Steve Dean, Leader of Winchester Consort

Robert Draper and Steve Dean, Leader of Winchester Consort

Who is your favourite composer at this year’s Festival – and why?

That is difficult, as there are a number of new contributors this year who are unfamiliar to me. In terms of pure melodic muscle, Polo’s works are hard to beat.

Would you say film music is the way to go for a serious composer? How about game music?

It is an important way of earning a living as a modern classical composer. The emotional breadth and depth of orchestral music is widely recognized by film producers and directors as being an essential ingredient in terms of enhancing the dramatic content of a film. There have certainly been composers whose music made a good film great.

I wouldn’t say that it is necessarily ‘the way to go’ though. Film music has its drawbacks, in that it must at all times be subservient to the dramatic action taking place on screen and therefore provides less opportunity for full development of themes, etc. that traditional classical forms allow. Traditional classical forms provide a forum for the composer to fully exploit the developmental possibilities inherent in any musical theme; to squeeze as much juice out of the lemon as possible. Film music does not allow for this. To draw a technological comparison, in films, music is a plug-in not a stand-alone application. I’ve never tried games music, but I imagine similar principles are equally applicable.

What is ‘Classicus’ and what would you like to achieve with it?

Robert Draper East Sussex composer

Robert Draper East Sussex composer

Classicus (of which Robert is a co-founder and official spokesman) is a newly created group of tonal composers specially created to promote and defend the Western tradition of composing classical music. Composers like ourselves are presently in the minority, simply because we are not ‘experimental or avant-gardists’ per se. Instead we use the traditional elements – language, instruments and classical forms of music – in our compositions. We see very clearly that if the trend of supporting only experimental works continues, formal classical music from the West as we know it, will gradually disappear from the concert hall. That very concern unites us.

It is in many ways a logical development of the ideals of the Festival and should provide support and resources to tonal composers, identify funding and performance opportunities and lobby for more Arts Council and other public sector arts funding to be shifted away from the esoteric atonal  genres and re-directed towards tonal music. Quite frankly, the present situation is a disgrace in terms of the public money that is wasted year on year in the promotion of such nonsense; there is little or no appetite for it amongst the taxpayers who inadvertently fund it.

At the first performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony in 1808 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, as the the final movement crept and then exploded into life, one old boy in the audience was so moved by what he heard that he stood to attention, saluted and beat his chest. At the average concert of atonal compositions the only beating that tends to be done is that of a path towards the door.

Can you tell me something of your thinking behind the orchestral piece ‘Richard III’, which you composed and is to be performed at the concert on 25 September?

Richard III of England - Unknown, British School

Richard III of England – Unknown, British School

The Richard III piece came about after I watched the documentary on Channel 4 concerning the search for and subsequent rediscovery of the mortal remains of the long dead king. I thought how miraculous and guided by fate the whole thing seemed, particularly when you consider that he was found in the first section of the car park where they looked –  i.e. directly underneath the letter ‘R’, that had been painted onto the tarmac.

The work is short, but full on and dramatic. It commences with Richard’s theme, a noble but rather vulnerable theme played  by a solo oboe which gradually develops into a full orchestral battle cry, as he launches towards Henry Tudor on Bosworth field. When I completed the work I sent it to the Richard III Society; they like it and uploaded it onto their website. Some months later, I was contacted by Phillipa Langley (the lady who found Richard III), who had heard it and also liked it. She told me that when she first heard it, she got the same strange and fateful feeling as she did when she first walked into the car park at Greyfriars, Leciester.

In 1971, an unlikely group of people came together to form the Campaign for real Ale (CAMRA); Britain’s beer drinkers knew what kind of beer they liked and the campaign was a huge success. CAMRA still has a huge influence on the development of the UK beer industry today. Do you know what kind of classical music you like too? Perhaps we need a campaign for real music?

International Composers Festival 2015, 24-26 September at All Saints Church, Hastings Old Town, St Mary in the Castle, Hastings and the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill.

Robert Draper’s ‘Richard III’ will be performed on Friday 25 September 7.00pm at St Mary in the Castle, 7 Pelham CrescentHastings TN34 3AF

Posted 12:23 Wednesday, Sep 16, 2015 In: Music & Sound

1 Comment


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  1. Annie Waite

    Interesting article. Readers might also be interested in the forthcming event forming part of our Summer Music Season 2015. It’s Terry Gilliam’s production of Benvenuto Cellini, with the English National Opera, 26 September: http://www.electricpalacecinema.com/index.php?content=book&film=1086

    Thanks v much,
    Annie

    Comment by Annie Waite — Thursday, Sep 17, 2015 @ 09:51

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