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David Bruce, commissioned by The Opera Group


PRS for Music Foundation: What impact do you think being part of New Music 20×12 will have on your work?
David Bruce: This is an exciting project for me for a number of reasons. I’ve written mostly for the concert hall and the opera house, and this piece feels like it will be more of an ‘event’ – it will need to grab people’s attention in a very direct way. I’m also excited to work with the community choirs and to collaborate with a fire artist which will be an entirely new experience for me and urge me to think about composition in a new way. It is hard to say what impact it will have on me in advance – hopefully a surprising one. It’s certainly different from any other project I’ve ever done.

PRSF: Tell us the story of how and why you joined forces with the performers you are working with on this project.
DB: Having worked with The Opera Group on a couple of smaller projects I know how thrilling and vibrant their work can be. We are currently developing a chamber opera together, which also explores the theme of fire (it is based on Philip Pullman’s ‘The Firework Maker’s Daughter’). The Salisbury Festival and The Opera Group were looking to work with a composer whose music has the ability to communicate with a diverse audience. Our collaboration seemed to be a natural fit for the project.

PRSF: How are you going to approach creating your new work? What kinds of creative input will the performers and community you are working with have on your work?
DB: I very much intend to work closely with both the fire artist and the soloists involved. It’s going to be a challenge to integrate what the fire artist does with the music, so it’s important to think through that carefully and over time. We are scoping out ideas together at an early stage in the process so that we can obtain a synergy between the two elements – the musical and the visual. The choral writing will probably be largely written in advance, but I hope to work with the choirs in each location before the performance through the three festivals’ participation departments.

PRSF: Who do you hope to reach through the creation and performance of this work and what do you hope they’ll take away with them?
DB: The same as any piece I write – I would love to give the audience a sense of expanded possibilities, the feeling that anything is possible and that the world is full of magical things. I intend to create a piece that has the capacity to communicate with a diverse audience of all ages, backgrounds and musical knowledge and can engage with communities through participation. Much like the mission of the Olympic Games I would like the piece to have the ability to be enjoyed by all. I see the project as a way to celebrate the arts in Britain during the Olympic year, to show that art can be every bit as life-enhancing, passionate and exciting as sports.

PRSF: Where do you draw your inspiration and influences? Which creator – musical or otherwise – do you most admire?
DB: I’m particularly drawn to folk traditions from around the world, as well as classical composers like Stravinsky, Bartok, Ligeti and Janacek – who draw on those same traditions.  I’m drawn to colour and humour, things that have depth but are light on the surface. From the classical world I probably admire Stravinsky most. Works like Les Noces, Renard, Soldiers Tale, Rite of Spring and Petroushka repay endless listening, and have that unique mixture of humour, colour, and depth. In folk I admire groups like the Romanian ‘Taraf de Haidouks’ who combine blisteringly fast, funny, madness-inducing songs, alongside the most hauntingly lyrical and soulful songs. They also orchestrate their songs in a very beautiful way which has influenced my writing.

PRSF: Which Olympic and/or Paralympic Games will you be seeing in 2012? What was your best/favourite sport when you were growing up?
DB: I play badminton regularly and will try to see the Olympic badminton. Growing up I played tennis.

A message from commissioning organisation The Opera Group

A co-commission between The Opera Group and Salisbury International Arts Festival, ‘Fire’ will culminate in an outdoor spectacle of visual and musical fireworks commissioned from David Bruce, one of the UK’s most promising opera-writing new voices. Bruce will collaborate with a fire artist to create a performance that will literally ‘dazzle’ as it is re-created at each of the Salisbury, Spitalfields and Brighton Festivals in summer 2012. Composed for a virtuoso female voice and a fanfare of horns, ‘Fire’ will also feature youth choruses drawn together by each festival from their local communities.