Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Ailsa Dixon premiere

Ailsa Dixon (centre) with Dobrinka Tabakova and Cheryl Frances Hoad at the London Oriana Choir's concert in July 2017
Ailsa Dixon (centre) with Dobrinka Tabakova and Cheryl Frances Hoad
at the London Oriana Choir's concert in July 2017
The British composer Ailsa Dixon (1932-2017) originally came to my notice in 2017 when the London Oriana Choir premiered her motet, These things shall be. At the time, Dixon was 85 and the motet had, in fact, been written 30 years earlier. Dixon studied music at Durham and would study composition with Paul Patterson but her life was devoted to family and to being a music teacher, and only in the 1980s did she enter into a really productive period including writing an opera.

Thankfully Ailsa's music is now being (re)discovered and explored, and there are a number of performances of her pieces coming up. On 20 February 2020, the Villiers String Quartet and soprano Lucinda Cox will be giving the premiere of Ailsa Dixon's The Spirit of Love (three songs for soprano and string quartet), and the first performance for 25 years of Nocturnal Scherzo, at the lunchtime concert at St George's Bristol. Also in the programme is Ethel Smyth's String Quartet in E minor. [Further details]

The Villiers String Quartet will be playing Ailsa's music again on 5 April 2020 (Palm Sunday) when they perform Ailsa's Variations on Love Divine together with Haydn’s Seven Last Words from the Cross at Wilton Church, near Salisbury. Whilst the Variations on Love Divine were recorded in the 1990s, this will be the first time the piece has been played in full at a public concert [further details]. And the Villiers String Quartet is planning to record Ailsa's complete works for string quartet

Ailsa's song cycle Songs of Mourning, Songs of Faith and Joy, setting five Biblical texts, is being given again by tenor James Gilchrist with guitarist Mark Eden at Wilton Church on 7 June 2020. The programme also includes lute songs by Dowland and Coprario.

Ailsa's 1986 piece, Shining Cold for soprano, viola, cello and Ondes Martenot has aroused interest in France and Professor Nadia Ratsimandresey of the Conservatoire de Boulogne-Billancourt is now working on the manuscript score, together with Marie Humbert of the women composers’ project ComposHer, to produce an edition that will make the work newly available to players in France and elsewhere.

Further details from the Ailsa Dixon website.

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