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Laurence Osborn

Melissa Bradshaw

Premieres: October’s new music

8:38, 1st October 2019

Juvenilia | Laurence Osborn

Commissioned by the New London Chamber Choir, Laurence Osborn’s new piece Juvenilia explores the ways in which children communicate with each other. Melissa Bradshaw reports

‘When I first started writing Juvenilia, I wanted to use texts that had been created by children for children, so anything written by adults was out,’ says Osborn. ‘This meant no fairy tales and no nursery rhymes.’ One particular source of inspiration for the composer was The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren, an exhaustive study of playground games, chants, insults and rituals from British schools during the 1950s and ‘60s.

Rather than setting its texts directly, the ethnography inspired Osborn to think about schoolyard discourse specific to his own 1990s childhood. ‘What The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren captures so brilliantly is how the rituals and rules that we follow as schoolchildren are grounded in a completely fantastical understanding of how the world works,’ Osborn points out. ‘For example, when I was at school, we had a thing called “jinx”. If you said a word simultaneously with someone else, then you would both have to say “jinx”, and the last person to do so would have to be completely silent until they were allowed to speak. The need to follow this rule was so real to us; if you said “jinx” last, you just didn’t consider that nothing bad would actually happen if you spoke. I still remember the horror I felt upon discovering that if you opened your packet of crisps upside down it meant that you had a girlfriend.’

When you write for a singer, you are writing for psychology as much as you are for an instrument

The piece will be given its world premiere by the New London Chamber Choir, conducted by Matthew Hamilton, at the CLF Art Café in Peckham’s Bussey Building. ‘It’s a piece that’s probably better off in the Bussey Building than, say, St-Martin-in-the-Fields,’ says Osborn. ‘It combines a lot of different influences including Machaut, Weelkes, Satie, English folk song, The Beach Boys, Houston “chopped and screwed music”, and all sorts of other things.’

Describing the New London Chamber Choir as ‘excellent musicians… the sheer breadth of different sounds they can produce is extraordinary’, Osborn explains how writing for voice comes with its own unique challenges. ‘When you write an F for a violin, you know that the player will see the note on the page, put their finger on the appropriate part of the string, and an F will come out. With singers, it’s different. Most singers have to imagine the exact sound of an F before they produce it. So the likelihood of whether you hear the F you’ve written is dependent on tonal context, tessitura, speed, and all sorts of things. When you write for a singer, you are writing for psychology as much as you are for an instrument.’


Laurence Osborn Juvenilia (New London Chamber Choir, Matthew Hamilton, conductor, CLF Art Café, London, 7.30pm)


OCTOBER 2019: Premieres in the UK & Ireland

(World premieres unless otherwise stated. Full listings at classicalmusicmagazine.org)


Laurence Osborn This Isn’t Me I’m Not Mechanical (Britten Sinfonia, Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord, West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, 1pm)


Elena Langer New work (Sung Kyu Choi, baritone, Nia Coleman, soprano, Filipe Manu, tenor, Joel Williams, tenor, Simon Lepper, piano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)


Jonathan Dove Between Friends (Katya Apekisheva, Charles Owen, Christian Ihle Hadland, Susan Tomes, Tim Horton, piano, London Piano Festival, Kings Place, 7pm)


Colin Labadie Entwined UK prem (Southbank Sinfonia, James Hendry, conductor, St John’s Waterloo, 6pm)


Sir James MacMillan The Sun Danced UK prem (Britten Sinfonia, The Sixteen, Genesis Sixteen, Harry Christophers, conductor, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm)


Laurence Osborn Juvenilia (New London Chamber Choir, Matthew Hamilton, conductor, CLF Art Café, London, 7.30pm)


Thomas Adès Three Berceuses for Viola and Piano UK prem (Simon Crawford-Phillips, piano, Lawrence Power, viola, violin, Wigmore Hall, 1pm)

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