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A Level Music Composition Masterclass with Professor Adam Gorb

14th February 2011

Professor Adam Gorb, Head of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester gave composition master classes to A level music students on Friday 11 February as part of a joint initiative by the RNCM’s international outreach programme with additional sponsorship from the Ogiers Gifted and Talented Fund.

Jersey College for Girls hosted the event with Professor Gorb who was also be joined by the RNCM’s Dean of Performing Studies, Martin Harlow. Students from Jersey College for Girls, Victoria College, Beaulieu and De La Salle spent the day discussing and playing their own original compositions which have been written as part of their A level music coursework. The students’ own work is diverse, including a rock-style setting of Emily Brontë poetry, a Latin American jazz dance, a new full orchestral music score to the opening of the film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as pieces for wind band, piano quartets and more traditional part-songs. They were also given a talk about applying to study music at Conservatoire level in England and more specifically about the musical opportunities on offer at the RNCM post A level. This was exceptional opportunity for Jersey’s advanced young musicians to work alongside one of the UK’s most prolific and inspirational composers.

Professor Adam Gorb himself studied at Cambridge University and the Royal Academy of Music where he graduated with the highest honours including the Principal’s Prize. He has been on the staff at the London College of Music and Media, the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music and, since 2000 he has been the Head of School of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.

Professor Gorb’s own work always displays an inventive and striking use of rhythm embracing many different styles including jazz and serialism; highly individual, often subversive and theatrical, his works are imbued with a sense of poetry, irony and pathos. Gorb is also not afraid to draw on the vivid musical heritage of his Jewish roots, sometimes directly, often in a more subsumed or radically creative way.

His most recent commission, Eternal Voices, was written as a ‘living memorial’ to the Royal Marines who have fought and died in Afghanistan. It received its world première by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines and an 80-strong choir at Exeter Cathedral in November 2010 at a gala concert to raise money for injured troops and their families. The words by the librettist Ben Kaye that accompany Adam’s music were inspired by troops’ real-life stories and tell the story of a marine killed in action and the impact on his family back home. Adam commented: ‘It is based on war in the 21st century. It’s a fascinating subject and I saw it as a great opportunity to work on a large scale choral work and something very relevant which will hopefully communicate something different other than what one sees on the news. I wanted to do something that was not obviously anti-war but something that reflected the time and made the issue into something more intimate.’

Gorb’s approach is dynamic, and engaging; his message challenging and stimulating: music should communicate strongly without patronising players or audiences. He firmly believes that if contemporary music, or indeed any music, does not impact on listeners, then its message is irrelevant; it is lost. Professor Adam Gorb