BBC Radio 3 Commission for Ensemble Molière: Rossignolet

BBC New Generation Baroque Ensemble, Ensemble Molière (harpsichordist Satoko Doi-Luck, viola da gamba player Kate Conway, bassoonist Catriona McDermid, violinist Alice Earll and flautist Flavia Hirte), marked International Women’s Day 2023 with a broadcast of music by women, including Élisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre’s cantata L’Isle de Delos and a commission from Sarah.

Sarah’s piece Rossignolet responds to the Chant du Rossignol (Nightingale’s Song) movement from L’Isle de Delos. A chirping falling fifth motif from the cantata is used alongside a French folk song ‘Rossignolet du bois’ in which someone desperately asks the nightingale to ‘teach me your language, teach me to talk, and tell me how to love.’

Release of Somerville College Choir CD ‘The Dawn of Grace’

Somerville College Choir and their director Will Dawes have released a beautiful new Christmas CD, ‘The Dawn of Grace – Music for Christmas’, showcasing music by 20th- and 21st-century female composers. The disc includes 11 world premiere recordings, among them Sarah’s carol Ivy, Chief of Trees It Is. The collection can be heard online and ordered from Resonus Classics.

cover of the CD - the art shows light bursting from between trees to cast pink and blue shadows on the snow.
Winter Forest by Carinha Scobelev: the gorgeous cover art of The Dawn of Grace

Five Portraits of Peter wins the Peter Tranchell Centenary Composition Competition for Organ

2022 is the centenary year of composer, musical director, writer and lecturer Peter Tranchell (1922-1993). The Peter Tranchell Foundation is celebrating the occasion with a whole host of activities, including running a composition competition for organ. Sarah is absolutely thrilled that her entry Five Portraits of Peter has been awarded first place and will be played by Kevin Bowyer at the PAT100 Soirée in Knightsbridge on 26th November, alongside music by Peter himself and a new commission by Cheryl Frances-Hoad. Five Portraits of Peter is made up of five short sections, each making use of the string of notes D# E G E F G F C C# D G E B B (a coded version of ‘PETER TRANCHELL’) and each exploring a different facet of Peter’s life and output: his prize-winning musicianship, his skill as a writer, his role as Director of Gardens at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge, his mentorship of the singers and organists in Caius chapel choir, and finally his gift for comic song.

Page 5 of the score of Five Portraits of Peter, showing the third section: 'Peter the Gardener'
A section of Five Portraits of Peter

Scuttle: Psappha Composing for Piano Recordings Released

From September 2021 to May 2022, the participating composers in Psappha’s Composing for Piano Scheme were given the chance to work closely with pianist Benjamin Powell to write a new piece for solo piano. The culmination of the scheme was a recording day at Hallé St Peter’s, in Manchester. The videos have now been released on YouTube, including Sarah’s piece Scuttle:

The full playlist of all the films is available here, where you can hear the other pieces by Elliott Park, Christian Drew, Kieran Timbrell, Darragh Kelly and Fraz Ireland.

Benjamin Powell – Piano
Leighton Moody – Director of Photography
Rob Kelledy – Sound Recording and Mastering
Tim Williams – Editor and Producer


Song cycle for Roderick Williams and Susie Allan – Thaxted Festival and Music at Paxton

Sarah is thrilled to have been co-commissioned by the 2022 Music at Paxton and Thaxted Festivals, with support from RVW Trust, to write a song cycle for baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Susie Allan.

The cycle, A Square and Candle-lighted Boat, is a companion piece to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel. The five songs set poems with an emphasis on home by Frances Cornford, a cousin of Vaughan Williams.

The premiere will take place at the Thaxted Festival on 2nd July, with a repeat performance at Music at Paxton on 22nd July.

Whale by Whale – George Mackay Brown Centenary Project

Orkney Camerata marked the centenary of Orcadian poet George Mackay Brown in 2021 with their project Words into Music: Continuity and Change in collaboration with the George Mackay Brown Fellowship. In the first phase of the project, writers were invited to submit poems and short pieces of prose, which composers were invited to respond to musically in the second phase. Sarah’s piece Whale by Whale is a response to Jane McKie’s beautiful poem of the same name which can be read here.  Selected composers were given a mentoring session by Gemma McGregor before the nine works, including Whale by Whale, were premiered by players from Orkney Camerata at St Magnus Cathedral on 22nd May 2022.

The Robin Carol premiered by Granta Chorale

Granta Chorale’s Christmas concert this year was titled ‘Noel!’. Many pieces in the programme contained the word ‘Noel’, ranging in time from anonymous medieval carols to two brand new specially-written carols – Sarah’s The Robin Carol and Janet Wheeler’s Noel, Noel, Noel.

The Robin Carol takes as its starting point the words of the nursery rhyme The North wind doth blow – ‘The North wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will poor Robin do then? He’ll hide in a barn and keep himself warm, and hide is head under his wing’. However, in a departure from the nursery rhyme, the robin sings ‘Nowell’ while he is sheltering from the cold. Later the piece draws parallels between the robin’s need for shelter and humans’ desire for protection, using a plainsong quote from compline: ‘Hide me under the shadow of your wings’.

An image of a robin standing on a twig with berries
Collage by Sarah for Granta Chorale’s Christmas poster

Psappha Composing For Piano Scheme

Sarah is thrilled to be one of six composers participating in Psappha’s Composing For Piano schemes in 2021-2022, writing a piece for pianist Benjamin Powell. The composers will have three workshop sessions over several months, an intervention day and a final recording session in May.

O Western Wind – RVW150 commission published by Stainer and Bell

Sarah was delighted to be asked to write a setting of Ursula Vaughan Williams’ beautiful poem O Western Wind.. An anniversary to help Stainer and Bell mark Vaughan Williams’ 150th birthday next year. Ursula Vaughan Williams was RVW’s second wife, a tireless ambassador for his music after his death, and a talented poet and novelist in her own right. This poem, written on the 35th anniversary of his death, makes it clear that her love for him had not dwindled in the intervening years:

O Western Wind: An anniversary
This was our world’s end day, dear love,
An end of time but not of tears,
The end of touch, the silenced word,
The first day of our separate years.
When will time end for me, dear love,
Or end for both in darkest night,
Or shall I find, in that unknown
Your hand is mine, and mine your own?
Sarah’s setting is now available from Stainer and Bell as part of their Choral Now series, and hopefully will be of use to choirs planning to mark the anniversary next year.
The front cover of O Western Wind, with the Choral Now image, a green treble clef patterned like a leaf