Emma O’Halloran – Young Composers Meeting 2012

Young composer, conductor and CMC staff member Emma O’Halloran spent a week in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, in February 2012 attending the Young Composers Meeting. She has written this report of her experiences for CMC

For the past 18 years, the city of Apeldoorn has hosted the Young Composers Meeting. The meeting is organized by orkest de ereprijs in collaboration with the International Gaudeamus Music Week and its aim is to give young composers the opportunity to exchange ideas about contemporary music whilst experiencing the process of composing with an ensemble at hand. Each year brings a different mix of young individuals from all over the world and this year, the chosen 14 composers hailed from Australia, Belarus, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Netherlands and Scotland.

YCM has a long history with IrisYCM Composersh composers and it was interesting to see whether the course lived up to the hype. Moments after arrival, all composers were ushered into an opening concert where de ereprijs performed pieces by course directors along with previous YCM commissions. There, we were introduced to our tutors and guest lecturers Louis Andriessen, Richard Ayres, Christopher Butterfield, Seung-ah Oh, Martijn Padding and Gerda van Zelm.

The week that followed was a whirlwind of rehearsals, one-to-one lessons, revisions and master classes. The tutors took on very different approaches during individual lessons: in one class, the focus was predominantly on technique and structure and in the next, composers were asked the difficult question ‘Why write music?’ Every composer was faced with various challenges, be it practical or philosophical and it was wonderful to see each person grow over the course of the week.

During the opening concert, Wim Boerman, artistic director of de ereprijs gave a few brief words about what to expect from YCM and he joked that when composers were interviewed about their experiences at the course, the general consensus was that the best part was the food! On reflection, he wasn’t wrong. The week was packed with so much information through lectures, lessons and rehearsals but it was each day during meal times that composers could sit down and swap stories and share each other’s musical experiences. It was here that we learned the most important things and answered the difficult questions posed to us by our tutors.

At the end of the week, we returned once more to the concert hall in which we had been practically living in for the duration of the course to hear each composer’s piece performed in front of a packed audience. It was a special moment for each composer, hearing both his/her own music performed alongside 13 other fantastic works by people who were now considered good friends. Commissions were awarded to three selected composers, but each composer had contributed something unique and beautiful to the event. The most important message communicated at the Young Composers Meeting could be summed up in the words of Richard Ayres – ‘Trust your own creativity’. And so, the week ended on a high, and we returned to our respective countries, excited at the prospect of future collaborations and to start writing our next compositions.

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