The Commonwealth Resounds and its partners have been running Go Compose projects in Commonwealth countries since 2018. We have run projects throughout the UK and also in India, Antigua, the Solomon Islands and South Africa. In every case, young people have learned how to compose, supported by expert composition tutors and instrumentalists who have performed their works for them at the end of each project.

I asked if the workshop had given them a feeling that they would like to try more composing and there was a genuine and unanimous yes! They were already asking how we can do more of this and when?

Shiloh Marsh

Project Manager, Access Music, South Africa

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Antigua day 9 – Barbuda Concert!

Antigua day 9 – Barbuda Concert!

Day 9 in Antigua

First ever Barbuda concert

There are days that remain etched in memory, not merely for the events, but for the spirit and resonance they carry. Day 9 on our journey was one such day; Barbuda witnessed its inaugural concert. The task was formidable. With no existing arts infrastructure on the island, every instrument, equipment piece, and a sizable crew had to be ferried over on a 90-minute boat journey. As if nature wanted to test our resolve, weather-related delays briefly threatened to throw a spanner in the works. But the TCR team, ever efficient and adaptable, sprang into action. And, just as the final touches were put in place, the arrival of the Governor General to open the concert seemed like a sign from the universe that all was aligned.

The national anthem heralded the ABYSO’s debut performance on Barbuda soil. It was an historic moment, signaling not just the ensemble’s rightful embrace of the name “Barbuda” but also the island’s broader commitment to nurturing its musical roots. The earlier efforts of our team, helped initiate a string teaching programme and the recorder ensemble, bore fruit. The young recorder ensemble’s performance, featuring a fresh composition crafted in collaboration with Dan Swanni, was an aural treat. The palpable growth in the fledgling musicians’ confidence over mere days was nothing short of inspiring.

Speeches were given by Karen Thomas, ABYSO’s Barbuda Coordinator and Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill. High commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda. Her words to the parents of the islanders were full of hope, but also the reminder that it takes a team to make a difference. Everyone can play their part and everyone can achieve something incredible. With everything coming together in this concert, The ‘Create, Perform, Inspire’ programme certainly hits all three of those points.

Nature had its own dramatic encore in store for us. As we rendered ‘Under the Sea’, the heavens opened, almost making the song’s lyrics a reality! The downpour saw a scramble for cover, a brief pause, and a fervent hope for clearer skies. Once the storm abated, the concert concluded with one final performance of Abba.

Post-performance, a new challenge awaited – the race against time to pack up and board the boat. Battling the tempestuous sea again, the team’s spirits remained undeterred, taking pride in the monumental feat achieved.

We know that the future of music on the island is just starting, but wow did it start strong! At the end of the stay, 20 musicians returned elated, but tired to the Jolly Beach Hotel.

Antigua day 8 – Concert day!

Day 8 in Antigua

First concert

The eighth day of our journey heralded a day of anticipation, excitement, and magic. With the pristine backdrop of the Wetherills Estate, the talented ABYSO took to the stage for their very first concert of this expedition. There’s a unique thrill to performing al fresco, a raw and immediate connection between the performers and nature. The shifting acoustics of the outdoors adds another layer of challenge, demanding particularly keen listening from the students. Each note carried differently, and often vanishing off to somewhere different.

The grounds of the estate slowly filled, as an eager audience, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, settled in. Their excitement was palpable, a mix of anticipation and pride. As the first strains of music wafted through the air, it became abundantly clear that the efforts of these budding musicians had borne fruit. The response was overwhelmingly positive, with applause reverberating through the evening air. It was evident: the performance wasn’t just appreciated; it was adored.

As the evening drew to a close and the lingering notes of the concert faded, we joined our new friends, the senior tutors of ABYSO, in a different kind of symphony: one of laughter, shared experiences, and culinary delights. We dined at The Larder, where the menu tantalised our taste buds as much as our music had delighted our ears. Over a scrumptious meal, conversations flowed effortlessly, stories were exchanged, and it became evident that the bonds forged during this journey extended beyond the realm of music. Tomorrow something special will be taking place!

Antigua day 10 – Go Compose Antigua!

Antigua day 10 – Go Compose Antigua!

Day 10 in Antigua

Final performances with our concert, Go Compose Antigua!

Written by Reuben

Day 10 was filled to bursting with composition, composition, and… composition. Throughout the previous 9 days, several members of the ABYSO had sent their compositions to Alison, Ka Youn, and myself, to be played in Monday’s composer’s concert. As a result, the proposed concert programme gradually expanded throughout the week, inflating from a 40-minute concert to an hour, then an hour twenty, and so on. By the time Monday rolled around, we had a program of 14 pieces, highlighting the fantastic diversity of musical creativity on the island.

There were 4 ABSYO members who submitted individual compositions. Ja’Quan and Da’quan sent us a string quartet and a wind quartet, both beautifully concise and sumptuously pandiatonic. Da’Quan’s quartet in particular reminded me of Ravel’s string quartet, and he seemed to agree when I played the first movement to him in the afternoon’s rehearsal. Cellist Zia gave us Voyage Across the Seas, a deeply evocative piece for flute and string quintet. Orlando, a trombonist, sent us an achingly beautiful piece for large ensemble and spoken voice. His piece was so expressive that it had my eyes watering just from the MuseScore MIDI playback!

In addition to the individual compositions, the composer’s concert also featured the collaborative compositions developed throughout the trip by the composition team and the various instrumental sections of the ABYSO. There was the violinist’s piece, a string quintet, which I was frantically sewing together as late as Monday morning (a timeline I’m sure every composer is familiar with). The quintet featured melodies and accompaniments from ABYSO violinists Asafa, Alfranique, Asha, and Calynia, all massively varied in character. Tying all these fragments together resulted in a wonderfully diverse musical collage, continually moving between driving grooves and floating lullabies. While I was wrestling with this, Ka Youn was doing something similar for the lower strings, tying together their beautiful melodies into a virtuosic duet for viola and double bass. What struck us both more than anything else was the incredible creativity of the ABYSO student’s musical fragments: They would often embrace quirkiness, would never shy away from subverting harmonic and melodic expectations, making each note on the page very much their own.

The final composition scheduled for the concert featured the entire woodwind, brass, and percussion sections of the ABYSO, a collaborative piece of mammoth proportions. Through just two workshops, TCR composers Jamie and Connor created a piece, ‘Caribbean Fusions’, that featured collaboratively composed harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic cycles, with its structure being produced in real time through Connor’s gestures as proto-conductor. The end result was viscerally loud and ecstatically rhythmic, sure to get even the stiffest audience members bobbing their heads and tapping their feet.
Rehearsals in the afternoon went off without a hitch, with ABYSO students dropping in throughout the sessions to listen to the TCR instrumentalists rehearse their pieces. Everything was rehearsed by 18:15, leaving ample time for patty-eating and Ting-drinking before the concert’s scheduled start at 19:00.

What followed was one of the best concerts of my life. Education officer Caryl Edwards-Lewis compered, cultivating a wonderfully Antiguan atmosphere of audience participation and engagement, sprinkling the perfect combination of humour, encouragement, and storytelling across the evening. Sitting front row was His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams and Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill, two people who have provided invaluable help in facilitating the development of orchestral music on Antigua and Barbuda. Many of the members of the ABYSO presented their own pieces, preparing speeches that detailed the hard work and creativity of the previous week’s workshops, with each speech being met by a mandatory stretch of thundering applause and deafening whoops from parents and peers. Witnessing students, teachers, and parents lift each other up and recognise each other’s deep dedication to music-making was a truly special experience. The student’s pieces were awe-inspiring, testaments to their musical curiosity and willingness to collaborate creatively with one another. We heard film music, string music, wind music, quartets, quintets, duets, large ensembles, jazz ensembles and more, a musical kaleidoscope that represented the individual compositional talent of every single member of the ABYSO. Really special stuff.

Day 1 in Antigua

Day 1 in Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda Day 1

Today was an exciting day for the 21 musicians travelling to Antigua with The Commonwealth Resounds, an organisation dedicated to the promotion of music and musicians across the Commonwealth, as we set off on a cultural exchange to the captivating island of Antigua.

Our day kicked off at Gatwick Airport, with the group meeting in person for the first time, full of anticipation and excitement. Instruments in hand and spirits buoyed, we were primed to embark on our adventure. We would like to pause to thank British Airways for their help getting all our instruments onto the plane.

On touching down in Antigua, we were greeted by Claudine and Karen Mae, The High Commissioner of Antigua. Their warmth and hospitality radiated through the welcome, we’re very grateful for their warm welcome and look forward to sharing our musical cultures.

The pace immediately picked up as our wind quintet was ushered to Pointe 99.1fm, where we had the opportunity to join the Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, on his well-known evening programme, Browne and Browne. Alison and Reuben spoke at length on the station about our plans and excitement whilst we are here. Discussing all things music with Colin O’Neil the conversation was positive and he really emphasised the power that music can bring to all our lives, be that academic, social or just for our own pleasure. It was amazing to hear about all the musical opportunities that the island offers and shares with the world. This platform offered us more than just an introduction to Antiguan society; it was a precious opportunity to share our musical passion with the nation.

With the group struggling to fit into the studio. Our wind quintet, just one small component of The Commonwealth Resounds group, enchanted listeners with a captivating Disney medley.

As the programme closed, we were introduced to King Goldie, a Barbudan who plays a fabulous home-made instrument. Using waste materials he created a banjo like instrument out of a butter tin and shaft of wood found nearby, a wonderful way to use music as an environmental power for good. He performed the popular redemption song to which the entire studio sang along with joy.

Prime minister, Gastone Browne, thanking the group for their performance just hours after stepping off the flight from London.

During the programme, the Prime Minister spoke about his support for the arts, a sentiment that was heartening to hear. The arts are a bedrock of any society, and knowing they hold a place in the island’s leadership discussions underscored the significance of our cultural exchange.

We’ve hit the ground running with our cultural exchange. The maiden day perfectly encapsulated the mission of The Commonwealth Resounds. It showcased the power of music and culture to build bridges, foster understanding, and resonate with the shared spirit of humanity. The warm reception we’ve received matched the weather and the evident appreciation for the arts have set the tone for what promises to be a deeply enriching journey ahead.

Commonwealth International Composition Award – Grand Final

Commonwealth International Composition Award – Grand Final

Grand Final 2022

THE COMMONWEALTH INTERNATIONAL COMPOSITION AWARD
Contact us to reserve ticketsFind out more about the finalists

The Grand final of the Commonwealth International Composition Award will take place at 6pm on Friday 4th March 2022.

Ten wonderful pieces by our shortlisted young composers from all over the world, mentored by advanced students from the Royal Northern College of Music

The Princess Alexandra Hall, Royal Over-Seas League, Over-Seas House, Park Place, London SW1A 1LR

The Grand Final will be livestreamed

Free entry with a collection at the end to help support online composition teaching for young
people via ‘Go Compose Online’ 

The Adjudicators

Orphy Robinson

Barbara Law

Sylvia Lim

Kindly supported by

Go Compose Online

Go Compose Online

Go Compose, Online!

We created Go Compose Online during the first pandemic in 2020, to give young people who were stuck at home all over the world a chance to compose their own music. There were five excellent projects run during this time and over 70 young composers took part.

The projects were run by composers Duncan Chapman, Philip Dutton, Lauren Marshall and Sonya Knussen (2 projects)

Go Compose Online was advertised widely, helped by the ABRSM, Sound and Music and the Commonwealth Secretariat

Sonya Knussen who lives in North America, ran two excellent workshops, and enjoyed working with young composers so much that she created her own Go Compose, North America. This project is run in a different time zone to those in the UK, which is excellent for young Commonwealth composers throughout the Caribbean and in Canada. They have run many workshops during 2020 and 2021 and in the summer of 2021 even created an exciting festival for young composers. 

For all the young composers who took part in Go Compose Online, during the lockdown, The Commonwealth Resounds organised a special competition called the Commonwealth Composition Challenge. This was open to young people around the world and we created a special online concert for those shortlisted.

Go Compose, Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands

The Dionysus Ensemble in the Solomon Islands

The Commonwealth Resounds Ensemble-in-Association, the Dionysus Ensemble recently travelled to the Solomon Islands to lead a musical project for young people.  This project provided expert instrumental teaching for existing students in piano and violin as well as giving some children their first ever instrumental lessons, including the first ever cello lesson on the Islands!

 The Dionysus Ensemble ran a “Go Compose Solomon Islands” day, which for the first time, introduced composition and trained the students not only how to create their own music, but to write it down. The day was focussed on music theory and notation practices as well as the importance of music being documented for posterity so that their music can be shared, performed by others and last into the future. Our students returned over the following few days with pages of newly created music, which they’d worked on at home after class, to ask advice, seek out new ideas and direction and to check their work with us. We performed and recorded all of their pieces for them so that each student now has a professionally performed record of their first piece.

 

I couldn’t sleep last night because I wanted to practise!

Reynard, 15

You taught me to be brave and to play the piano

Juanita, 8

Great teachers and musicians. Loved learning from them and listening to them playing their instruments. Such great inspirations.

Ian, 18

Beyond this Project

We would love to be able to continue the work that we started – to put in place regular teaching, a regular concert itinerary in which they could perform, to develop their composition skills, to increase the number of students able to have access to PASI and to take desperately needed resources such as instruments, spare strings, manuscript paper and music stands over for them.

Sponsors

This project would not have been possible without the kind and generous support of our sponsors and supporters.

    • The British High Commission, Honiara
    • Solomon Airlines
    • Universal Edition
    • The Mercers’ Company
    • The Royal Society of St George
    • Imperial Travel, Solomon Islands

 Find out more! A full account of the Dionysus ensemble’s time in the Solomon Islands can be found here