"Techniques and practices of singing together in a group has not developed in the same way as it has for instrumental music and I find this fascinating. It is fairly simple to compose a choral piece that you know will sound pleasant. Choirs are very good at singing homogenous blocks of sound and blending with each other to make even a dissonant chord sound beautiful. It is far harder to compose something that works as effectively with rhythmic complexity or with harder, more angular or layered textures. This is partly due to the instrument of the voice itself but also, I believe, largely due to the way in which choral practice has developed through church music over the past few centuries. This is not the time to get into this in detail but I think composing music for choirs that is more sonically and rhythmically textured and intricate is a real challenge. I certainly haven’t cracked it but I feel sure that, together with a shift in performance practice, we will get there over the next few centuries!
O LIGHT OF LIGHT
A reflection on Thomas Tallis 'O Nata Lux'
Tallis is often remembered for his impressive, technically ambitious and beautiful masterpiece, Spem In Alium. And yet, his simplest motets are the ones that have the most profound effect on me. At a little over 2 minutes in length, O Nata Lux is a masterclass in simplicity. It is a piece that has been distilled to its essence, nothing is superfluous. The result is a beautiful motet with a piercing clarity of intention. I have borrowed a handful of melodic clippings and some of my favourite harmonies from the original to create a piece that, I hope, amplifies my interpetation of O Nata Lux: a heartfelt plea to be accepted into heaven at the end of life on earth.
Born in London, Harry Escott’s musical education began as a chorister at Westminster Cathedral before going on to complete his studies at The Royal College of Music and Somerville College, Oxford University, studying composition under Robert Sherlaw-Johnson and Francis Pott.
Harry Escott first came to prominence in 2005 with his score to the influential psychological horror film Hard Candy. Since then, Harry has worked with such stellar directorial talents as Michael Winterbottom (on both A Mighty Heart and The Road To Guantanamo), Nick Broomfield (Ghosts), and 2014 Oscar winner Steve McQueen (Shame).
In 2015 Harry scored the feature film, Damascus Cover, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers and John Hurt, having also recently completed The Face of an Angel for director Michael Winterbottom and The Selfish Giant, a contemporary adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s short story directed by Clio Barnard. He has also composed music for several major television series, ranging from historical drama New Worlds to Abi Morgan’s contemporary cop show River starring Stellan Skarsgård.
In recent years Escott has revisited his roots, writing a large-scale choral work, O Viridissima Virga, for the Choir of St Bride's Church, London, critically acclaimed in The Observer as "a stunning new piece for choir" that "feels as though it's been in the repertoire for years."