Friday 21 April
St John’s College Cambridge announces the appointment of Michael Finnissy as the college’s Composer in Residence. The Residency – until 2019, the 150th anniversary of the completion of St John’s College Chapel – will see Finnissy working closely with St John’s College Choir, writing four new anthems and five organ ‘reflections’ for the Organ Scholars. The appointment follows Finnissy’s British Composer Award in 2015 for John the Baptist, St John’s College Choir’s commission for their Advent Carol Service in 2014.
The Choir of St John’s College Cambridge has for many years championed new music, and this pioneering spirit of looking to the future continues today. Andrew Nethsingha builds on the work of George Guest, Christopher Robinson and David Hill in establishing the choir’s worldwide reputation, and introducing important new repertoire to Britain through services and recordings. The residency with Finnissy follows the choir’s first release on their imprint with Signum Classics, Deo – a compilation of works by Jonathan Harvey – which the Observer deemed “ecstatic and richly challenging” and which won the Choral Award at the BBC Music Magazine Awards 2017.
The new works for St John’s College Cambridge, beginning with Dum transisset Sabbatum, are in a line of pieces by Finnissy which use “re-located, destabilised, re-visioned” material from eponymous composers. They fall into a tranche of work by the composer including the Verdi Transcriptions, Obrecht Motetten and Gershwin Arrangements and form a substantial part of his output.
Andrew Nethsingha, Director of Music said:
“Michael Finnissy is one of the most highly regarded British composers. He is well-known for his instrumental compositions and he also has a great love for choral music. Michael feels drawn to the sound and style of the St John’s Choir. I, in turn, feel on the same wavelength as him in our creative conversations and it will be a great privilege to work closely with Michael over the next two years.”
Michael Finnissy said:
“This Residency came about in the best possible way: from previous, rewarding and successful, work with the choir and Andrew Nethsingha. The new works for St John’s College Cambridge will find their material in the music of the eponymous composers. The material is re-located, destabilised, re-visioned from different angles. Sometimes it sounds deceptively like the named composers, or like more and more distant memories of their work, or apparently remote, alienated in manner and style from it. This is also a way of examining and reflecting on our musical culture, in which new Art Music is marginalised and almost completely overwhelmed by the past, or by venal commercialism.”