London based composer Robert Hugill, curator of the popular reviewing blog Planet Hugill, and writer for OperaToday.com, debuts with his first PARMA Recordings solo album QUICKENING on Navona Records. Today, Hugill is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover the importance of his solo album.
Who was your first favorite artist growing up?
The first music whichever registered as something really special was the ‘Dance of Job’s Comforters’ from Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Job. It was 1971 and, aged 16, I was a lowly viola on the back deck of the Grimsby Cleethorpes and District Youth Orchestra. Under our charismatic conductor Jeffrey Babb we started rehearsing extracts from Job (for centenary performances in 1972). The sound of the saxophone solo simply blew me away, the use of the instrument in the orchestra and Vaughan Williams’ modal use of major/minor alternations. Vaughan Williams has remained important to me, and a very big influence.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?
I started writing music whilst I was still at school, lively and energetic piano improvisations which, as with many young composers, never quite matched up with what I heard in my head. During my university years I let things lapse but running an open-access community choir at my church in Scotland, and then taking responsibility for the Pink Singers (London’s first gay choir) led me into arranging and ultimately writing more music. Much of my early output was for cabaret (and included two musicals), and only gradually did I start creating more serious music.
Knowing lots of amateur singers, I persuaded a group to come and sing through some of my choral music (bribing them with food and drink after). A few of these sessions gave me confidence and ultimately led to the founding of my ensemble, FifteenB, which premiered a number of my works.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
My own study. I have to confess. Being a creature of habit, I find it easiest to develop ideas in my own environment, with my PC and sound system (I use Finale), and piano close at hand. But ideas come at all times, so I usually have a notebook handy, but it is in my studio where the real work happens.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
Hearing each song for the first time, and appreciating what the artists had done with it. I attended one of Johnny and Will’s rehearsals and it was lovely to hear what they had done with the songs. My songwriting is no particularly prescriptive and I enjoy hearing what artists do. When presented with a suggestion for a new way of doing a phrase my response is always OK, convince me.
What does this album mean to you personally?
It is a chance to share a side of my composing which has not always been prominent. Whilst I have always composed songs they have often been for personal pleasure, a relaxation with a more intimate form. My choral music and operas have received the most attention, and I enjoy being able to share songs from over 25 years of my composition career.
Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?
I would hope that listeners feel that the songs reflect my emotional response to the words. The text is very important in my songs, and I want them to be apprehended as a combination of words and music.