August 2008

It's been a manic year, partly because we've a new addition to the family which has taken up a huge amount of energy, as well as giving us many fantastic moments and a large dose of happiness.

Last week I played the 6th Bach cello Suite for the first time, in my third Cello Pilgrimage concert. The sixth suite is a vast canvas which feels like a totally different genre compared to the others. The cellist he wrote them for must have been a wonderful musician. Six more Cello Pilgrimage concerts are planned for next year and another 7 or 8 are in the pipeline, which I'm really pleased about.

I've also just finished putting together the programme for the next Roman River Festival. We've added two new events since last year and I'm really pleased with the way it has worked out.

There have been more arrangements for Sinead O'Connor, this time for the Ulster Orchestra, and I met Sinead's fantastic band for the first time.

I've also written music for two plays. The first was Martin Crimp's The Country, in a lovely theatre above a pub called The Tabard, in West London. Writing music for the theatre was like coming home again - I have been missing collaborating with the director, and I was lucky enough to be working with one of the most intelligent, sensitive and strong directors I've come across - Simon Godwin. Watch this space for future collaborations - I hope there'll be loads. The second play was Macbeth for the Central School with a memorable and talented group of actors.

Andrew Keener has finished editing the Joseph James/Rachmaninov disc which I recorded with the ECO last year. I'm really pleased with the final result and look forward to the reaction when it is released. There's already been interest from various chamber orchestras and venues about performing it.

Other inspiring moments have been working with Rohan de Saram on Boulez, Reich and a collection of unusual and imaginative new pieces for multiple cellos, brilliantly produced work by Phil Venables of Endymion who put the project together. I accompanied Linda Thompson for her performance at the QEH - a voice and personality to die for, and a dream to work with. A special moment was performing the Fantasia Concertante by Tippett or the second time with the virtuoso string orchestra Arco Strings; the piece had matured in the few months since we had first performed it.

I also organised the building of a full-size whale (around 16 metres long) from willow withies, on my local village green, as part of a local campaign to persuade people to bring their own shopping bag. The whale was filled with plastic bags to highlight marine deaths from plastic.

I'm also working on an environmental audit for the Peer Gynt Earthly Music project planned for next year. I'm hoping this could become a blueprint for other organisations who would like to lessen their environmental impact. It is very exciting that the issues that the environmental movement have been talking about are beginning to be debated in the mainstream.

Next is something I'm hugely looking forward to - working in Dublin on a Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare and Mendelssohn) with a theatre company called Storytellers, and then with the Irish Chamber Orchestra. It will be a new production which fuses the music and text together in a way which hasn't been done before.