Young Composer of the Year mixes old and new

John Goldie-Scot, winner of the 'Young Composer of the Year' Award (19-25 years) at the National Centre for Early Music in York.
John Goldie-Scot, winner of the 'Young Composer of the Year' Award (19-25 years) at the National Centre for Early Music in York.

A former Berwickshire pupil has been named one of the Composers of the Year for a piece written specifically for medieval instruments.

John Goldie-Scot, who also attended Duns Primary School, and previously won Rotary’s Musician of the Year award at the Maltings, entered the National Centre for Early Music Young Composers Award earlier this year.

He was then invited, along with other finalists, to a day’s workshop, where the Dunedin Consort, Scotland’s leading baroque ensemble, workshopped their compositions.

“That was fantastic,” said John, “because, although many of us were writing on quite advanced computer programs, that was the first time many of us had actually heard it played back.”

John’s piece was inspired by early composer Monteverdi, and he described it as being more than just getting the right notes together.

“Firstly, we chose our texts to set to music,” he said, and even that was a decision affecting the music, as “most of us chose an English translation rather than the Italian, because it would be easier to use our own language.”

Later came the choice of instruments, to accompany three singers.

John made use of the sounds of the bass-viol, a kind of small, fretted cello from the fifteenth century.

“I was quite used to this instrumentation,” John said, “because I studied in York, where there was a lot of early modern music.”

He spent around two months on the piece, titled Why Are You in Such a Hurry?, and was delighted to be invited to the workshop session.

“That was great, I thought, even if I didn’t win, I’d had that experience, and then of course it turned out that I had won!”

John, aged 25, was named NCEM Young Composer of the Year in the 19 to 25 years category.

Why Are You in Such a Hurry? will now be premiered by the Dunedin Consort in Glasgow on Friday, October 2. This concert will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show, and will go out at 2pm on Sunday, November 1.

John Butt, Director of the Dunedin Consort, said: “It has been a pleasure to spend time with these fine young composers, all of whom show great promise for the future. We look forward to polishing the winning pieces in preparation for their premiere later this year.”

That premiere will be recorded for posterity on BBC Radio 3 in November.

John says he hopes to do more composition work in the future, when work allows.

“I teach full time where I live in Devon,” he said, “so working on this piece, for instance, meant a lot of evenings and weekends.

“But there have been other composers who had ‘day’ jobs. Holst, who wrote The Planets, worked in a girls’ school, so it’s definitely doable.”

He also plans a collaboration with Berwick dance teacher Jane Keenan.

“That will an educational, ballet piece,” he said, “which I’m really looking forward to writing. I can’t tell you what the story of the piece is yet, as it’s a secret, but it’s being planned for 2016.”