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It was wonderful to see such a large audience attending a whole evening of new music at Hoxton Hall last Wednesday; the event was everything I had hoped it would be. A lively crowd, an attractive and informal venue, interesting introductions by composers from the competition judging panel and, most of all, a fascinating selection of diverse but intimate pieces all helped to create a special atmosphere.

The concert was the culmination of a lot of activity over the last year, which included approaching composers to ask them to write piano love songs, setting up setting up the competition, fundraising for the project, judging the vast number of competition entries and, over the last few weeks, learning a great deal of new repertoire. For all the preparation that went into planning the concert, I had no idea, until recently, (that is until the commissioned pieces were actually written and the competition winners decided) what the programme would really be like and whether it would make a satisfying evening’s music. Even a week or two ago, when I had got to the stage of knowing the pieces well myself and was enyoying them, I still couldn’t be sure what others would think of them.

Two things have really pleased me in the feedback that I have had so far. The first is that a significant number of audience members, when asked which pieces they enjoyed most, have replied by saying that they liked every single one of them and were engaged throughout the concert by the diversity of the programme. The second is that those who did identify favourite pieces chose such a wide range of pieces in the programme. In fact there was not a single piece that I played amongst the twelve new love songs that was not someone’s personal favourite!

The brief that I gave composers for the commissions and for the competition was very simple, namely to write a short love song for solo piano. No stylistic restrictions were imposed. The resulting collection of pieces has turned out to be a kind of celebration of the richness and diversity that can be found in today’s music. What the pieces all have in common is that they are very personal and heartfelt statements by the individual composers, and in this respect (and because we can all relate to music that is about love) the pieces are very approachable.

This goes to the heart of what I hoped to achieve with this project. I still have six more premieres this summer, and then the collection will be complete (for the moment!). I am looking forward to recording them all for my next album (Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs), which I plan to record in July.

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William Howard
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