Interview with a composer: Chris O'Hara
Chris O'Hara sings second bass in The Manchester Chorale and has had two of his compositions, Bright Star and Rouen, performed by the Chorale.
Q When did you start composing?
At the age of 11. I was a complete geek and my ambition was to become a composer and/or archaeologist – an intriguing combination! I went to St Edward's College in Liverpool, a great school for music-making and wrote short pieces for the school orchestra and choir (most of which have thankfully been lost to the world!). I studied archaeology at Leicester University but spent most of my time making and writing music – singing in a variety of choirs and having serious fun writing incidental music for student shows.
Q Who have been your main inﬂuences?
Difﬁcult to pin this down but I would say deﬁnitely Britten's writing for the voice has been a big inﬂuence. He's such an eclectic magpie of a composer and I think I too fall into that category. My tastes in music are extremely broad – possibly also the choral writing of Hindemith, Debussy and a range of contemporary choral music.
Q And what sort of music do you write?
For many years, as well as full-time music and arts teaching, I travelled the UK at weekends running liturgical music days and events and composed a wide range of music for different seasons and moods which has been published in several collections. Through my work with amateur community choirs and in schools, I have composed works for satb choir, children's choir, soloists and orchestras – The Mountain (about, surprisingly, mountains!); The Other Shore (in Hebrew and English, telling the story of the 1938 'Kindertransport') and The Trees Alone Remain (written for The Woodland Trust to celebrate the 2012 Diamond Jubilee).
Links to my music can be found by visiting my website (in dire need of updating!) at www.chrisoharamusic.com and also www.thetreesaloneremain.blogspot.com.
Q What have you written for the Chorale and why?
I've been working on setting the work of English Romantic poets – mainly because I love the poetry particularly of Blake, Wordsworth and Keats, and also because they're out of copyright! I've set the poem 'Bright Star' by John Keats, which was written for his love Fanny Brawne. It's an intensely erotic poem, which is also incredibly spiritual, and I hope I've captured this duality in the setting I've produced. Although very tonal, it is slightly challenging in parts but the Chorale make a great sound and I know will give it their best shot.