‘concerto in three movements’ in celebration of David Heyes’ 60th birthday
It will be 21 years on the 10th of August when, fortunately, I first met David Heyes. The occasion was Bass-Fest ’99 held at Reading. I had received a most uplifting letter from David on the 3rd of July 1999, informing me that my solo double bass piece, ‘abalone’, had just been awarded 1st prize in the British & International Bass Forum Composition Competition. The letter also invited me to attend its premiere performance to be given by Corrado Canonici at the August Bass-Fest. This was the first work I had composed for double bass and little did I dream what a significant impact the competition, a trip to Reading and that far-reaching meeting with David Heyes would have on my life as a composer.
On that occasion, as well as David and Corrado, I also met Tony Osborne, Mette Hanskov and Teppo Hauto-aho; but in addition, importantly I heard a lot of music for the double bass, a huge variety of it – I’d never attended one of these events before – played by a miscellany number of players of all abilities, and I very much liked what I heard. And what I found particularly agreeable was the utter love and buoyant enthusiasm that David Heyes naturally exuded for the double bass, its music and for the players willing to perform it.
Since that day he has kindly given me innumerable opportunities to write for the double bass, pushed for me to attend workshops or bass festivals and introduced me to world-class performers, always with an eye to encourage my endeavours as a composer, to slowly add my voice to the repertoire of music for the double bass.
Although I unable to play it, I have now written over 60 works for the incredible double bass, mostly as a result of meeting and befriending David Heyes. So I thought it would be a peak plan to write a concerto for him, in order to celebrate his 60th birthday, but also in tribute to and gratitude for these years I have known him and for all the valuable advice and generous support he has so willingly given to me regarding this wonderful instrument and its music.
The ‘concerto in three movements’ – for double bass and string orchestra – has an overall characteristic of lyricism and, to my mind, this quality exists in each of its movements. I feel it is a trait that David much admires – he is after all married to a remarkably fine singer and ‘song’ is a major part of their lives. Much of the material of the first movement comes from a short interlude composed between two of my songs of some twelve years ago that set poems by Sara Teasdale (here, developed into something else entirely). The second movement’s main melodic idea and harmonies come from an unfinished song of mine that was setting some words of Thomas Hardy. And the final movement takes its lyrical theme from a self-penned (words and music) song of many moons long past that had the title of ‘after all this time’. It seemed appropriate. John Alexander June 2020
John Alexander was born in West Sussex in 1942 and began to compose at the age of 20. At the time he discovered a fascination for art, literature, dance, architecture and sculpture and these topics, along with mathematics, have continued to have a bearing on his work. He studied composition with Edmund Rubbra at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and later with Jonathan Harvey and Peter Wiegold at the University of Sussex.
John Alexander has never been a prolific composer, but an impressive and growing body of work reflects a rare eye for detail and structure - each work beautifully crafted and reworked until every inflection, detail and nuance is perfect. Probably best described as a miniaturist, he writes in a fluent, independent and strongly personal style with an intense desire to create music which communicates to both performer and audience alike.
In 1999 John Alexander won the 1st BIBF Composition Contest and was invited to be a judge for several BIBF competitions. He was a featured composer at Bass-Fest 2001, was an spnm short-listed composer for three years, and was Composer-in-residence at the 2004 Rotterdam Conservatoire Double Bass Weekend, Bass-Fest 2006 and 2007 Wells Double Bass Weekend. His works have been performed and broadcast throughout the world and he was written an impressive and unique body of work for double bass.