Update October 2020
Making Music Awards 2020
Success for John Gourlay and KOS
At the recent Making Music (National Federation of Music Societies) Annual Awards for 2020 held
on Tuesday 8th September, Fife's Community Orchestra, KIRKCALDY ORCHESTRAL SOCIETY,
was proud to convert its earlier shortlisting in two categories to a WIN and a joint RUNNER-UP.
In the category Best Music Creator for leisure-time music group, Dunfermline-based composer and
KOS member John Gourlay's Concerto di Famiglia, a concerto for an entire Fife family to play
with the orchestra came in as joint runner-up. The family in question, the Randalls from
Glenrothes have all been connected with the orchestra at various times and John was delighted
to write something special for them - Phil, April, Eilidh, Chloe and Rosie.
The balance of instruments (oboe, two violas, cello and….tuba!) gave John a satisfying challenge
and the Concerto di Famiglia was successfully performed at the orchestra's first concert of the
season last October (2019).
Best Project with a Focus on New Music
In the category Best Project with a focus on new music, Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society took the award.
Since 2014, KOS has run a Schools Composition Project and the 2019 edition was what took the
judges' eyes and ears with its innovative and supportive work with young composers.
The project has always been led by John Gourlay in various Fife secondary schools and has
significantly involved players from the orchestra as performers of the young composers' work.
The 2019 project included the work undertaken with S3 pupils at St Columba's RC High School,
Dunfermline in the autumn of 2019, and in the earlier part of the year at The Waid Academy
and Dunfermline High School. There was also reference to a work by the then Madras College
student composer Isobel Grieve when the project ran there.
Her Paragon of Vice was given a full KOS performance in 2019 and was included in the award
Update August 2020
Making Music Awards 2020
John has been short-listed in two categories of the Making Music Awards 2020. John is
a playing member of Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society and last year wrote a concerto for
an entire Fife family to play with the orchestra. The Randalls from Glenrothes have
all been connected with the orchestra at various times and John was delighted to write
something special for them. The balance of instruments (oboe, two violas, cello and….tuba!)
was quite tricky, but the Concerto di Famiglia was successfully performed at the orchestra's
first concert of the season last October. Making Music is the umbrella organisation for
amateur music groups in the UK and the orchestra nominated John for the award of Best Music Creator.
The Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society Schools Composition Project within the year 2019 is the other shortlisted
nomination,this time for the Best Project Involving New Music.
The project has always been led by John Gourlay in various Fife secondary schools since 2014 and
has significantly involved players from the orchestra as performers of the young composers' work.
This includes the work undertaken with S3 pupils at St Columba's RC High School in
the autumn of 2019, and the earlier part of the year as the project at The Waid Academy and Dunfermline High
School came to fruition.
The announcement of winners and presentation of awards takes place on Tuesday 8 September.
To visit the Making Music shortlist announcement click here
Update March 2020
Leave to Live
In February John himself gave the première of Leave to Live at the Fife Festival of Music. This was as part of a
non-competitive adult class in the auditorium of the Adam Smith Theatre.
In the spring of 2019 John was taken ill with a subdural haematoma. Thanks to an on-the-ball GP and to the nursing
and surgical staff at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, the
condition was dealt with successfully. Lying in bed after a craniotomy the composer conceived this piece as
a way of marking his deliverance and recovery from his first serious illness and as a way of expressing
gratitude for the outcome. Consequently the piece is dedicated to the above medical staff and in general
to NHS Scotland.
The title is taken from a quotation from the work of Scottish writer Nan Shepherd,
"It's a grand thing to get leave to live," which can also be found on banknotes and I the Writers' Close at the top of
Edinburgh's Mound. Although the ten-minute piece is not a musical portrayal of events, there are references to the
onset of the haematoma, the craniotomy and an MRI scan (in itself a very sonic experience).
The solo saxophone part is sometimes written to be played 'in tempo', sometimes 'senza misura'.
Some passages are written in skeleton form and are intended to be elaborated by ornamentation and/or
improvisation. The backing was devised using GarageBand software.
John hopes to give a second performance of Leave to Live at the KOS Extra concert on Tuesday 5 May in
Kirkcaldy Old Kirk.
Please note, this concert has now been postponed.
Further information is available on Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society's web pages Click here.
The English Trombone Consort
The English Trombone Consort have issued their second CD, B Is For Bruckner, Brahms, Bach, Boogie
includes a piece by John - Nepeta Cataria (Catnip).
Nepeta Cataria (Catnip) originated as a jazz workshop piece in 1998 and Harlequin Music published a jazz
orchestra version the following year. John re-arranged it last year for trombone quartet at the suggestion of one
of the ETC's members, Martha Ann Brookes, for whom John's Sir Patrick Spens and Ballad were written
and performed between 2006 and 2015.
Update January 2020
John has two premières this spring. Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society will perform his Concerto for Orchestra
in March, 7.30pm on Friday 20 March at St Columba's High School and 3.00pm on Sunday 22 March at
Kirkcaldy Old Kirk. This new work has the subtitle Old Kirk Concerto No. 2; John is intending to write
a series of concertos, the first having been the Concerto di Famiglia premièred in October.
The above concerts have now been postponed.
Further information is available on Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society's web pages Click here.
In April Fife Youth Concert Band is to give the first performance of a piece especially written for them,
The Pilgrim Way. This follows John's walking of the route last summer after a serious illness and the music
will reference Dunfermline Abbey, the mining heritage of central Fife and the various martyrs in and
around St Andrews.
The Fife Youth Concert Band performance at 3.00pm on Sunday 5th April is at Lochgelly Centre.
The Fife Youth Concert Band concert has now been cancelled.
Update October 2019
There have been a few performances of John's music in 2019, but a serious illness meant
that he missed some of them.
John was supposed to be directing the première of his Scottish Renaissance Dances
at the Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society 'Extra' concert on 30 April, but was then still in hospital.
This suite is intended as a companion piece to Peter Maxwell Davies' Renaissance Scottish Dances.
The concert also featured a première of Ronnie McNiven's La Mort Parfumeé and Ives' The Unanswered Question,
both of which John was to have directed; Graeme Wilson boldly took over the supervision of all of these.
John had also invited Kenneth Letham to give performances of two solo trombone pieces, Berio's Sequenza V and
Folke Rabe's Basta.
Two days later John was also to have played in the Edinburgh University Composers' Orchestra spring
concert which included his The Weaving Midnight Moon, first performed by the London
Contemporary Chamber Orchestra in 2016.
The following week, at an Eden Ensemble concert at St Vincent's Chapel in Edinburgh April Randall and
Stephen Morrison reprised some movements from Stone Stories, written for them in 2013.
October sees two more performances of John's music at Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society's first concert of the season.
A second performance of Scottish Renaissance Dances (this time under John's direction) will start the
second half but a centrepiece of the event is the première of John's Concerto di Famiglia.
This is a kind of concerto grosso written for the entire Randall family, parents April and Phil and their daughters
Eilidh, Chloe and Rosie. The concertino ensemble is oboe, two violas, cello and…….tuba;
writing for this grouping was a considerable challenge!
This concert is at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk at 7.30pm on Tuesday 1 October 2019.
Performances October - December 2018
The Tale of the Red Etin.
The Tale of the Red Etin - John Gourlay
Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society, Sandra Taylor (narrator) and The Langtoun Singers (director Ella Wilson)
conducted by Graeme Wilson Première performance at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk, Sunday 16 December 2018
Click here to listen to 'Red Etin'
Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society gave 'Now fades the glimmering landscape' the first performance in its full
orchestral version on 2 October. This was the orchestra's first concert of the season in the
orchestra's home of Kirkcaldy Old Kirk.
A further performance of the original version for flexible ensemble was included in a concert by Edinburgh
University Composers' Orchestra for whom it was originally written. This was in the Reid Concert Hall,
Edinburgh, on Thursday 29 November and the performance can be heard on John's soundcloud page.
Click here to listen to 'Now fades the glimmering landscape'
Edinburgh University Composers' Orchestra
A new work, 'Capillaire Games' was premièred by Fife Youth Orchestra on Thursday 1 November.
'The Capillaire Minuet' by the eighteenth century Fife composer Thomas Erskine, 6th Earl of Kelly.
Each section of the orchestra in turn is given prominence in a series of free variations on the melody
of the original.
Another première will be presented on Sunday 16 December when Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society will perform
'The Tale of the Red Etin'. This is a setting of a traditional Scottish horror story featuring a
narrator (Sandra Taylor) and choir (The Langtoun Singers). These two seasonal concerts at 2.00pm. and 4.00pm.
at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk are usually sell-outs; further details are available on the orchestra's website
Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society
Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society Schools Composition Project 2018-2019
The fifth composition project is now well under way with six young composers from Dunfermline High School and
The Waid Academy, Anstruther. Annie, Beth, Chiara, Dan, Orla and Shannon are writing trios which will be
performed by members of the orchestra at a special concert on Tuesday 26 March 2019 in Kirkcaldy Old Kirk.
Heriot-Watt University Composition Competition
John's piece O Columba
won joint first prize in this year's Heriot-Watt University Composition
Competition. The original version followed the competition guidelines and was 4-part choir
and 5-part mixed instrumental ensemble.
was then scored out and rehearsed on the 2018 Inchcolm New Music Ensemble course in
June and the première took place at Iona Abbey on Thursday 28 June conducted by Steve King.
Subsequent performances followed in Tobermory on 29 June and at St. Giles Cathedral,
Edinburgh on 30 June.
To listen to O Columba click here.
Inchcolm New Music Ensemble
Claude Debussy in 2018: A Centenary Celebration
Responding to a call for scores, John has written a piece Sonata No. 5 - Bon Soir, Monsieur Croche.
The intention of this call was to invite submissions for new compositions written for the forces
of one or other of the two smaller chamber sonatas Debussy left unfinished at his death in 1918.
John chose to write for the combination of clarinet, bassoon, trumpet and piano and the piece will form
part of the celebrations which are taking the form of a week-long symposium organised jointly by the
Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester and the University of Glasgow -
John's piece Bon Soir, Monsieur Croche was workshopped at the Royal Northern College of Music,
Manchester on Wednesday 21 March and at Glasgow University on Friday 23 March. This was as part
of a week-long symposium organised by these institutions to commemorate the centenary of the death of Debussy.
In Manchester pieces by John, Nate Chivers, Kevin Leomo and Ronnie McNiven were performed by RNCM
students and workshop discussions took place under the guidance of staff Gary Carpenter and
Adam Gorb. In Glasgow the performers were members of the RSNO, the composers being the same
as above plus Ailie Robertson and Max Johnson (via skype from the USA).
John’s duet for flute and violin, Aquarelle, is to be included on a CD
to be issued at the end of July.
RMN Music put out a call for contemporary duos and trios last year
and John’s piece was one of those selected for the album. The
performers are Italian musicians P. Doronzo (flute) and C. M. Rizzi
(violin) and the recording was made at the Studio Cultura e Musica
G. Curci in Barletta in south east Italy.
Purchase/download details below.
click to listen: Explorations 21st Century Music for Duo and Trio
click here for: Amazon download link
Also available at: Spotify, Google play and iTunes