John Gourlay

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John Gourlay

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John Gourlay


Fresh from the St. Magnus Festival 2015, a dynamic quintet for flute/piccolo, bass clarinet, violin, viola and 'cello.

Scottish Music Centre

Scottish Music Centre

John Gourlay

Much of John Gourlay's music is available from the Scottish Music Centre

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Current Projects.

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Heriot-Watt University Composition Competition

Iona Abbey

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.
O Columba 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.

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 -

For details click here.

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).

Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society Composition Project 2017-18

Now in its fourth year, John is leading the Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society project which aims to develop
musical composition with Fife school pupils. The project provides additional support for pupils
composing for SQA folios at Higher and Advanced Higher level and to arrange for rehearsal and live
performance of the resulting pieces.

A dozen members of the orchestra have volunteered to be the players for this music and six young composers
from Madras College, St. Andrews, and Woodmill High School, Dunfermline, have selected a combination
of these instruments for their work. Isobel Grieve, Katie Grieve, Bartholomew Upton, Becky Campbell,
Adam Emslie and James Miller are now completing the first drafts of their compositions.

All are working under the guidance of composer and orchestra member John Gourlay and with the support
of the Principal Teachers Lynne Miller at Madras College and Ellen Bogie at Woodmill High School.
The culmination of the project will be a live performance and recording of all six pieces by members
of the orchestra on 20th March in the Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy, Variation 5.

The performance and recording of the 2017-18 KOS Schools Composition Project took place on Tuesday 20 March at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk.
The programme was as follows -

La Nuit de la Danse Becky Campbell Woodmill High School

The Romanov Steppes Katie Grieve Madras College

The Winds of Experimentation James Miller Woodmill High School

The Journey Bartholomew Upton Madras College

Honestly, I can't think of anything Adam Emslie Woodmill High School

Natural Selection Isobel Grieve Madras College

The players were -
Lynne Bulmer - flute, Stuart Smith - clarinet
Vincent Gray, Margot Miller & Jenny Bain - violin
Susan Keith & Graeme Wilson - viola
Katie O'Neil &Abi Pearson- cello
Lorna Henry - double bass
Directed by John Gourlay


December saw two premières of compositions by John at the winter concerts of Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society.

Onze Noëls Après Charpentier is a modern arrangement for orchestra of eleven traditional carols used by
Marc-Antoine Charpentier in his Messe de Minuit pour Noël performed on Christmas Eve in the early 1690s.
The Langtoun Singers (directed by Ella Wilson) gave the first performances of This Child for women's voices
and piano. John composed the music and wrote the words for this new carol.

The orchestra (directed by Graeme Wilson) also played arrangements of Purcell's Rondeau from 'Abdelazer'
and We Wish You A Merry Christmas and were joined by the choir and audience for new arrangements of
Four Traditional Carols (The Sussex Carol, Away In A Manger, Good King Wenceslas and Adeste Fideles).
All these pieces featured in two concerts given on Sunday 17 December at Kirkcaldy Old Kirk.

No hay camino

John recently entered an orchestral piece, "No hay camino" in The Alvarez
Chamber Orchestra "As You Like It" Composition Competition 2016/17.
Although the piece wasn't selected for the final prize-winners, the
adjudicators made some very complimentary comments,
"No hay camino is a vivid work, well orchestrated and
full of well judged contrast."

To listen to No hay camino click here
To hire the piece for performance please email John directly.
Click here to email John

Explorations CD cvr

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

KOS at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Eardley Players Eardley Players

Following the performance of Five Joan Eardley Pictures and other pieces at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society players repeated some of the programme at the KOS – Extra concert. Vincent Gray and Lynne Bulmer performed Aquarelle, Stephen Morrison and April Randall reprised Lithoglyph and Stuart Smith and Katie O’Neil premiered Impasto. All these pieces had been chosen for the Edinburgh concert because of their visual art connections.

Eardley Players

Five Joan Eardley Pictures
Eardley Players

John Gourlay plays oboe and cor anglais in Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society and regularly writes for the group. Last year he penned Five Joan Eardley Pictures for a trio of clarinet, horn and cello, premièred at a KOS concert in Kirkcaldy in April 2016 by Stuart Smith, Andreas Morrison and Katie O'Neil. This composition is being repeated in connection with the current exhibition of Joan Eardley's work, A Sense of Place, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Modern Two in Belford Road. The five sections of the piece are responses to five paintings byJoan Eardley (1921-63), all of which are in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.

1. Street Kids (1949-51)
2. Seeded Grasses and Daisies (1960)
3. The Wave (1961)
4. Children and Chalked Wall No. 3 (1963)
5. Catterline in Winter (1963)

The performance will take place in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street, Edinburgh from 6.00-6.30pm on Thursday 27 April 2017. Players from the orchestra will also present three of John's duets with visual art connections, Aquarelle, Lithoglyph and Impasto.

To listen to Five Joan Eardley Pictures click here

Edinburgh University Composers' Orchestra

'Now fades the glimmering landscape' was premièred and recorded by this orchestra on 24 November 2016 in the Reid Concert Hall, Edinburgh. This composition is written in an 'open score format' of five parts and optional percussion, the distribution of parts depending on the make-up of the ensemble. The inspiration is the second stanza of Gray's Elegy - "Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, And all the air a solemn stillness holds."

To listen to 'Now fades the glimmering landscape' click here.

St Magnus Festival - Hebrides Ensemble & Max

hebrides Ensemble

I was commissioned to a new piece for the Hebrides Ensemble to perform at the St Magnus Festival in a programme that reflected a concert in the first festival, celebrated ensemble's 25th anniversary and was a tribute to the festival's founder, Peter Maxwell Davies.

Yann Ghiro (clarinet), Zoe Beyers (violin), William Conway (cello) and Philip Moore (piano) gave the première of Midsummer Sunrise in St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall on Thursday 23 June 2016. The Guardian described the piece as being "full of spry and urgent sounds" and the Scotsman said that it was - "bold and angular, yet melismatic and mysterious - a hugely striking piece from a Scottish composer who should be heard more often."

The concert was recorded by the BBC for broadcast on Radio 3 and the first part (which includes Midsummer Sunrise) is scheduled for Tuesday 5 July at 1.00pm.

Click to see Festival Programme page

Guitar Selection Box

Guitarist Stephen Morrison is giving a recital at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. In the year of Shakespeare's 400th legacy celebration, the programme will include the première of my solo guitar piece Seven Ages, inspired by Jacques' speech in As You Like It and dedicated to Stephen.

The Seven Ages of Man was already an established formula when Shakespeare gave it form in As You Like It, likening our worldly existence to that of actors in a play. We are first introduced to the infant in arms who grows into the scholar creeping unwillingly to school. We then meet the lugubrious lover who in turn becomes the swaggering soldier. The fifth stage of corpulent middle age is followed by the shrinking into old age and finally the return to the second childishness that precedes the end.

The rest of the programme is an indulgently refreshing, mix of luxuriant guitar music. Spanning two centuries; from the birth of the six string guitar to the present day, masterworks from 19th century Europe to South America will be performed on a beautifully restored period instrument and a uniquely designed modern instrument. This recital is equally matched by the acoustical environment of the venue church; elegant and refined.

To listen to Seven Ages click here
 Stephen Morrison Guitar
Stephen Morrison
Recorded at St Andrew's and St George's West Church, 13 George Street, Edinburgh 17 August 2016

The Paddok And The Mous
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Jane Atkins Viola, Alison Green Bassoon
Scottish Chamber Orchestra Musicians
Jane Atkins Viola, Alison Green Bassoon

The Paddok And The Mous
Following a call for scores in a joint venture by St. Andrews Music Centre and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, fifteen pieces were submitted. Four new pieces for viola and bassoon selected for a workshop in St. Andrews on Tuesday 16 February, one of which was John's 'The Paddok and the Mous'. The players, Jane Atkins (viola), Alison Green (bassoon) of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and composer Tom Harrold selected John's piece for inclusion in a concert at The Byre Theatre the following day. 'The Paddok And The Mous' and pieces by Mozart, Tom Harrold and Eddie McGuire formed the programme of the early evening recital at the Byre Theatre.


Kirkcaldy Orchestral Society Composition Project 2016-17

Now in its third session, this project is a unique idea in action in the community, combining learning and creativity with practical and professional input. Beath High School and St Columba's High School are involved this session, each selecting three young composers who will compose a piece of music for three instruments selected from volunteers from the orchestra.

I will visit both schools on a regular basis from August - February and the culmination of the project is a performance and recording of all the compositions before an audience of teachers, family and friends in March 2017.

London Contemporary Chamber Orchestra
This amateur group workshopped ten selected pieces on 5 March in Herne Hill, London. My composition, 'The Weaving Midnight Moon', was one of those selected and I travelled to London for the event. (All three of my children live in London and my wife was able to enjoy Mothers Day with the family the following day.) Each piece was played through and the players then asked questions and gave their views on the composition and its presentation. After the workshop, there was a seminar about score presentation for amateur players whilst the members of the orchestra voted on which to include in their autumn concert. I was very pleased that my composition was one of those selected; Alan Taylor conducted the première at the church of St George The Martyr in Borough High Street, London on 1 October 2016. In December Matt Dilley recorded the orchestra playing the piece.
Click here to listen to The Weaving Midnight Moon
Click to visit the London Contemporary Chamber Orchestra