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Harvey Brough
1957 -
Great Britain, England
H. Brough
Harvey Brough (24/10/1957) is one of the UKís most accomplished and diverse musicians. For the last 30 years he has worked in an extraordinary number of musical styles, always with the best and most interesting collaborators in each discipline. He started his musical life aged six, as a choirboy at Coventry Cathedral, singing Bach Cantatas and recording Benjamin Britten compositions by the time he was thirteen. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Lady Barbirolli and then at Clare College Cambridge. Since then he has worked professionally in music, as a performer, arranger, conductor, producer and composer.
Requiem in Blue
Composed in:1998
Musical form:free
Text/libretto:Latin mass + English texts
In memory of:the composer's brother Lester Brough
Label(s):Smudged discs SMU603
Requiem in Blue (1998), for SATB Choir, Childrenís Choir + 8 piece band.
It contains:
1. Introit and Kyrie
2. Offertorium
3. Sanctus
4. Benedictus
5. Agnus Dei
6. Libera me
7. Pie Jesu (add. 2004)
8. In Paradisum
9. Lux Aeterna
Contributor:Arye Kendi
Requiem in Blue, written ten years ago in memory of Harveyís brother Lester, is based on the traditional Latin Mass and incorporates folksong, plainsong, blues, jazz, gospel and improvised elements. Alongside the Latin words of the Requiem Mass, the work also features words from the inspirational play Spoonface Steinberg, written by Lee Hall, (writer of Billy Elliot). It is scored for small ensemble (percussion, bass, keyboards, chamber organ, theorbo, Celtic harp & flugelhorn) with 3 vocal soloists, SATB choir and children's choir. The piece has been performed some three dozen times, all over the UK and in Europe, by thousands of singers of all ages.
Harvey Brough: "I won the first Andrew Milne Award for jazz composition in 1998 and wrote the piece for 2 performances in January that year. Itís for an adult choir, a choir of children and a band of 8 musicians. Iím proud to say that I have performed it some 24 times, all over the UK and in Europe. Performances have been at the Barbican, Union Chapel, Cadogan Hall, London, the Usher Hall Edinburgh, Wavendon Stables, Ely Cathedral and it has been featured in many Festivals including Chelsea and the Cambridge International Festival. I made a programme about Requiem in Blue for BBC Radio 4. It is also performed without me, published by Chester Music. These are the programme notes that I wrote for the first performance of Requiem in Blue and I think are still relevant:
It's a long story but I'll try to tell you some of it. When I was 17 my brother Lester was killed in a motorcycle accident - that's the sort of thing that you don't believe could ever happen to someone close to you and it takes a long time to even start to deal with and more than a lifetime to begin to understand. Our family was and is very close and we always resolved that he should be remembered with as much joy as grief. For many years I think we all expected to wake up and discover that it hadn't really happened but so far that hasn't been the case. My family are all involved with music - our grandfather Fred Brough was a violinist who had led the BBC Northern Orchestra and co-led the Halle and his brother Sam also led a series of dance bands, which always pleased me as much if not more. My mother's family were also very musical if not so conspicuously and she is a beautiful singer - if I picked up any vocal talent it was certainly from her and not my father, Jimmy who always had trouble with words at the same time as notes.
It was Lester who apparently decided that the Coventry Cathedral Choir was for him, so much so that he talked my parents into losing their weekends, Christmas and Easter vacations for the next 15 or so years. I followed suit, followed by Rex who was regarded as the best Brough yet until he fell in love with the guitar more than the cello and set off in his own direction (which is another and equally interesting story). Sadly our elder sister Terry was excluded from choral life by inconveniently not being male - the debate about whether girls should be allowed to sing in choirs still seems to drag on - stupidly, as far as I am concerned. She is now a well loved teacher sharing her musical flair with her lucky classes and I hope she is at least encouraged by the fact that the vast majority of performers tonight in the band and in the choirs are female. So I sang at Coventry for some 15 years, falling hopelessly in love with the music and some of the remarkable people there including Robert Weddle, my choir master and eventually my friend. I left when I went to the Royal Academy of Music aged 17 expecting to find the same sort of musical joy there but with a few exceptions, for instance Lady Barbirolli, my oboe teacher I was disappointed. Meanwhile Lester had gone to Cambridge to study medicine although he was always very active musically, playing in the National Youth Orchestra and then winning a Choral Scholarship to Clare College. I was very unimpressed with his approach, being convinced that Cambridge was full of toffs, and so resisted his invitations to judge for myself until midway through his second year. When I finally went to sniff at his fine friends I was rather amazed to find that Cambridge provided him with opportunities to sing and play music that I could never find in London and I rapidly rethought my republican principles and asked him to set up a meeting with the head of music at Clare College, one John Rutter. JR agreed to meet me but quite rightly pointed out that my academic qualifications were not really of the right calibre. This didn't worry me too much and I decided to leave the Academy and, one of the strangest things I have ever done in a lifetime of strangeness, go back to school to get some more qualifications. That summer Lester died but this made me more rather than less determined to go to Cambridge. and eventually I did (although there is another story to tell about this - some other time). There then followed four fabulous years in spite of the loss of Lester in which I played, sang, conducted, nearly got thrown out, tried doing a little work, and finally scraped through to getting a degree.
At this point I wondered which direction I would take in classical music and promptly formed a band - Harvey and the Wallbangers, a modestly named combo which took off in yet another direction. I loved being in a band and I loved performing music which appealed to anybody, with or without a degree - we played anywhere that would have us, from prisons to the Royal Variety show (you can imagine where we got the best reaction). This took up six years of my life and it was great. Splitting up when it came was very sad for me but we had achieved most of the things that we set out to do and had an excellent last year and farewell tour, one of the few singular ones that I know of.
So on to the next stage of my life and I have been fortunate since then to work as an arranger, producer, writer for TV and film and sometimes as a singer with early music groups. Through all of these years I had at the back of my mind an idea of writing a Requiem for Lester, and latterly for my father who died too suddenly some years ago.
Fast forward to 1997 when I came to Eye for what I thought was the first time (although Andrew Parrott recently reminded me that I had been with him and the Taverner Choir to perform the Machaut Mass) I fell in love with the area and tried to buy a house there.
While house hunting I had to get a train to London to do some work and I spotted Ian Chance on the train who was off to an Early music network meeting. I engineered a chance (ha!) encounter with him on the platform at Liverpool Street and between there and St Pauls, where he got off the tube, dropped some heavy hints about a Requiem that I wanted to write involving early music and jazz. I had done an arrangement for Jacqui Dankworth for a recording with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra which seemingly of its own accord had turned into the first movement of the piece which you'll hear tonight. Nothing seemed to come of it until January this year when our agent, Vic Gibbons, sent me some information about the Andrew Milne Award, suggesting that my band Field of Blue should apply for it. I racked my brains but couldn't think of a better reason than wanting to spend some time recording in a beautiful place and could we have some money, please? Then as the application date was truly imminent I threw together the idea of the Requiem in Blue and, taking my courage in both hands, rang Ian to say a) did he fancy commissioning it and b) could he put together a budget in 24 hours otherwise we'd miss the deadline. He was up to his neck in the Great Barn project but somehow faxed his part of the proposal to me and we won it. It's the first thing of it's kind that I've applied for and I was truly amazed and quite scared.
Again fast forward to June this year when I'm about to be married and Sharon Lewis appeared on the Wingfield scene as education officer (in the nick of time for me). She contacted schools in the area and a surprising number expressed a keenness to take part. I was rather abashed as I went round to see these hard working and inspiring people coaxing magical sounds out of their surprisingly docile (as I thought) pupils. My mother is a teacher, but the whole concept is still a mystery to me as I'm still learning to discipline myself rather than anyone else. I wish that their input was better respected and better rewarded than seems to be the case and that music and other arts will not be marginalized in schools through lack of budget or prioritization of more "useful" subjects. Anyway, if anything spurred me on through my moments of complete despair at being able to write anything half decent, it was the fear of letting both teachers and children down when they returned from their summer holiday.
Writing the piece was very hard for me, partly because it was emotionally so loaded and partly because I could almost not bear to write anything, in case it wasn't good enough. †I do not subscribe to a particular religion in spite of having been brought up as a choirboy in the Anglican church so it's odd to find myself writing a piece that is central to the Christian faith. But when I was writing the Sanctus it occurred to me that religion is in a way like an endless river flowing through the ages and it's not a bad thing to immerse one's self from time to time and see where one surfaces. I wanted to write something that is accessible to as many people as possible and that used all the music that I have been lucky enough to have been involved with - the mixture of folk songs, nursery rhymes and blues jazz or pop influences with ancient material such as plainsong and the Latin text may sound strange on paper but seems perfectly natural to me. It draws on my whole life experience as a person and as a musician ; for the first time in my life of creating music I don't know (or even really care) if it's good or bad but I do know that it could only have come from me. It's a relief to hand it over tonight to you."
Author:Harvey Brough
Lee Hall