George Newson

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George Newson working with Delia in 1966

Wikidelia version

In 1966, Delia worked with contemporary composer George Newson to realise the sound for musical radio drama The Man Who Collected Sounds. His granddaughter writes:

My grandparents say that Delia became a good friend and she came to visit many times. They fondly remember Delia lifting their daughter Julia up on to her shoulders to play, and every Christmas she'd send them a hamper from Selfridges. After the performance of George's piece, Arena, they all went back for a small party at Delia's place in London.

George is alive and well and happy to be contacted.[1]

Wikipedia version

George Newson is a contemporary composer and photographer. He made substantial advances in electronic composition and modes of recording for British electronic music in the 1960s[2]. He has 18 works in 17 library holdings[3] and collections with the British Music Collection [4], the University of Glasgow[5], the Scottish Music Centre[6], and the British Library[7].

Early life

Born in London's docklands (1932) Newson taught himself to read music and play the piano[8]. He was overheard playing boogie-woogie piano in a youth centre and was awarded a piano scholarship to the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music, London, aged 14, just a few years after having been evacuated during the Blitz. Nine years later, he attended Royal Academy of Music on a scholarship.

Music and performances

From 1966, Newson set song cycles to poems by friend, Leonard Smith, for the BBC entitled The Man Who Collected Sounds, heralded as 'equally ambitious in its radiophonic exploitation of sounds and voices[9]'. This was facilitated by the BBC BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the technical facilitation given by Delia Derbyshire, in the realisation of tape parts. No further access to the Radiophonic Workshop was allowed without further BBC commission, thus providing impetus for George to pursue a Winston Churchill Fellowship[2].

In 1967 he was granted a fellowship to the USA[10]. Here he stayed in Trumansburg and abased himself at the Moog factory with Robert Moog for several weeks, but his five month stay included visits to a number of other major electronic studios, including the Southern Illinosis University in Carbondale and the University of Illinosis, Urbana[11]. There he composed Silent Spring, in which birdsong rather than instruments played a prominent role making a statement about humanity's impact upon nature that was decades ahead of its time[12]. He then worked at the RAI studio, Milan, producing Canto II for clarinet and tape (1968), which was performed at the Venice Biennale in 1969. In the same year he worked at the University of Utrecht, making his third tape composition, Genus II. Here, his electronic works sponsored by the British Society for Electronic Music were well received[13].

George went on to hold the Cramb Research Fellowship in Composition at Glasgow University (1972-75), where he received critical acclaim for pieces he composed for the Scottish National Orchestra[14]. The BBC (William Glock) commissioned Arena for the 1971 Proms (conductor, Boulez; singer, Celo Laine)[15], Songs for the Turning Year for the 1993 season, and various other chamber and ensemble works over three decades. One of his most studied pieces is Arena - 'a kind of staged oratorio addressing different sociopolitical "games", climaxing in the shooting of anti-Vietnam student protestors at Kent State University' [15]. Arena attracted attention as a particularly important political piece of its time [16]

Collaborations with poets

Particular acclaim has focused on Newson's work for voice; 'There is much to admire in Newson’s gift for writing lyrically, even romantically, and yet simply for the voice' (Manning, 1986) [17]. With his residency in Belfast and collaborations with Irish poets, his work has been noted as deserving recognition in celebrations of Irish music[18].

Further commissions

Other commissions include: his one act opera Mrs Fraser’s Frenzy (1994) for the Canterbury and Cheltenham festivals; Sonograms 1 & 11 (1995) for the Orchestre National de Lille; and Songs and More Songs in Exchange (1994/9), which comprised an exhibition and recital of works exchanged by participating artists for a song (42 pieces in all)[19]. In 1998 Concerto for Percussion (Both Arms) was commissioned by Evelyn Glennie for the 2002 Canterbury Festival[20] and George completed his second full opera - The Winter’s Tale.

Recent works (2000 - present)

His most recent large work is Cantiga for Piano Trio, which received its premiere at the Rye Festival of Music and Arts (2004). His double violin concerto was given its UK Premier as part of the BBC Encore series in 2006 and A Lullaby for Aya, which he wrote for his first great-grandchild, was included in a set of new songs performed at the Rye Festival in 2016. Newson's Ezra Pound from More Songs in Exchange opened one of the Ludlow Music Festival recitals (UK composers setting US texts) in 2017, performed by Robin Tritschler and Iain Burnside.

Photographic career

George is also a keen photographer, with a collection of 57 portraits of eminent composers and artists at the National Portrait Gallery. [21] He has photographed many composers and musicians including; Oliver Knussen, Priaulx Rainier, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Alexander Goher, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, David Bedford, (John) Nicholas Maw, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and father and son Sir Lennox Randal Francis Berkeley and Michael Berkeley. His portraits also include: poets Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, and Paul Muldoon; painters Ruskin Spear and Carel Weight; sculptor Kenneth Armitage; cartoonist Martin Honeysett; photographers Bert Hardy and George Rodger; and the musicology writer Hans Keller.