We’re delighted to announce the publication of two brand new works by recently signed Faber Music choral composer Toby Young. Toby’s music has been commissioned and performed by leading choirs and orchestras across the UK, including the choirs of Westminster Abbey, New College Oxford and King’s College Cambridge as well as the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Academy of Ancient Music.
We caught up with Toby to find out more about his compositional style, his music idols, and how his choral output fits into his wider musical life as a conductor, singer, jazz pianist, pop writer and film music arranger.
You started studying composition under Robin Holloway at King's but what was the first piece you ever wrote?
As a child I always enjoyed improvising on the piano, but the very first piece I ever fully wrote was a frivolous little wind quintet called Dirty Linoleum when I was 16. It was only really intended for some friends to play, but one of my teachers suggested I enter it into the BBC Young Composer of the Year competition, and to my surprise it won! It was after that I first considered the possibility of being a professional composer.
Is there a composer who particularly inspires you?
As a trained jazz pianist, I have a very eclectic taste! Two composers who particularly inspire me are Gesualdo and Tippett - both incredibly lyrical musicians, whose music has such beautiful and powerful depth of emotion.
I enjoy hearing similar beauty and power in a wide range of music, at the moment including Brad Mehldau, Frank Zappa, Robert Glasper, Brahms and Thomas Adès.
What is your compositional process?
Much of my music focuses on extra-musical inspiration, and in particular text. When I'm starting a choral piece I will spend a long time with the words, absorbing their meaning and thinking about my interpretation of them. As I'm doing this, I start to get an aural picture of the piece, of the harmonic language and melodic fragments which I can then start to weave together.
I think it is important for us as composers to really experience the feelings and emotions conveyed by the words, even if we don't always understand them! When I am writing I always try to bring my own life experiences to mind to help me communicate my emotions and ideas more effectively.
You recently had a top-ten hit with the urban artists Chase&Status. How is writing for pop musicians different from writing for choirs?
For me, music is a common language that we use to communicate emotion. When I am writing, I try to avoid 'tempering' my language to a certain audience or genre until the very last minute. The themes that I deal with in my pop music are similar to those in my choral music (love, loss, joy, etc.) and I often find myself using similar harmonies and melodic patterns in both contexts
What are you working on at the moment?
I am predominately focusing on choral and vocal music at the moment, with upcoming pieces for New York Polyphony, Tenebrae, and the British baritone Mark Stone, amongst others. Having said that, I am also working on a piano piece for Melvyn Tan, so I still have a bit of variety!
The Swete Roose and Stars in Heaven are available to purchase from www.choralstore.com or from your local music retailer