SARAH GAIT COMPOSER

 "Sarah Gait's 'Death Fires' was a cleverly constructed sequence of atmospheres" - Michael Church, The Independent 

Since winning the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers' Competition in 2012, Sarah's works have been recorded in the BBC Maida Vale Studios and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, including multiple broadcasts of large ensemble works Dark Ocean Lights (a BBC commission for the BBC Symphony Orchestra), Portrait of a Moor (performed variously by the Aurora Orchestra and Manchester Camerata) and Death-Fires (written for viol consort Fretwork). Death-Fires was the winning work of the 2011 National Centre for Early Music/BBC Radio 3 Composers' Award, which joined a string of accolades in the compositional field for Sarah, including winner of the Malcolm Arnold Composition Prizes and a prize-winner of the inaugural ABRSM International Young Composers' Competition.

Sarah is privileged to write for many prestigious ensembles and soloists: her works to date have been commissioned and premiered by the Aurora Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Black Dyke Band, Fretwork, Manchester Camerata, National Youth Orchestra-GB, Olyver New Music Collective, RLPO's Ensemble 10/10, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester and  soloists including chamber partner violist Varinia Oyola Rebaza.

Sarah's works range from large-scale and chamber works of standard notation to solo works exploring different tuning systems, inspired by folk music, and semi-improvised works - most notably, her recent commission for solo cello and string orchestra for the Stuttgarter Kammerorchester. Coronach was premiered by the orchestra under Olivier Pols, with the composer herself performing the mainly improvised solo part, in the final concert of the Cello Akademie Rutesheim 2019.

Works with electronics include, most recently, Dive, commissioned by the Olyver New Music Collective and performed in London for their 2019/20 season.

To enquire about scores or commissions, please get in touch on the contact page.

To hear an excerpt from Portrait of a Moor, commissioned by the BBC, please click below, or follow the link to see more videos.

Sarah Gait Composer
Sarah Gait, Coronach
Sarah Gait, BBC Inspire Ambassador
 
Heroes: the shadows of a tragic mind
04:45
Sarah Gait

Heroes: the shadows of a tragic mind

Created for ISA Digital 2020. Cello improvisation: Sarah Gait Audio and video footage and editing: Sarah Gait Beethoven’s Egmont, Leonore, Coriolan: we see the exploits of youthful, active and valiant heroes and heroines, whether destined for a happy ‘ending’ or a tragic sacrifice. But what about the tragedy of the hero who grows old, facing a different foe – struggling to retain his grasp on life in a different sense, perhaps through the loss of physical faculties, such as hearing? As for his warlike heroes, despite the battle with the physical, Beethoven surely grasped mentally a, perhaps increasingly intense, conviction of the artistic creation he aspired to bring into being – into a form of musical life which he himself could never again experience. Who can say what went on within the struggles and shadows of this aging hero’s own mind: struggles which we glimpse predominantly only through his music? This improvisation, for the tragically aging hero, does not seek to replicate or to transcribe the state of mind of Beethoven – a task both impossible and futile. It seeks rather to express the eternal struggle and emotions that certainly must have crossed and battled within the ‘shadows of his mind’, as for so many other artists and humans – and to express this current of emotions within a present-day musical language. Perhaps within the time of Covid – where we as musicians experience a battle between our artistic desire to create and share, and the restrictions of current human existence – it is not inopportune to aspire to create an artistic concept, that sees not only the tragedy, but also the hopeful possibility for rejuvenation: through the strength of human will, courage, belief and aspirations… just as Beethoven’s immortal last works live on, despite the adversities he faced. With that motivation, to make opportunity from adversity, I sought in creating this digital work to utilise the very things that, through Covid, have changed most in my life during the last 6 months. Finding myself unexpectedly in the deep countryside for 6 months, I spent time in the studio where this video was filmed. This workshop, backing onto fields and woodland, is filled with old furniture, tools and assorted collections from the past years and centuries – most significant among these, the frame of the old grand piano that features in the later shots of the video. (This piano has been broken and unplayable as a keyboard instrument, since many years.) Unnecessary to dwell on the comparisons that could be made: between this instrument which no longer fulfils its original function, and a composer whose physicalities also struggled to function as intended. Suffice only to show the chance for an unexpected redemption: for this instrument to have a new lease of life, though far from its original function. The hammer blows: can they be reflected upon as part of the mental trauma of this shadowed mind? Or, in more direct reference, as an extreme extrapolation of how Beethoven would have assaulted his own piano? And is the greatest tragedy how the singing voice of his mind comes together with the silent piano… The video material was recorded around midnight in several hours of unbroken improvisation in this studio. All the audio and video editing to create, from these raw materials, a finished digital concept, is my own – using only opensource software, again through a determination to create opportunity from adversity.
Hymn of Remembrance, cello
04:32

Hymn of Remembrance, cello

Hymn of Remembrance is a track I improvised live for the centenary of Armistice Day, using Laurence Binyon’s words from his poem ‘For the Fallen’ and my own music. ~Sarah Gait, Cello ~Video and Music: Sarah Catherine Gait This hymn is a tribute to all those, past, present and future, who fight to make the world a better place, whether in the trenches and battlefields of the two world wars or in countless other ways. The song is particularly a tribute to all the young Cumbrian men of the two world wars who made the ultimate sacrifice, for the sake of those who came after, so that we might enjoy the life and freedom we have now. And it is also a tribute to the hope that one day, all people and all societies across the world will be able enjoy that freedom and to live without repression or oppression. *Click on ‘see more’ below for the stories of the faces in the video* *About the music/soundtrack* Most of the track is a single unedited live improvisation. I recorded several different versions of it, as it was all live, and I’ve used the alternative takes to some multi-layering in the middle of the track, to create a ‘cello orchestra’ sound. Everything was entirely made up on the spot! *About the visuals/pictures* Most of the scenes of the video are based round a group of Cumbrian young men who fought in World War 1 and never returned. In the middle of the video are their headshots and names, while the earlier video shares scenes from battlefields and cemeteries where some of the men fought, lost their lives, and were interred. In the final part of the video, some of the same landscapes feature, but seen today with their new atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, offering a message of hope. The final picture of the video is my own landscape photo of Cumbria, showing Derwent Water and part of Borrowdale, including a number of the beautiful peaks that were historically granted to the National Trust following the Great War – for the peace and refuge of Cumbrians and all people. Intertwined with the photos of the Cumbrian soldiers from World War 1, is another group of pictures, from the story of a young Cumbrian fighter pilot in World War 2. His name is Ralph Allsebrook, my great uncle, and he was handpicked to join the famous 617 ‘Dambusters’ Squadron, shortly after their most famous raid. His contemporaries claimed he led “a charmed life”, twice escaping near-death experiences. Ultimately however he lost his life in 1943 when his plane was gunned down over the Dortmund Ems Canal, at which time he was aged just 23. ~The soldiers from WW 1 William Ewart Gladstone Wise, from Silloth. He was killed in action on the Somme in 1916, aged 21. Robert Mayson Calvert from Burgh-by-Sands. Killed in action at Trones Wood, 1916, aged 20. Abraham Acton from Whitehaven. killed in action at Festubert, France, aged 22 in 1915. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for Valour. Beresford Karr Horan, who went to school in Carlisle. He enlisted with first a US and then a Candaian regiment. Listed by both as a ‘deserter’ (for reasons unclear) and disgraced by being refused a war grave, he died apparently from pneumonia during training in 1915, before ever reaching the battlefield. He was aged 23. ~Also appearing: An Unknown soldier from World War 1. His picture was found in a Carlisle antique shop and donated to Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life. Cumbria’s Border Regiment, 1916. War Nurses and Medical officers in France, 1918. At a Northumbrian Casualty Clearing Station. Credits to pictures not mine as follows: Regina Trench Cemetery, Somme (including the ‘silent city’ caption); Poison Gas at Ypres; the Destruction of Ypres; greatwarphotos.com Photos of individual soldiers from WW1: Trinity School Carlisle war memorial.