More about the Azorean Suite

The Azorean Suite grew out of a piano improvisation that I have often played for friends in the last fifteen years. The piece has an unusual dramatic impact and it has been a favorite request piece at parties for a long time. When playing I always thought of a storm. The wind slowly building up. In the centre an inferno of wind, lightning and rain and then the wind slowly dying out. In my mind I could also hear a full orchestration of the piece played by a classical orchestra.

About ten years ago we partly moved to the Azores and living there in winter we had our fair share of storms. Azorean nature is of a breathtaking beauty and the landscape is a constant source of inspiration. In the course of time we did a lot of music projects on the Azores. Recently we released the CD “Songs of an Island” with BasAlt.  Gradually the idea of composing a group of works around the storm theme as an homage to the Azores emerged. The well known Fingal's Cave Ouverture by Mendelssohn was also on my mind when I sailed around the Hebrides in 2007. Originally I had a much more ambitious plan for an animation movie about a fisherman going to sea on a beautiful day and getting caught in a unexpected storm, being swept from his boat by watergods, like the Nix, the Klaboterman, diabretes, sirens and finally rescued by nymphs, nereides or what have you. The music, then would be the score of the movie.  I put this idea on my large stack of unrealizable projects and forgot about it.

A couple of years ago I was interviewed on local radio about another music project “Blues op Klompen” (Blues on wooden shoes) when I made a casual remark about the fact that I had ideas for a work for classical orchestra called “the Azorean Suite”. To my surprise, after broadcast, I was contacted by Hans Hering. He was chairman of amateur orchestra the “VechtStreek Symphonie Orkest” (VSSO). The year 2012 was a lustrum year and they would very much like to have the world premiere of an original work. Would I be interested? I was reasonably flabbergasted by the instant success of my ‘bluff your way in to composing’ hubris. What to do? After some deliberation I decided to accept the challenge. In the autumn of 2011 I sent the board of the VSSO a rough plan for the work. The reaction I got was benign and encouraging. I selected software and spent a lot of time learning to work with Sibelius. In January 2012 I composed the first part “Madrugada” in my house in Manadas on Sao Jorge. In the spring of 2012 I fell ill and was incapable to do any work for a long time. I put the plans on the shelf and wrote Hans a note that I could not stick to any deadlines in 2012. I thought the project was dead. I will always be grateful for his supportive reaction: I could take my time and yes they were still interested.

By the time I was feeling quite miserable and my wife Rini and I decided to spend the whole summer in Manadas. Here a small miracle happened. My health gradually improved on a program of long walks and much rest. After a while I started to work again. In short, it has been one of my most productive summers ever. I wrote some songs, finished several papers, some paintings and a book on painting. “The summer would be perfect if I also would have finished the Azorean Suite” I said to Rini when our stay was coming to an end.  Inspiration is a weird thing. You must grab it when it’s there. When it’s gone it may never come back. We decided to extend our stay with several weeks to give me time to finish the Suite. The last weeks I have been working constantly on the composition, up to sixteen hours a day, getting sometimes only a couple of hours sleep per night.  The work is ready in concept. The rest is downhill skiing. At the time of writing I do not know whether the work will ever be executed but I’m immensely happy with the result. I hope to work with the people of VSSO to realize a live performance in the near future but for me, as a composer, the work is already there. The scores are there. I can make wav-files in Sibelius and share them with other people. That is all a composer can wish for.  

Manadas September 2012.