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Tree Carols

'Tree Carols' was a project run by the Coull Quartet and IATL for students from Warwick University and Birmingham Conservatoire from November 2013 - March 2014.

The idea for this project sprang from a desire to create an arena for interdisciplinary collaboration between student writers and composers, coupled with a desire to create new miniature pieces for string quartet and voice. The Coull Quartet had commissioned a new piece for quartet and baritone from Sally Beamish, the title of which 'Tree Carols' had been taken from one of the poems by Fiona Sampson which she set. We decided to call the student project 'Tree Carols'.

We asked IATL to support us practically and financially. We then asked experienced collaborators, writer Martin Riley and composer Joe Cutler, to guide the prospective students in their work.

Aided by IATL, a call for writers was put out to all students at Warwick University in October 2013. We did this through email and poster. From twelve responses, Martin chose six. At Birmingham Conservatoire Joe chose six students whom he felt would write well for voice, and whom he felt would best embrace collaborative work.

The first meeting between writers and composers took place at the beginning of November where all students presented their work to each other and were paired up by Joe and Martin. The Coull Quartet introduced themselves and played a short piece of music. Young singers Sophie Pullen and Warwick student Tom Stevenson were also at this initial meeting. The students were asked to use the context of 'Night' for their pieces.

During November each pair met to discuss ideas. The work of the writers began.

In early December Martin came to Warwick to meet with each writer to begin to help and guide them. Over the Christmas period Martin worked intensively and rigorously with each writer by email and Skype. There was then a very short period of two weeks for the composers each to produce a sketch which was then workshopped in January by the Coull Quartet, Sophie and Tom.

The finished pieces were given to the performers in mid February and were performed in a late-night concert on March 5th in the Helen Martin Studio at Warwick. Earlier the same evening the Coull Quartet and Baritone Roderick Williams gave the premiere of Sally Beamish's piece Tree Carols. We were extremely grateful to Roderick for stepping in at a moment's notice to sing the most challenging of the student pieces in the late-night concert.

We were delighted to observe wonderful creative collaborations between all of the participants and are extremely happy with the superb quality of all of the finished pieces. We are very grateful to all participants and to IATL for making this project possible.

Writers from Warwick University were Ella Tebay, Hannah Cooperwaite,Thomas Stewart, Eve Ryan and Poppy Akers.

Composers from Birmingham Conservatoire were Mel Moore, Bobbie-Jane Gardner, Ed Denham, Nadege Desbizet-Engel, Kirsty Devaney and Zachaeus Dawson.