Alan Holley – composer
Image: Annika Enderborg
Born in Sydney, 1 October 1954
Alan Holley’s first work for choir, And the Rain (2017) was premiered by the Australian Chamber Choir in 2018 as part of our True Romantics program. We have commissioned Alan to write a new work for the ACC, to be premiered as part of our Terra Australis program, with the first performance in Middle Park on Sunday 16 June.
In recent years Alan Holley has been a featured composer at numerous music festivals and received composer profile concerts in Croatia, Serbia, Albania and Australia. His first Sydney Symphony Orchestra commission, the trumpet concerto Doppler’s Web (2005), was written for Paul Goodchild and conducted by Simone Young. Kookaburra Music publishes Holley’s works, many of which are also available on disc via Hammerings Records. And The Rain (2017) sets lines from the poem Thirteen Winds by Mark Tredinnick (also Sydney-born). The composer writes:
‘For eight consecutive days from 2 June 2016 I visited Thomaskirche, Leipzig where Bach worked for more than 25 years. To be in that space where, for me and many composers, the greatest of all musical thinkers wrote some of the most amazing music in the European canon was a special time. I listened to concerts and I sat quietly and I wrote down a “few dots” each day. When I was 14 I went to an all Bach concert in St Andrew’s Cathedral Sydney and heard the cantata Wachet auf and the E major violin concerto. On leaving the concert I knew that I was to be a composer. That I reached the age not far from the one when Bach died without writing a choral work now looks surprising. Lack of opportunity, busy with instrumental, orchestral and solo vocal works notwithstanding, it seems odd that the music that made me want to be a composer, choral music by Bach, did not lead me to write works in that genre before my 2017 composition ‘And The Rain’. Maybe I needed that experience in the Thomaskirche to start the whole process of wanting to write a work for choir and to find exactly the right text for my music. Selecting words to set to music is always difficult but I remembered reading the deeply touching and lyrical work of Mark Tredinnick when he won the Montreal Poetry Prize in 2011. On re-reading his work two sections from his Thirteen Winds flew to me as if the music was already in the air and all I had to do was write the notes down. When Mark wrote the lines “and I pray for you” and then later “and it is too late to pray” and then had three more references to the word “pray” it was as if my motif was apparent.’