BBC Music Magazine
Conductor Kate Whitley
How did you work with Sabrina Mahfouz on your settings of her poems for Kings Place’s ‘Venus Unwrapped’ season?
I’ve done a lot of work with her before and I know her writing well. I came across one of her poems called Memory, a short, four-line poem about looking back on a relationship. It’s so simple and carefully curated, and there’s lots of space to build a musical picture around it. I asked her to write some complementary poems to go with it and make a set, which I’ve set to music for two flutes, two clarinets and a string quartet.
How does the process of writing a setting of a poem differ from creating a completely original composition?
I’ve worked with poems a lot. The structure is pinned around the text, so that part is done for you. You just have to consider what the purpose of the music needs to be and how this affects the way the words are set. Original compositions require you to create a structure yourself.
You are the co-founder of the Multi-story Orchestra, who will be performing these pieces. How did this ensemble begin?
We started the orchestra just after finishing studying, and it was made up of a group of musicians our age. We were actually still students when we held our first concert. It was just about trying to find different ways to perform classical music. We’ve only ever played in venues like car parks rather than conventional concert halls, so Kings Place will be different!