Patrick Hawes is an English composer who has made his mark as a torchbearer of the English musical tradition. He is best known for writing the Highgrove Suite for HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, for being Composer-in-Residence at the UK’s largest biggest classical music station, Classic FM, and for the Number One album Angel. Patrick Hawes kindly consented to answer the questions for MOVING CLASSICS TV
Music is everything to me. I have music in my head all day long and it is even there if I wake up at night. When I’m not writing music, I am listening to it, particularly music from the Renaissance and Baroque.
Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?
Absolutely not! Music is an expression of very real human emotions.
If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?
I spent sixteen years teaching both music and English – I actually enjoyed teaching English more than music since I was learning with the students! So, if my musical career had not gone the way it has, I would teach English.
The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?
In England, classical music is popular throughout the generations. Classic FM (the UKs largest classical radio station) has as many requests from youngsters as old – particularly from students who enjoy classical music while working and preparing for exams. More and more youngsters are coming to classical music via video game and film sound tracks so the future is bright!
What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?
Classical Music provides the same role it has always provided, which is to nourish people’s hearts and minds in a way that no other art form can. In an ever-changing world, classical music needs to hold firm to its key principles of harmony and beauty.
In this way classical music will continue to lead the listener into deeply spiritual realms which means we are always going to need classical music to ‘feed’ the soul in a way which other art forms can not.
When I say that classical music is searching for new ways, what would come to your mind?
I think it is a mistake to think that classical music has to be innovative for innovation’s sake. All art forms reflect the spirit of the current age, and this in itself means art will become innovative by nature. It is far more important that composers of classical music remain true to themselves and to the feelings they are aiming to express. Innovation is a product of the mind – beauty and truth are products of the soul.
Do you think we musicians can do something to attract the younger generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?
This question has to a large extent been answered above. What is important is that classical music is not ‘watered down’ purely to attract a specific audience.
Tell us about your creative process. How did you start working on Towards the Light?
The creative process needs an initial impetus – this can be a feeling, a mental image, or an outside starting point such as a text, a painting, a beautiful landscape and so on. This is the first of two components which make up a composition. The second component is the careful development of one of the initial seeds mentioned above. Towards the Light was inspired by my move to Norfolk in England and feeling inspired to write abut the beautiful landscapes and seascapes of that region, as well as being inspired by key events in the Christian year.
We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?
Many composers have been involved with other art forms. Wagner, for instance, was an author of note. When I was younger I wrote poetry and often sense poetry in my head when I am composing. I commend Moving Classic TV’s philosophy of combining music with other art forms and disciplines, since this means the overall experience for the listener / observer will be much richer. The ultimate example of this of course is opera which Wagner described as “the complete art form”. Its fusion of music, choreography and stage drama, all set within the beautiful architecture of an opera house, create an unbeatable experience.
Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?
The only way to discover classical music as a young person is to consciously immerse yourself in recordings, live performance and, best of all, by learning a musical instrument.
Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?
Any composer wants his/her music to be heard. Mozart, for instance, would have been thrilled to hear his symphonies and concertos performed throughout the courts of Europe, and Elgar would have been deeply encouraged by the recording of music for gramophone. Similarly, a composer today will, by nature, advocate the distribution of their music through digital platforms. Nobody writes music to be denied an audience – we all want our music to be heard.
Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?
I would like as many people as possible to hear my music regardless of their age, nationality or religion. It is my hope that a collection like Towards the Light will appeal as much to musical connoisseurs as it will to newcomers to classical music.
What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?
I never see the composition process as an experiment. I simply follow my heart and my deepest spiritual instincts. Of course, the genres of the music I write are dictated by the commissions I receive. For instance, I am currently working on The Great War Symphony to be premiered in 2018, and I have just completed a clarinet concerto which grew out of a meeting on Twitter with the wonderful clarinetist Emma Johnson. My latest choral work Revelation has just been premiered and recorded by the Elora Festival Singers in Canada and will be released on the Naxos label in March 2017.