Different trains: Five questions for Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Omni-talented composer, singer-songwriter and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, who graduated from Trinity Laban in 2008, has been commissioned to compose a piece for the LSO Brass Ensemble. Her new composition ‘Where Clouds Meet the Sea’ has its premiere performance on Thursday 26 November at the Barbican. We asked her five questions about this piece:

  1. How did this commission come about?

I took part in both the LSO’s Panufnik and Soundhub composition schemes, both of which have been an integral part of my development as a composer. I’ve subsequently developed a relationship with the orchestra.

Ayanna 2

  1. Your piece is called ‘Where Clouds Meet the Sea’. What’s the story behind that title?

I wrote this piece whilst spending three weeks in St. Leonard’s-On-Sea on the south coast of England. Every day I would watch the tide come in and out and generally observe the local residents and the rhythms of daily life along the seafront. In the piece, you will hear recurring melodies much like the waves that vary and interact with each other in surprising and beautiful ways.

  1. What’s the most challenging thing about composing for the LSO Brass Ensemble?

Imagining the actual sound of the instruments as an ensemble. Taking into consideration the communication between the players, and trying to accommodate their different personalities.

  1. Did your experience singing and playing with Reuben [Ayanna’s cello] influence this composition?

Only to the extent that I approached this piece with a focus on melodic material and that the experience of writing the piece was quite meditative. In many ways I approach singing and playing the cello as a meditation when I’m on stage.

  1. Can we expect more contemporary classical compositions in the future?

Yes most certainly! I often feel like I run several trains on different tracks all heading to the same destination at varying speeds. My work as a performer is on a fast-moving train and my work as a composer is on a slower moving one. The destination is to compose for and perform with the LSO, bringing the two worlds closer together.

For tickets to see LSO Brass ensemble performing ‘Where Clouds Meet the Sea’ on Thursday 26 November visit the Barbican Centre website: http://www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?id=17587

Ayanna comments on her experience at Trinity Laban: https://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/alumni/alumni-profiles/ayanna-witter-johnson


Marlowe Thornes-Heywood

Graduate intern – Press & PR

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