Bob Chilcott is one of the UK's top composers and choral conductors. See what happened when he came online to answer your questions and chat to Classic FM's More Music Breakfast presenter Tim Lihoreau.
Lots of you took the opportunity to chat online to Bob Chilcott. From finding out about how he approaches composition, which pieces of music mean the most to him and why he loves writing music for younger choirs, Bob took the time to answer all your burning classical questions.
You once said: "If you can talk, you can sing!" Does that mean...there's hope for EVERYONE? (Tim Lihoreau)
I really do believe that. But in order to do it you have to go through a lot of hoops to get there and you need guidance and encouragement from a good teacher and mentor. But I think everybody who loves singing realises that it effects them very deeply and is for that reason, something that they continue to do.
I remember you (quoting Pavarotti) also said GREAT voices are ones you RECOGNISE. So Tom Waits... alongside Tom Allen, for example. (Tim Lihoreau)
I've always loved that comment of Pavarotti saying that great voices are ones that you recognise. Maybe it's something to do with a connection that a singer finds that is honest and true and so therefore can communicate in a very real way.
You've worked with so many great choirs over the years! Do you have one that you admire the most? (Parsons Books & Music)
To be honest I always find that the choir I admire the most is the last one I've worked with! I've had a lot of surprises though and one of the countries where I have found the choral life to be the most vibrant where many choirs sing with such incredible heart and commitment.
I love the YouTube video of you conducting Can You Hear Me? at an Estonian festival. That looked like a particularly choral environment. (Tim Lihoreau)
This experience in Estonia was absolutely stunning. It was part of the 2004 Song Festival which involved 32,000 singers and and audience of over 100,000. My choir was a mere 7,000 singers!
Do you prefer conducting or composing? (Déarbhaile Nairn)
My heart is in my work as a composer but this can be very solitary work and I love the connection with people and particularly singing people and so for that reason I find conduction something I would never want to stop doing.
Does composing have to be a ritual, i.e. always in the same room, or can you compose.... on a train, when the muse takes you? (Tim Lihoreau)
For me, I compose in the same room at the same time every day - 8.30 until 6. This helps me focus and it makes it feel like a ritual, which is important for me for the creative process.
There are some composers that I can recognise their style of work eg: Beethoven, Mozart, Rutter; would a writer be offended by the thought that there is something the same but different about their music? How hard is it to avoid repeating the patterns of other composers? (Angie Letteboer )
One of the beautiful things about composition is the fact that there are so many composers who mentor and lead the direction of your own work. I think as a composer you think of yourself in a line of tradition so this takes care of any worry that one has about originality or recognition. You just do what you can to give what you can honestly and truthfully.
It must be hard to know the range of all instruments. Do you ever get it wrong and have some instrumentalist come and say 'actually, that note isn't within this instrument’s range!'? (Angie Letteboer)
Regarding the range of instruments, I try and take advice from players if it's dealing with instruments that I'm not sure about. I'm a bad viola player but I have a good feel for stringed instruments. Wind instruments and percussion have always been the biggest challenge for me, so I take advice on these.
What different approaches do you have to take when writing for younger and professional choirs? And which do you prefer writing for? (Tim Spires)
For me, writing for younger choirs has been something which has really captured my imagination, mainly because writing within that field has given me a greater sense of freedom. In a way, it enabled my imagination to come to life in such a way that it connected with me and gave me a lot of energy. Having said that, when I get the opportunity to write for a professional choir, it's always an opportunity to really push me and also to push my creative thinking.
Which of your pieces means the most to you personally and why? (Kate Johnson)
I think my Requiem is the piece that has connected most with what I feel about my work over the last few years. It enabled me to reflect on my connection with my past as a choral singer and also it came at a point of loss in our family which was a way of helping that.
Can I follow up on that? Conversely, do you find it harder to write to commission, or do you only accept those which 'fit'? (Tim Lihoreau)
I prefer writing in this way. It gives me parameters within which to work and it also occasionally throws up projects which push me in a completely direction, and I like that. As a result you end up writing something you might never have considered in the first place.
I can totally understand that. With something like, say, the Little Jazz Mass, are there sometimes places that you almost simply HAVE to go? (Tim Lihoreau)
With regard to the Little Jazz Mass, originally the idea was a bit of a joke. I wanted to write a Mass called The Big Easy Mass and have it on huge copies! But seriously, this piece gave me the opportunity to articulate a love of jazz that I've had all my life and was fortunate to sing quite a lot of music like this when was a member of the King’s Singers.
With regard to the King's Singers - is it just like US Presidents: once a King's Singer, always a King's Singer? I ask because I notice you are back workshopping with them tomorrow night at Spitalfields in London. (Tim Lihoreau)
I’m very much looking forward to the workshop that I'm presenting together with the King’s Singers at Christ Church, Spitalfields tomorrow. We have quite a big number of people coming but anyone is welcome to turn up at the door for a 12.30pm start. It's a great opportunity for people to sing in a piece with the King’s Singers, a piece that I wrote for their 40th Anniversary in 2008 for the group and King's College Choir Cambridge.