Nightfires is written in one continuous movement which lasts around ten minutes. Titles are usually amongst the last decisions I make as part of my writing process, so unusually for me, I decided on Nightfires as the title for the work long before the musical material existed (even in sketch form). The work is designed to be a hard-hitting, energised concert-opener. There was little intention to write programmatic music, but more to use the title as a catalyst for the piece (I often utilise “quietly evocative” titles as a “way in” for listeners). This created a deliberately ambiguous and abstract canvas in which I have been able to draw on my own interpretation of the dark, brooding, ominous imagery conjured in my mind by Nightfires.
The work is for the most part an elongated, baleful melody which is continuously shadowed and shrouded by a highly energised, often angular, musical landscape. Shrill winds and unrelenting brass ostinatos underpin lopsided grooves and loops which eventually fall away to reveal a solo cello. Its frantic, breathless material is quickly subsumed and damaged by the return of the noisy, acrid brass and pungent, bitter strings.
The work has one brief moment of hiatus with cleansing, restrained string chords. All-too-quickly, these chords are smothered, and the work is hurled towards the climax where shrieking trumpets reprise their opening fanfares before propelling towards the work's end.
"I'd dare to suggest that Nightfires, with its incredible seismic heaving, is among the most exciting pieces I've heard from a Scottish composer in the last 25 years; since Isobel Gowdie, in fact."
"...a solo cello elbows its way out of shrieking trumpets and swaggering double basses to play a frenzied elegy. It’s bold orchestral writing, confident enough to use the brightest of colours and the chunkiest of rhythms. I’d like to hear more."
"A ten-minute work packed with incessant youthful energy, it is, however, remarkable for the confidence and character of its orchestration, and a golden thread of a melody that weaves its way artfully through the surface excitement."
Ken Walton, the Scotsman
for large orchestra
BBC Symphony Orchestra | Proms Youth Ensemble | Sakari Oramo
Royal Albert Hall, London
10th September 2016
Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, BBC Two and internationally
A BBC Proms Commission for the Last Night of the Proms
2.2.2.bcl.asax.2.cbn | 22.214.171.124 | timp.perc(2):4tom-t/2cowbells/anvil/tam-t/BD/2bongos/h-hats/kickBD | 126.96.36.199.4
Raze is written in one continuous movement which lasts around five minutes, and was commissioned by the BBC Proms to showcase the Proms Youth Ensemble at the Last Night of the Proms. Titles are almost consistently the final decisions I make as part of the writing process, so it was highly unusual for me to decide on Raze as the title before the piece had even been sketched. I rarely intend to write programmatic music, but in this instance I use the title as a 'way in' to the work. Raze means ‘clear the way’, ‘overthrow’, and ‘knock down’ - exactly the impact Raze is designed to have at a noisy, carnival-like concert such as the Last Night of the Proms.
The piece is a collage of angular, brash musical moments which are linked through a series of repeating intervals and melodic motifs, all of which are underpinned by swaggering, brooding bass-lines. The work is characterised by sour, baleful strings, blaring brass, and cacophonous, raucous winds which ‘raise’, soar, and hurtle towards the climax.
Raze is dedicated to the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Proms Youth Ensemble, and Sakari Oramo.
"...it was a group making its Last Night debut - the BBC Proms Youth Ensemble - that opened the show and almost stole it. The youngsters gave the premiere of Raze, a punchy orchestral piece (with nods to the pounding riffs of club music) written by Tom Harrold, a profusely talented Scot who is only 25.”
"Raze proved a flamboyant curtain-raiser...boisterous, rhythmically intricate, played with winning enthusiasm"
"Raze was five minutes of bristling energy and youthful brashness. The brass stabs were searing, the woodwind writing muscular and hectic, and the strings soared above it all.” The Arts Desk
“Raze had a pounding energy driving its low, insistent string fragments..."
The Financial Times
TO THE LIGHT (2017)
for chamber orchestra
Scottish Chamber Orchestra | Joseph Swensen
Ayr Town Hall
22nd November 2017
2.2.2(2=bcl).1.cbn | 188.8.131.52 | timp | 184.108.40.206.2
To the Light is, in its most basic of forms, a movement from darkness to light which surges through an arch-form structure. The music exists as one continuous movement, but can be divided into three distinct sections: a quiet, restrained opening within which a baleful, wistful solo cello wails above dark string chords; a potent, insistent middle where the brass vie for supremacy against the strings; and a return to the yearning material found in the opening, but only this time the music has in many ways been distilled, or damaged, by the energised middle section that preceded it.
The descending trio of chords heard at the opening of To the Light underpin the entire body of harmonic material found within the piece. This harmonic sound-world, which infects the whole work, was created by utilising rotations and extensions of these chords. These various iterations also led to the construction of the melodic material, which is dominated by minor sixths and thirds. The energised middle section is essentially a collage of musical moments which are hung together by these chordal progressions and melodic ideas. These series of moments lead breathlessly to the climax of the piece: a cleansing arrival into Db minor which quickly dissipates.
To the Light was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with funding from the PRS for Music Foundation, Cruden Foundation, and RVW Trust. It is dedicated to my grandfather, Alexander Scott, who died in 2016.
"Harrold’s writing is precise and clean-textured, yet he imbues the work with a dazzling warmth and emotive density."
"To the Light may turn out to be a very significant piece in spreading his reputation. Responding with discipline to the chamber orchestra challenge, he has produced a work that makes maximum use of the more limited instrumental palette"
"The strong, angular central section seemed to lay bare something dark in the soul. The agonised climax brought a return to the opening that brought no reassurance but some hope of resolution in the final, unsettled major passage"
Silent Shores is my second string quartet, and was commissioned by the Edinburgh Quartet with funding from Creative Scotland.
I have always had a real affinity with the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. I first visited when I was just six weeks old, and have returned at least two or three times a year ever since. I am always struck by its immense beauty, staggering ruggedness, untamed nature and wild, unpredictable weather, and I have spent countless hours in its many mountains and glens.
In early 2015 I made a very foggy crossing on the ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick, with the fog only lifting towards the end of the voyage to reveal Arran shrouded in thick, heavy mist. There was a real atmosphere of stillness: no wind, no calling of the birds, and barely any waves; their absence leaving me to simply absorb the island in its half-visible, blurred image.
Silent Shores loosely recounts this early-morning image of Arran. The work is constructed of three adjoined, yet distinct, sections. The first section features a slow-burning, tense violin melody that is continuously charged with energy from the accompanying ensemble. This melodic material is deliberately slow to expose itself, leading into a capricious, volatile middle episode with scurrying passages and angular, jagged interruptions. The energy is quickly dissipated, and fragments of the earlier melodic material are revisited in the final section. However, the material found here is hazier, disfigured, or damaged in many respects.
"Throughout this instantly captivating work I sensed an unmistakable yet impossible to qualify Scottishness."
VOICES OF VIMY, for choir and cello (2017)
Text by Grahame Davies
BBC Singers | Daniel Cook
15th July 2017
JAM on the Marsh, Kent
Recorded by and broadcast on BBC Radio 3
Pro Coro Canada
12th November 2017
for solo percussion, broken bike parts, sinfonietta and tape
Colin Currie (perc)
Owen Gunnell (bike parts)
Children's Classic Concerts Essential Orchestra
Tom Harrold (cond)
City Halls, Glasgow
10th August 2018
Unchained is scored for solo percussion, solo bike parts, electronics, and sinfonietta, and lasts approximately five minutes. It was commissioned in 2017 by Children's Classic Concerts as the centrepiece of their Soundcycle project, which was funded by Glasgow 2018. The project involved running workshops at schools across Glasgow, and recording broken bike noises created by the workshop participants, and embedding these sound within the work.
This short, intense work sets the solo percussion and bike parts on a frantic journey to escape from the rest of the ensemble – they are continuously interrupted by the ensemble's angry, seething music, from which the soloists never quite seem to be able to escape. The electronics which punctuate the music throughout are created from sounds created exclusively from broken bike parts, further adding to the unsettled sound-world of the piece. There is something evil lurking within...
DARK DANCE (2018)
for chamber ensemble
Psappha | Jamie Phillips (cond)
22nd March 2018
Halle St Peter's, Manchester
A GLASGOW ELEGY, for massed choirs and organ (2018)
Text by Grahame Davies
Commissioned by Glasgow University to commemorate the dead of WWI.
Text by Grahame Davies
University of Glasgow Chapel Choir
University of Glasgow Choral Society
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
Katy Cooper (cond)
10th November 2018
University of Glasgow Memorial Chapel