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ALUN GRAFTON

Composer of contemporary music

 

Short Biography

Alun Grafton was born in 1961 and began his musical career as a chorister at Rochester Cathedral under Dr Robert Ashfield while attending the King’s School. While studying for a degree in Latin and Archaeology at Nottingham University, he continued his musical studies privately.

After graduating, Alun worked for three years at the Tate Gallery in London and continued to excavate on archaeological sites at the weekends and holidays. It was during his time at the Tate Gallery that Alun undertook the mammoth task of recording and indexing all the photographic negatives of John Piper. This contributed to the exhibition “John Piper. A Painter’s Camera” held at the Tate in 1987 and to the book of photographs of the same name.

In 1985 Alun returned to Nottingham University to undertake teacher training in Classics and Music, and upon completion of the course, taught at Eagle House School, Berkshire. He taught Classics, Music and ran the Philosophy programme but was for six years Director of Music, during the 30 years at Eagle House School. He has now left teaching to concentrate full time on his composing and music.

During his time, Alun has sung in many different choral groups ranging from large choruses to small chamber choirs. From 2001 to 2006 he conducted “Cantores Chamber Choir”, based in Berkshire, and presently sings with The Round Table Singers, Thames Voyces and with the church choir of St Michael’s, Sandhurst.

Alun began composing at the age of 14 and his output covers orchestral, chamber, vocal, choral and instrumental work. He is a member of Sound and Music, the Portsmouth District Composers’ Alliance and London Composers' forum.

Competitions

“Praeludium in tempore belli” op 65 was commended in the Oare International Composers’ Competition in 2003.

“Praeludium 2” op 53 was performed in the finalists’ concert for the London Chamber group’s Piece of the year competition in 2004

“Now Welcome Summer” op 19a was highly commended in the Vaughan Williams Memorial competition in 2008.

Long Biography

Alun was born in 1961 into a family of church musicians, organists and singers. By the age of nine he had already had singing and piano for several years and had joined the local church choir as well as his junior school choir. Attending the Robert Mayer concerts in the late 1960’s gave him his first experience of hearing a live orchestra and he remembers being impressed by a performance of Britten’s “Young Persons’ Guide” which was the first score bought for him.

He attended King’s School Rochester where he was a cathedral chorister under Doctor Robert Ashfield for five years. Upon leaving the cathedral choir he joined the school choir under Gavin Williams, former assistant organist under Barry Rose at Guildford cathedral, who gave Alun his first lessons in harmony, basic orchestration and free counterpoint. Piano lessons continued though like so many teenagers practice was not always top of the list of things to do. At home his step father introduced him to the music of Shostakovich, which has been the favourite composer of Alun’s, Prokofiev and others. In the long summer holidays many an evening was spent attending and listening to the Proms. As a teenage Alun starting composing music but much of the juvenlia was to end up in the bin or recycled later on in life. Nevertheless a few examples from this period have survived and have been performed such as “Coventry Carol”, “Sinfonia Suite” and “Suite for piano”.

In 1979 Alun went to Nottingham University to study Latin and Archaeology but continued his musically studies privately with Brenda May, wife of his archaeological tutor, Jeffrey May. Singing continued as a member of the university chorus, the chamber choir and the chapel singing group. Very little music was written for those three years as time had to be spent more on his formal studies though time was found for the composition of his major work, “concentus luctuosus” for timpani, one percussion player and string orchestra.

Upon graduating he began a career in the museum world, after a few months unemployment, working during the week in the Tate Gallery Archive, London, weekends and summer breaks etc on local archaeological sites. His exposure to the world of modern art was very interesting especially as he was given the project of cataloguing the photographs of John Piper.  The  string quartet no 1 was written at this time. Though short at 8 minutes it is a one movement, several section piece that builds up to a climax followed by a short but enigmatic coda.

Alun returned to Nottingham to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in education in Classics and Music before entering the education world full time. It was at Nottingham the second time that the part song “Absence” received its first airing in a workshop. Studying Music as a taught subject in school led to Alun applying aleatorical and soundscaping techniques in several works which were written in the following few years.

For the next 30 years Alun taught at Eagle House school, Wellington College, firstly just Classics and Religious Studies before being appointed Director of Music. These early years at Eagle House saw a flood of compositions not just for the pupils to perform but for other musicians working in the same school. The more experimental pieces using such techniques were used in this period much to the amusement of parents and staff alike, though the pupils themselves coped very well with the modern idioms. Outside of the school Alun first joined the local choral society before joining Cantores, a local chamber choir, founded by, the then director of music at Wellington College, John Holloway. Several choral pieces, My Beloved Spake and Sospan Fach,  were performed by Cantores and some were especially written for them.

In 1987 the part song “The Owl and Pussycat” was written for Wendy whom he married in 1988. Three versions of the song exist, SATB and piano, Soprano and piano and three counter tenors and piano, the original version. In the latter years at Eagle House Alun stepped down as Director of Music to take up further roles and responsibilities as the school. Though the number of performances dwindled in school, away from school the number of performances rose helped by his membership of the Portsmouth District Composers’ Alliance.

He took over the conductorship of Cantore for several years which led to even more performance. Unfortunately with choir numbers swindling Cantores ceased to exist. Alun therefore joined Thames Voyces an auditioned chamber choir based in Bracknell. Having first performed “Now Welcome Summer”, they commissioned two further pieces, the cantata “Immortality” in 2013 and the carol “Alleluia! A New work is come on Hand” for the choir’s 50th celebration year.

When time and other commitments have allowed Alun has been busy with the music of the local church choir, singing, conducting and sometimes even playing the organ. This has also led to performances of his sacred music.

In 2016 Alun resigned from his post at Eagle House to concentrate on composing and singing. The first major piece completed on his retirement is the “Second String Quartet”, a piece not for the faint hearted with its dissonant and harsh sound world. Perhaps it is best described as a cathartic and may be an even therapeutic piece after 30 years in education. Since leaving his full time teaching post Alun has joined the London Composers forum which has led to performances of both old compositions, Piano Prelude no 3, and new, “......with immortal fire.” Further culling of pieces unworthy of performance has taken place to make for a leaner and more player and enjoyable catalogue by the composer.