Lawrence Power films his Lockdown Commissions, credit: Jessie Rodger (detail) View full image

Violist on the roof

Lawrence Power is commissioning ten short viola pieces and filming them in and around vacated London venues as a response to the Coronavirus crisis. The first of his Lockdown Commissions is Power by Huw Watkins, which he filmed on the roof of St John’s Smith Square. The video, made by Jessie Rodger, was released on his Instagram and YouTube channels on Friday.

Future composers will include Cassandra Miller, Erkki-Sven Tüür, Garth Knox and William Marsey and other venues including Southbank Centre, Wigmore Hall and Snape Maltings.

Power explains the project: ‘The big question facing every artist at the moment – which is challenging but exciting – is how can we be creative? I find myself drawn to commissioning new music. That is the idea behind this project – commissioning ten short solo viola works and presenting them beautifully on film in various iconic London venues that are locked down. It seems a natural direction to create something new out of this particular time. It’s a time to be free and creative, and to try new things. Concerts will start again, but we don’t know when, so if we forget about that it opens up the idea of other things we can do.’

‘I’ve always been fascinated with how folk and jazz music have been presented on film in very interesting ways, and I think classical music can be presented like that, too. With these miniatures, which have been written for me, I’m excited to explore the relationship between the silence of these venues and the music. These wonderful composers represent a wide spectrum of music and it will be exciting to explore their work within the silent spaces around London.’

To fund the new works, Power drew support from his Viola Commissioning Circle, which he founded in 2018 with the aim of raising money to create ten new viola concertos. By underwriting new works at the beginning of their commissioning cycles, the process itself becomes simple. These have already included a Viola Concerto by Gerald Barry and Three Berceuses for Viola and Piano by Thomas Adès, and future works by Anders Hillborg, Magnus Lindberg, Lera Auerbach and Huw Watkins.

The project has been featured in The Strad, Classical Music and Violin Channel.

Power's new recording of James MacMillan's Viola Concerto is out now on Hyperion Records.

Lockdown Commission No.1: Power by Huw Watkins