Click anywhere on the poster for a link to buy tickets.
DW’s 45 minute song collection Weep for the Earth (see 2021 below) is due to have its first complete performance by Jessica Summers and Jelena Makarova on 10 September in the music room at Leith Hall, a National Trust for Scotland property near Huntly, Aberdeenshire. The first half of the concert is expected to be a performance of the complete art songs by Ronald Center 1913–1973 who lived in Huntly. His one-time piano pupils include the broadcaster James Naughtie. A second performance of Weep for the Earth is projected for Southern England, probably London, but is not yet scheduled.
During October DW has composed settings for voice and piano of Miroslav Holub’s poem The fly translated by George Theiner (Bloodaxe Books) and a poem by W B Yeats The Rose of Peace. The Yeats completes a collection Weep for the Earth, Songs from Lockdown and Beyond 2020–2021. This collection consists of about 45 minutes of songs suitable for ‘middle voice’ (middle C to F at the top of the stave) and piano. Click on the image below to view a PDF of the complete score watermarked ‘Perusal Score’ (opens in a new tab). For PDFs without the watermark or for printed copies please contact David Ward or Vanderbeek & Imrie Ltd.
Cover picture lino/woodcut by Jane Frere: The fly
The second last song of the collection, a setting of Miroslav Holub’s poem The fly, tells of a fly watching the Battle of Crécy and meditating on the immortality of flies, then mating and laying her eggs on a corpse, before she is eaten by a swift fleeing from the fires of Estrées. The final song, which sets an early poem by W B Yeats, The Rose of Peace, is a benign contrast.
Commentary on my collection of songs Weep for the Earth
The mostly gloomy mood of these songs is in no sense autobiographical: I am usually at least moderately cheerful. The mood is (I hope) more a result of my general sense of empathy. I prefer to believe I’m not one of those composers or artists who is forever protesting or in need of a cause; but nevertheless I watch, observe and feel.
The two cycles in this collection, the J M Synge Petrarch translations and the cycle of short poems by Rudyard Kipling, are especially dark, although in very different ways both musically and verbally. The penultimate song The fly (lower case ‘f’ requested by the poet) is perhaps more Kafkaesque and surreal than dark. Its musical language is the most extreme in the selection, but is still rather modest. My writing for the voice throughout these songs is far less demonstrative and theatrical than in many of my other pieces, and is for a narrower vocal range. The songs are chamber duos which could be performed beside a domestic piano. At the end I felt it was necessary to lift the mood, to suggest that wherever we have been taken there may still be hope. Hence The Rose of Peace, my ‘epimell’ (as epilogue = additional word, so epimell = additional song), whose harmonic language, structure and benign mood are in contrast to the preceding song. However, in no sense should this epimell come across as something tagged on: it belongs to the whole as an essential part.
There are a few current references, both direct and indirect. The Vase Jumped Out, an eighty second miniature to my own words, brings to mind Brexit negotiations and the like. The second even shorter miniature Weep for the Earth lends its title to the whole collection and for its text variously repeats the words of this title, which have an obvious relevance to our time. Statesman No 9 of the Kipling cycle contains the words “… I lied to please the mob …” which seem embarrassingly current.
Apart from the Kipling, which really needs to be performed complete, these songs can each be performed individually. However, the entire forty-five minute collection is intended as a musical journey, albeit a wayward and diversionary one, that ideally should be experienced complete and in order. David Ward
On Saturday 2 October at St Peter’s Church, Nottingham as part of http://www.livingsongs.co.uk/ Jessica Summers and Jelena Makarova performed Unknown Instructors, the first song in the collection Weep for the Earth, a setting from 2020 of two poems by W B Yeats.
During the third week of September DW has written a fifteen minute cycle of songs with piano, setting ten short poems (to play without a break) by Rudyard Kipling, with the title Epitaphs of War.
On 31 August & 1 September DW wrote a pair of miniatures for voice and piano. The Vase Jumped Out mocks the way Frost & Davis blame the EU. Weep for the Earth sets only the words of its title.
In March & April DW wrote several miniatures for piano.
As part of the series Feed the Hound for narrator and basset horn DW has written a short piece with words by Jane Frere called Bob! recorded by Jon Iles and Sarah Watts. It is one of a series of pieces by various composers for narrator and basset horn in aid of the Kit Wilson Trust for animal welfare.
The complete 19 track album was released on 18 June and can be downloaded via this link:
Bob! is track 17.
DW has been using isolation/lockdown time to write some songs: a setting of two poems by W B Yeats as a single 6 minute song for Voice (unspecified) and Piano with the title Unknown Instructors, some whimsical thoughts with the title Trilogues without Form: Musings from Lockdown for Mezzo, Tenor, Baritone, Viola and Piano lasting about 5 minutes, and the first three (so far) of J M Synge’s Petrarch translations J M Synge’s Petrarch: the first three for unspecified Voice and Piano, lasting about 13 minutes. These Synge settings are rather dark and bleak, but the three songs are strongly contrasted and also have their own internal contrasts.
Click on the image below to view the score of DW’s three setting of J M Synge’s Petrarch.
In April DW received a commission to write A short operatic journey through the noise of Brexit (details via the link) which has the title B means B.
December 2019 update: Both the full and the vocal scores are complete (subject to minor edits & corrections).
Link to the libretto by Neville Rigby of B means B.
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Link to a new PDF synopsis of DW’s 2016 opera The Garden of the Sun (two pages: should open in a new tab).
David Ward continues to write new pieces while revisiting, revising and refashioning some of his earlier ones. During the course of the year he has written three 4–5 minute pieces for the Genovia Quartet. Now in December he is revisiting his large opera Sybil in the belief that its story of love set against misunderstanding and conflict between the very rich and the very poor remains as relevant as ever.
Future projects include plans, as yet tentative, for an hour long mini-opera for 2 singers, 5 instrumentalists (and probably some recorded voices) to be written in collaboration with artist Jane Frere who will write the libretto and also provide the designs.
Here is a YouTube video stream of the performance, which also includes the post-performance Q & A with the audience.
There is also a video of Oonagh Devoy’s film full screen with the music as soundtrack (without the Q & A).
Link to Oonagh Devoy’s blog post on the performance, the culmination of a collaboration between her as artist and DW as composer, first proposed in November 2015.
DW’s short piece In Memoriam Keith, written in memory of Keith Cockburn as a gift for his widow Pam Johnston, was premiered at the Huntly Summer School Tutors’ Concert by Emily White (sackbut) and Pam’s daughter Morag Johnston (baroque violin).
DW has received the edited videos to accompany Arias and Cadenzas from Oonagh Devoy and has sent on-line files and a DVD of these to the musicians for them to work with in advance of formal rehearsal at the sound festival 2017 (see the March entry for more information).
DW has now finished writing his new 20 minute piece Arias and Cadenzas commissioned for the sound festival 2017, which is to accompany video and still projections by Oonagh Devoy. The premiere is scheduled for Sunday 5 November 2017 at 3.00 pm at Woodend Barn, Banchory, with cellist Rohan de Saram, his son Suren de Saram on percussion (vibraphone, temple blocks & drum kit) and pianist Kausikan Rajeshkumar.
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DW has provisionally finished his opera The Garden of the Sun to a libretto by NZ poet and novellist Kevin Ireland derived from the ancient Sumerian Gilgamesh epic. The libretto as in the completed full score can be opened as a PDF in a new tab by clicking here.
A PDF of the complete full score may be seen on request (best with large display or an A3 printer).
The draft full score of The Garden of the Sun is now complete apart from the final scene.
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DW has signed a commission contract with sound and WMS (Woodend Music Society) for a new 20 minute piece to accompany video and still projections by Oonagh Devoy to be performed at Woodend Barn, Banchory as part of the sound festival 2017.
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DW continues work on his opera The Garden of the Sun. A number of changes are being made to the distribution of text in the libretto during the compostion of Act III Scene 2. These will be incorporated in due course in the next work-in-progress version of the libretto to be available from this web-site as a PDF.
The photograph below was taken by Oonagh Devoy when she and DW met in Banchory on 11 June to discuss their joint project. A report of that meeting can be read on Oonagh’s blog post for 15 June.
More news on the progress of this collaboration between composer David Ward and visual artist Oonagh Devoy will follow.
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Early June 2016
DW continues to work on his opera The Garden of the Sun, which is derived from the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.
The Prologue to Act III, which narrates the ancient tale of the Great Flood, from a source that pre-dates Noah by several hundred years, has now been written in draft full score.
PDFs of the draft full score of Acts I & II, and of the Prologue to Act III plus the dance (Tango morphing into Tarantella) of the Snake who Sloughs her Skin (also from Act III) are available on request.
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4 May 2016
A performance in Glasgow by the violin and cello duo High Heels and Horse Hair (click on the Concert Dates tab on the High Heels and Horse Hair home page) will include DW’s miniature Lukkaminnie’s Oo as part of Transplanted.
Later March 2016
DW has now completed the draft full score of Acts I & II of The Garden of the Sun an opera to a libretto by Kevin Ireland based on the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh.
The most recent performances of Transplanted including DW’s piece Lukkaminnie’s Oo took place in Gairloch and Inverness on 18 & 19 February.
There is now a complete draft of Act I of The Garden of the Sun in full score.
“This opera is being written without commission and (as yet) has no scheduled performance. However, I’m due to be 75 next February (2016) and felt that this might well be the last such substantial piece I should expect to write, so I’d better just get on with things.” David Ward
Click on the image below for a synopsis (opens in a new tab).
DW finally began the full score of his planned opera The Garden of the Sun to a libretto by Kevin Ireland freely derived from The Epic of Gilgamesh.
The provisional full score of Scene 1 of this opera is now written. During the course of composing the music, the libretto of the scene has been substantially rearranged. It has also been decided that the only dancer in the opera should be the one depicting the snake who sloughs her skin. Elsewhere, projections of ancient Sumerian carvings might accompany the retrospective narratives (dominated by the chorus) that intersperse the central drama.
Act II Scene 2 was drafted in full score.
Late June 2015
DW drafted the full score of the four minute solo dance for the Snake who eats the Flower of Immortality and then sloughs her skin, thus thwarting Gilgamesh’s dream of acquiring immortality. The first half of the dance is a tango, the second a tarantella.
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2 January 2015
As a birthday surprise for poet Brian Nisbet a setting which David Ward wrote specially for the occasion of Brian’s poem The Abbot of Bingham was performed by musician friends in the house at Dursley, Gloucestershire which Brian shares with his wife, trombonist Emily White. Click on this image of the cover to see a PDF of the complete score.
Very sadly Brian Nisbet has since died after a long illness. Link to an obituary of Brian.
Review and pictures of the concert on 22 Nov 2014 which included DW’s Lukkaminie’s Oo (see also ‘Most recent public premiere’ below).
Recent performance of e-mails from Palestine
A performance of DW’s e-mails from Palestine took place in a concert on 25 October 2014 given by Emily White and Steve Bingham in the Tin Hut, Gartly, Huntly, Aberdeenshire promoted by Music Centeral.
Review and pictures of the concert on 25 October 2014.
The studio recording of e-mails from Palestine is now in progress with a release date due in 2015 (to be announced).
Most recent public premiere
On Wednesday 17 September 2014 at the Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow at 7.30 pm there was the first performance Lukkaminnie’s Oo which the violin and cello duo High Heels and Horse Hair commissioned from David Ward for their series Transplanted. It is one of eight pieces by different composers which received their first performances at this event. They were all commissioned by H H & H with subsidy from Creative Scotland to be written on a single page (any sized page!) to mirror the eight one page pieces that make up Airs for the Seasons by the Scottish baroque composer James Oswald (1710–1769) which were each given the name of a native Scottish plant appropriate for one of the seasons. DW was allocated the summer plant Bog Cotton or Cotton Grass. He has given his piece the Shetlandic name Lukkaminnie’s Oo.
Lukkaminnie’s Oo or ‘Grannie’s Wool’ is the Shetland name for Bog Cotton or Cotton Grass. For this piece, we might imagine ourselves on a rather boggy island moor in high summer, with white tufts of bog cotton all around. It is a calm and sunny day, and because of the bright sun there are, for the moment, only a few active midges. Suddenly one of those strange, miniature whirlwinds, which occur from time to time in such places, rushes past; after that we return to the previous atmospheric calm.
A further ten performances of the complete set of Transplantedpieces is scheduled, including one at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh on 18 October 2014, and another at the Tin Hut, Gartly, Huntly on 22 November. There is an article about Transplanted in the autumn 2014 edition of the RBGE magazine Botanics. A PDF of the magazine can be dowloaded by clicking here. The article begins on page 14, where there is a beautiful picture, consisting of a photograph of bog cotton overlaid with a section of the score of DW’s piece inspired by the plant.
In August 2014 DW wrote a 25 minute, five movement Divertimento for mixed octet, the same combination as the Schubert Octet, except that DW’s clarinettist also plays alto sax and bass clarinet during the course of the piece. It was written for the Berkeley Ensemble. Performances to be announced later.
New opera planned
In preparation for a potential start on the composition of his next opera, David Ward in July 2014 DW retyped and slightly emended Kevin Ireland’s libretto The Garden of the Sun, which is derived from the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh. This was originally written for David Ward in 1981. Provisional voice designations and a proposed orchestra line-up are included in a PDF of the libretto available via this link. The story is mostly about humanity’s struggle to come to terms with the inevitability of mortality, but there are diversions along the way.
The recording of Dreaming of a Distant Love (see picture of a girl with binoculars, below) played by FourSight can be heard via this SoundCloud link. Please contact DW directly if you would like to download Dreaming.
David Ward’s Three Orpheus Sonnets (Rilke) were performed by Ella Fontaine (mezzo) and Lauren Hibberd (piano) in a concert promoted by Music Centeral on Saturday 8 March in Stewart’s Hall, Huntly, Aberdeenshire.
A review of the concert is here.
Jane Manning’s essay on performing DW’s Rilke Sonnets may be read here.
The Isla Quartet gave the first performance of David Ward’s String Quartet No 7 at Gartly Community Hall (‘The Tin Hut’) near Huntly on 16 November 2013. This piece was commissioned by Music Centeral with funding from Creative Scotland. The programme also included the first complete performance of String Quartet No 3 by Huntly based composer Ronald Center (1913-1973), which was probably written in 1969-70, and a number of short pieces specially written for the occasion by young composers, including school children, as well as Mendelssohn’s 2nd quartet. The concert was repeated the next day at Woodend Barn, Banchory, both concerts being part of sound, Scotland’s festival of new music.
The group FourSight has recorded David Ward’s short piece Dreaming of a Distant Love, which he describes as a miniature paraphrase of music from his opera Cupid and Psyche or Should Love Lie … (see lower down this page). This has now been released as part of a compilation of two minute pieces by various composers specially written for the group. Click on the image below for a PDF of the score (4 pages of music, plus cover and info).
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A studio recording of e-mails from Palestine (see photograph of four people well down this page) is waiting to be edited for later release.
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David Ward’s short (7 minute) Duo for Violin and Cello had its first performance on 2 April 2013
At the Tin Hut, Gartly, Huntly, Aberdeenshire as part of a concert celebrating the 100th aniversary of the birth of Huntly based composer and teacher Ronald Center (1913-1973) who taught broadcaster James Naughtie the piano and encouraged his enthusiasm for opera and string quartets. As well as Ronald Center’s own duet for violin and cello, the programme featured the first performances of seven strikingly varied short pieces that had been specially written for the Ronald Center 100th anniversary concert by young people from six different countries. The performers High Heels and Horse Hair also played the exhilaratingly virtuosic duo by Kodály, a piece by William Gilmour a music teacher at Culloden Academy, Inverness-shire and the new piece by David Ward. For more information about the Ronald Center centenary programme, follow this link Music Centeral
This Duo for Violin and Cello is an adaptation and reworking of music originally written for the clarinet and violin duet of Shinobu Miki and Hector Scott as two separate pieces, Little Duet (2001) and More for H & S (2004). After hearing Little Duet, Michael Tumelty wrote in the Glasgow Herald: “Ward’s spacious and emotional piece was like a glimpse into a private world of exchanged intimacies.”
Click on this link to hear an MP3 of David Ward’s Duo recorded at the 2 April concert.
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David Ward finished writing a new opera, this time based on the Cupid and Psyche myth, with a libretto written for him in 1985 by Kevin Ireland. New Zealand poet Kevin Ireland also wrote the libretto for David Ward’s The Snow Queen, which was commissioned by the BBC in 1982. Go to the Sound Clips page of this web-site to hear a sequence from The Snow Queen. (Scroll up to the Gilgamesh image for another libretto by Kevin Ireland which DW hopes to set.)
Cupid and Psyche (which will be given the sub-title, or possibly even main title, Should Love Lie …) is a large chamber opera lasting 90 minutes for 6 singers and 23 instrumentalists (plus dancers ad lib.). A PDFs of the final duet and epilogue as in the full score score may be downloaded from this link: Duet and Epilogue
And a PDF of the complete libretto including a synopsis and some general information can be downloaded from this one Libretto
A PDF of the full score is available on request and a vocal score will be prepared in due course.
These fragments of text from Scene 1 hint at the wide ranging variety of the libretto and music, including the darkly sardonic, the dreamily sensual and the tongue-in-cheek cynical. The four lines beginning ‘Love is a liar’ are repeated at the very end of the opera by the Olympian gods, representing those in authority piqued at the thwarting of their plans, and perhaps wrily amused at the thought that Psyche believes Cupid – one of their own, after all – will be a good husband.
Love is a liar
with a bloated smile,
a heart of briars
and an eye of bile …
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… where mysteries become new pleasures
and pleasure is the only mystery,
where the sea of my love
swirls across the land –
and air and earth and water
become the warm shadows
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It’s so lamentably unfair
that she should have
so much to spare
yet be worth so little
Putting on all these
before her own sisters.
It’s so lamentably unfair.
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A provisional full score of David Ward’s opera Sybil is available as a PDF (30.8 MB) on request. From time to time this is up-dated to include edits and corrections.
Click on the double picture below for an updated synopsis (should open in a new tab).
The Act I cover picture is of the three children of the younger brother of a Viscount, painted in the mid-1830s; the Act II picture shows a child weaver at work.
Wages for children were about 2s.3d. per week (£8.50 per week at 2011 values), but adults were paid 10 times as much. Hence it made economic sense to employ as many children and as few adults as possible, and this is exactly what happened.
The boy in the portrait of three children is David Ward’s great-grandfather, who went on to become a major-general and a KCMG.
Significant revisions in 2019/2020 have included placing the Choral Interlude that currently begins Act II at the end of Act I, and a more intense link to the Epilogue, including a choral setting of verses from Shelley’s ‘Masque of Anarchy’.
Sybil is an opera in two acts ostensibly set in early Victorian England, but it can – indeed generally should – be updated in production. It is a story of love set against the ever-relevant misunderstanding and conflict between rich and poor, haves and have-nots.
Quite how alarmingly relevant this opera seems was not anticipated at the time of composition: in Act II there is a scene in which a shop is burnt down by rioters. Plus ça change!
Act I is a darkly ironic social comedy. Act II soon becomes violent, with catastrophic consequences.
A vocal score should be available in due course.
This opera remains in an uncertain state and is subject to major revision, reorganization, additions and subtractions – in keeping, perhaps, with its quasi Mussorgsky-like subject.
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At the recent premiere of e-mails from Palestine left to right David Ward, Steve Bingham, Jane Frere and Emily White. Photograph © Malcolm Crowthers
In 2010 David Ward was commissioned to write a piece which has the title e-mails from Palestine (1) and had its first performance at Woodend Barn, Banchory, Scotland on Friday 12 November 2010 as part of sound, North East Scotland’s festival of new music. The performers were the wonderfully versatile Emily White on trombone, alto sackbut and violin, as well as singing and rhythmic recitation, together with Steve Bingham on violin, five string electric violin and electric bass violin. Both also played some percussion. The words for Emily to sing and recite during this 25 minute quasi-theatrical piece were phrases from the often harrowing, but occasionally humorous e-mails which the Scottish artist Jane Frere has sent to David from Palestine, from the occupied territories and from Palestinian refugee camps across the region, especially while she was putting together her Return of the Soul exhibition in 2007 and 2008. The last part of the piece has a pre-recording of Jane herself reading her recent thoughts on the separation wall. The music followed the opening of her exhibition In the Shadow of the Wall. There were two performances, with different endings, separated by a long interval in which the audience had a discussion with Jane Frere, Emily White, Steve Bingham and David Ward.
A more recent performance of this piece took place in a concert on Friday 13 May 2011 at St Giles Church, Castle Street, Cambridge. Soprano Deborah Fink joined Emily and Steve to perform the vocals, with Emily and Steve playing the same instruments as before. Jane Frere provided a sequence of projections to accompany her recorded voice in the final section of the piece.
A studio recording of the piece is planned, to be followed by further performances.
This is a brilliant piece. I found it effective, engaging and it’s all accessible – writes Anthony Sayer, cellist and longest serving member of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, on listening to a recording of the first performance of e-mails from Palestine.
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In 2007 DW received a commission from the Institute of Evolutionary Studies to write a piece for 23 solo strings (the same line-up as Strauss’s Metamorphosen) in celebration of Darwinian evolution. Evolutionary Metamorphoses was commissioned to celebrate the Theory of Evolution and to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth in 1809 of Charles Darwin.
The composition of Evolutionary Metamorphoses came about as a result of a conversation David Ward was having with a group of people at the University of Glasgow. They were bemoaning the fact that there were so many pieces of music being written in praise of God (MacMillan, Tavener, Pärt etc); but it seemed there were none being written in praise of Evolution.
Some other Recent Premieres:
|David Ward’s String Quartet No 6 had its public premiere by the Bingham String Quartet at Woodend Barn, Banchory on 11 November 2007. A semi-private pre- premiere performance of String Quartet No 6 by the BSQ took place at Maitland and Halldis Mackie’s house at Westertown Farm, home of Mackies ice cream, near Inverurie in aid of the Matthew Hay Project on 10 November. A complete live recording of the 11th November performance is available to buy as a high quality mp3 download from Steve Bingham’s on-line shop at a cost of £3.||
David Ward on 1st January 2009
|David’s String Quartet No 5 was given its premiere by the Bingham String Quartet, who have premiered several of his other quartets, on 25th April 2002, at St. Giles’ Church, Cripplegate, London.|
|“Little Duet” for clarinet and violin – Hector Scott (violin) and Shinobu Miki (clarinet). Gallery of Modern Art, Queen Street, Glasgow. January 2002.
“Ward’s spacious and emotional piece was like a glimpse into a private world of exchanged intimacies.”The Herald
|Sonata Fantasia – Rohan De Saram (cello) & Druvi De Saram (piano). June 2001 – Woodend Barn, Banchory, Aberdeenshire|
|Cello Concerto No 2 – Rohan de Saram (cello), Southbank Sinfonia conducted by Simon Over, Woodend Barn, Banchory, Scotland. March 2003.
David has written the following dedication for the Cello Concerto no.2: “Written during the run up to the war against Iraq and premiered one week before the actual invasion, this concerto is dedicated to the improvement of understanding and co-operation between people of different cultures, races and religions.”
A sound clip of this piece is now available.
|Variations on a Waltz was premiered in a concert given by Catherine Nardiello (piano) in November 2005 in London as part of the 8th London New Wind Festival, 2005.|
If you would like to suggest a relevant link please email the details.
Vanderbeek & Imrie Ltd
Publishers of David Ward’s music
(site includes download of the David Ward 6th Quartet)
Music Centeral is the music society in Huntly, the nearest town to where David Ward lives, and is named after composer and pianist Ronald Center,
who lived in Huntly (he taught the piano to the broadcaster James Naughtie). The centenary of Center’s birth was in 2013.