2020 is not a year which we will remember fondly. It’s been extremely upsetting for us all to witness the demise of the ‘live’ performance what with the closing of theatres, concert halls, and many arts venues – and some will probably never re-open.
Those of us who teach have been generally been fortunate, with online platforms such as Skype and Zoom offering the opportunity to continue with our work. I’ve been able to sustain my teaching, but all my workshop tours were, of course, cancelled or postponed. Whilst initially disappointed, I was able to harness my energies elsewhere and turned to one of my favourite pursuits – composing. I started writing music relatively late in life, and consider it both creative and therapeutic, and an enjoyable diversion from teaching and writing.
During the Summer break, I was invited to write a suite for clarinet and piano for two friends and colleagues; clarinettist Nadia Barbosa and pianist Yuki Negishi. Whilst writing a piece for the London Myriad Ensemble earlier this year (a small work for piano sextet entitled Gratitude) of which they are both members, I had the chance to become acquainted with Nadia’s gorgeous playing, and I’ve been fortunate to work with superb pianist Yuki Negishi on many occasions. I played the clarinet whilst a student at Junior RCM, and although my playing was far from remarkable, this experience provided a useful insight into the instrument’s possibilities. And what a beautiful instrument it is! Sultry, lustrous and mellow, yet also menacing, dark and penetrating, it was a joy to conjure sounds and work on this new piece.
An ardent alternative medicine fan, I’ve long been aware of the seven chakras, and the effect they have on our energy levels. Numerous alternative medical practitioners work using this system, and they were brought in to my focus more clearly over the past couple of years, particularly when working with my healer, John McGrath, who is a specialist in energy healing, the basis of which is formed from the chakras. After witnessing the amazing benefits of this type of healing, I knew that I wanted to write a piece centred around it.
The Chakra System
The origins of the seven chakras are deeply rooted in Eastern spiritual traditions. The Chakras are considered the basis of human existence and the human chakra system is commonly accepted as seven energy ‘centres’ stretching physically from the spine to the crown of the head. This system is also representative of disparate aspects of life, and their function might be described in various terms encompassing the psychological, physical, energetic and spiritual. In keeping with Hindu traditions, the Sanskrit chakra title for each of the seven energy centres is often used alongside its Western name.
Healers use the chakras as a way to gauge energy levels in patients; they then set about rectifying those levels using various healing methods. The word ‘chakra’ translates to a ‘wheel’ in Sanskrit, and the chakras might be considered similar to wheels of free-flowing positive energy.
The Chakra Suite was written in July 2020, and has seven movements, one for each chakra, with each representing the character of that particular chakra; from the bright solidity of the Root Chakra, and the pulsating heart-beat of the Heart Chakra, through to the frenetic ‘chatty’ quality of the Throat Chakra, and the finality and defiance of the Crown Chakra. I hope the music offers a brief snap-shot of this fascinating ancient energy system. Each movement is named after its Sanskrit title.
The piece is dedicated to Nadia and Yuki, who have performed and recorded it so beautifully; each movement is linked below, with an introduction from Nadia. We have been sharing each movement from the Chakra Suite on social media every day this past week, as part of Yuki’s series #PianoMusicbyWomen. Find out more about it and listen to her many recordings of music by female composers, here.
Muladhara – Root Chakra
Svadhisthana – Sacral Chakra
Manipura – Solar Plexus Chakra
Anahata – Heart Chakra
Visshudha – Throat Chakra
Ajna – Third-eye Chakra
Sahasrara – Crown Chakra
You can hear more of my compositions, here.
For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.
You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.