Creative: Rehearsal with Jonathan Woolgar

Jonathan Woolgar, one of our composers, talks about the first rehearsal of his new piece, Scenes from the Garden of Love, with the ensemble:

My piece for The Hermes Experiment, Scenes from the Garden of Love, is quite a substantial one at over 15 minutes long, compiling William Blake poems and biblical texts into a series of dramatic tableaux. All in all I worked on it for over four months, and indeed was rather sad to see it go when I finished it and sent the parts to Héloïse, Oliver, Anne and Marianne ahead of our first rehearsal on 29th April. First rehearsals are always a strange experience for a composer. The music which was so crystalline in my head suddenly becomes something real and fragile — it can be a disconcerting experience, but also a thrilling one. There is often a degree of relief when things work just as you wanted them to, or frustration when you realise that you hadn’t made yourself as clear as you thought. The 29th, though, was a wholly positive experience, each performers’ contributions already sounding polished. Indeed, it’s been a joy to write not only for the unusual combination which is initially so striking about The Hermes Experiment, but for the four individuals who bring it to life. The feeling of confidence in writing for such trustworthy players is joyous, especially with regard to Héloïse’s dramatic capabilities (see the performance of Récitation No. 9 by Aperghis on this website!) which initially encouraged me to create a dramatic piece in the first place. I am truly excited about the upcoming rehearsals as increasingly we all become co-creators in this drama, as each tableau goes from being a section of music to being a living theatrical event. Thanks to the versatility and experimentalism of an ensemble like this, the potential is endless. What a treat for a composer.


Jonathan’s piece will be premiered on 14th May at the Notting Hill Mayfest. More details here: