Composer Trish Clowes wins a Basca

The 2016 Basca British Composer Award for Contemporary Jazz Composition has been won by Trish Clowes for her piece The Fox, The Parakeet and The Chestnut, which was a BBC commission for saxophonist Clowes, her Quintet and the BBC Concert Orchestra and performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall during the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival.

Basca stands for British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Here, courtesy of her recording company, Basho Music, are Trish’s thoughts on the composition:

The Fox, the Parakeet and the Chestnut is the musical fable of a little fox that, after naughtily littering Blythe Hill Fields, makes amends by helping a little Parakeet to learn to fly, and then the two of them tidy the park. The wise old Chestnut tree provides wisdom and guidance throughout their tale. I wanted to dedicate this new work to Blythe Hill Fields because it is my place of solace, a short walk from my South East London home.

Trish Clowes (Photo © John Watson/

Trish Clowes (Photo © John Watson/

Once again, the percussion section features strongly. To develop the sounds I was using in the percussion section, I did a lot of listening to Edgard Varese’s famous piece Ionisation, written for thirteen percussionists. Other pieces that have caught my ear whilst developing this piece include John Adams’ piece John’s Book of Alleged Dances, written for string quartet and recorded prepared piano, Shostakovich’s Fifteenth Symphony and Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra.

I was interested in the idea of a musical fable when I examined more of what ‘fable’ means, a story that includes characters that are personified animals or inanimate objects. As I was developing a title that captured the scene of Blythe Hill Fields it occurred to me that I could create a fable of three characters from the hill. With the sound of bows on the bridges of the string instruments, the second movement aims to create a sense of the wind whispering in the Horse Chestnut trees, handing out tacet wisdom to anyone walking nearby. The main melody of the third movement aims to capture the parakeet flying and the quirkier first movement hopefully encapsulates the mischievous, playful character of the fox.

Congratulations to Trish Clowes and commiserations to Django Bates and Mike Williams who also had compositions in contention.

  • For Trish Clowes’ website go here.

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