Blackheath-born Jonathan Dove is one of the world’s leading, living composers of opera, choral works, plays, films, and orchestral and chamber music, writes Holly O’Mahony…

To celebrate his 60th birthday, Trinity Laban is holding a concert in his honour at Blackheath Halls. The event is free to attend but tickets are required.

“Jonathan is probably best known as a composer of opera, but his song cycle work is less known,” says Andrew Matthews-Owen, junior trinity lead tutor in piano and curator of the concert – who is also a colleague and friend of the composer. Jonathan’s latest song cycle – Letters From Claude, which sets Debussy’s letters to his wife and his mistress – premiered at the Southbank Centre in May 2018 and was recorded for Nimbus Records. It was released earlier this month and went in at number 10 in the Classical Charts.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for audiences to hear these vocal works, and give a performance platform to young singers and pianists to experience this music,” Andrew explains. “So I approached Jennifer Hamilton [Trinity Laban’s head of vocal studies] about the possibility of curating a 60th birthday concert for Jonathan, making it Trinity Laban’s tribute to this important composer.”

Among the pieces being performed is the unaccompanied song cycle Ariel, which Andrew has split amongst four performers, with plans for the piece to be interspersed throughout the evening in various locations. “Not only does this increase the number of performers involved, but thematically reflects the shape-shifting nature of the character,” he says.

In curating the material, Andrew was also keen to acknowledge Trinity Laban’s Venus Blazing initiative, a year-long celebration of women composers. “In addition to Dove’s song cycles, I have programmed solo piano pieces by Grammy-nominated composer Dobrinka Tabakova and some recent songs by Charlotte Bray” he reveals. “Though not explicitly associated with Dove, Tabakova and Bray are composers whose music I’ve recently introduced to Jonathan and that he holds in high regard.”

When asked to reflect on classical music, we typically think of composers from the Baroque, Classical or Romantic eras, but many of us are unfamiliar with contemporary composers. Andrew is keen to raise awareness of the work of remarkable living composers – like Jonathan Dove. “It’s easy in our niche classical world to assume that everyone knows about living composers, but I want to do anything I can to expose the wider community to this music,” he says. “I hope a lot of people will hear Jonathan Dove’s music for the first time and it will inspire them to go and listen to more.”

Jonathan Dove Birthday Concert takes place in the Recital Room at Blackheath Halls, 23 Lee Road, Blackheath, London SE3 9RQ.

March 28, at 6pm. Admission: FREE but tickets required.