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Lockdown first-time composer writes classical pieces for Easter – from scratch

Lockdown has meant many different things to many people – and for one Surrey Christian last year it marked an extraordinary journey into classical music composition that led to three orchestral pieces telling the Easter story.

Sarah Jo Wood explains what has happened:

“During lockdown, I spent my time getting closer to God and felt a strong calling to write Christian orchestral music. The reason that this is a little different is because I’ve never done anything like this before. I dabbled in music back at school over 25 years ago but that was predominantly pop music.

“Since school, I had carried a particular melody in my head but wasn’t sure what it was or how to apply it. Then, as both Lent and lockdown started, I felt a calling that the melody reminded me of Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane before his arrest and crucifixion.
 
"Once I started, the orchestral piece came quickly into my head. I found I knew exactly what I wanted in the music but had to get the keyboard, virtual instruments and recording software to cooperate! My biggest challenge was writing for a full orchestra for the first time (I’d only played a little bit of flute and keyboard back at school all those years ago). 

"This was a real time of learning for me: how should each instrument be played? What could they do? How should they talk to each other? And how could they create feeling, emotions and love?

"Anyway, over the course of 2020 I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, as the music poured into me. I found that I could hear words and people’s voices behind the notes. Before I knew it, I had completed an orchestral trilogy called 'Easter Triduum' that includes: Gethsemane, Suffering Servant & Risen. A classical work, devoted to the Easter story.

"I must admit, I was overwhelmed to have written the first orchestral movement in the Covid-19 lockdown, but somewhat shocked that I managed three! I’m told by my Christian friends that this music is incredibly moving and by some music professionals that it is accomplished.

"I hope this is a positive story to share in these difficult times. Music is a beautiful way of expressing one’s beliefs, I simply hope and pray that I have done the Easter story some justice. I feel that my religious music has been ‘given’ to me and so I now simply want to share it freely."

Inspire took the opportunity to ask Sarah a few questions to give context to her story for readers ...

Are you connected to a local church?

I'm attending a couple of churches virtually at the moment. St Margaret's Lothbury (close to work in London) and sometimes All Saints in Oxted.

When did you become a Christian?

I have been a Christian since childhood, but have felt a much stronger calling during my adult years.  

Have you played an instrument at all since school?

Hardly at all. I have my old flute still but am so rusty, when I tried to play it last year I wasn't very good! I stopped playing music after GSCE music in 1995 – I always intended to keep playing but didn't. It was only in 2018/2019 I started trying it out again when I tried to write a Christmas carol.

What is your day job/profession?

I work in Business Change – coordinating projects and programmes. Very different!

Are there any plans for the music to be published?

Yes! I self published Gethsemane and am in the process of self publishing Suffering Servant and Risen.

I have also had all of the work transcribed by an amazing person, David Seekola, in South Africa  I found him via the internet and he is also a Christian and so supportive. I compose the pieces but would find it impossible to transcribe it onto a written musical score. It would probably take me 10 years to do what David can do in days.

David has also been great helping me to understand orchestration better (this helps check I'm assigning the right parts to the right instruments and not writing something unplayable).

I can only dream that one day I'll hear one of my pieces played by a real orchestra – but you have to dream.

Plans for 2021?

I'm embarking on a seven movement orchestra piece about Creation – one for each of the seven days. I feel incredibly blessed – the music is just pouring out. I'm already on the third movement. I can't wait to see what the next one will be.

You can listen to Sarah Jo's music at www.sarahjowood.com

 

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