Alex Canovas / Artistic Director

Meet the Composers: Lydia Jane Pugh

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, YNYC’s Mixed and Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘Only All of Us’ featuring world premiere works for double chorus from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our third finalist for YNYC’s 2018 Competition for Young Composers, Lydia Jane Pugh!

Lydia Jane Pugh

Composition for YNYC: Adiraϊ (‘Misplaced’)


Lydia (b.1986) studied for a BA in music at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, going on to complete an MA in composition at Leeds College of Music in 2010. Lydia’s first commission was for the the Guernsey Glee singers, which resulted in a performance of ‘The Land Where I was Born’ at the Praga Cantat in Prague 2007. In 2009 her choral work “The Year Suite” was premiered by the Liberation Singers, and she was commissioned by the Guernsey Choral Society for Christmas 2010, a performance which was recorded for broadcast on BBC Guernsey. Lydia has also been a finalist for several competitions, including the ‘National Centre for Early Music’s Young Composer Award’, ‘Australian Boys Choir Choral Composing Competition’. Lydia’s music has also taken her abroad, as she has taken part in the Composers Workshop for the Charlotte New Music Festival, the Lehigh Choral Composers Forum, and most recently the Choral Chameleon Institute in New York, USA. At such events her work has been performed and recored by professional ensembles, including The Princeton Singers, The Great Noise Ensemble and The Choral Chameleon Singers. Lydia also works as a vocal coach, and was recently award both the John Owen-Jones Award and the P.J. Proby Award from The Voice College, along with her Advanced Professional Diploma in Teaching Contemporary Singing.

What is a personal sanctuary for you?

Every now and then I like to head somewhere along the coastline of Guernsey (my home island), be it along the cliffs, or the headlands, or one of the beaches. Guernsey is a pretty densely populated island for it’s size, but there is still so many places to escape and just ‘be’ for a while. One favourite place of mine is a cliff top called ‘Corbiere’, which has a single bench right on the very top edge, and the surrounding view is simply other cliffs and the ocean.

Where did your family immigrate from?

My mum’s side of the family is a mix of Guernsey and English heritage. My dad has done a lot of research into his side of the family’s history; The ‘Pugh’ family originate from the tiny village of Llanfachreth, which is situated in Snowdonia National Park in Wales, UK. His great-great-grandfather ended up settling in Manchester, England, and then my dad then moved from Manchester to Guernsey because, “He wanted to see the world, and made it as far as the Channel Islands”.

What relationship do you see between music and community?

In my personal view, music has the most incredible power to unify people. As a singing teacher I see it time and time again the sense of belonging, ownership and community spirit that comes from people being in a choir, and enjoying music simply because they love it. I’ve also noticed that, when a community invests in music, the community itself thrives. One moment of community which stands out in my mind in recent times was at the vigil for the Manchester Arena Bombing 2017. After a 1 minute silence one single person started singing ‘Don’t look back in Anger’, and soon the entire crowd were singing, united in their grief and determination to stay strong – Sometime music is the only thing which has the power to say what needs to be said.

What role does music play in telling people’s stories?

Music is the ultimate story-teller, in the language that everyone understands. In my opinion the best music has the power to conjure emotions within people, and produce what I call a visceral reaction; you don’t just hear the music or see performers, you feel it inside, whatever the reaction might be. Humanity has always told our stories through song, and one song which stands out in my mind, which never fails to move me, is ‘In Flanders Fields’, the setting John McCrae’s poem by Roger Emerson. I just find his treatment of the words in this piece, set with the most simple yet hauntingly beautiful harmony, just have the ability to say everything that needs to be said about this dark time in history.

Which composers best communicate cultural or historical stories?

My initial thought is that culture is often best expressed by Orchestral composers; when I think of the composers like Edward Elgar and Anton Dvojak for example, their music always conjures up imagery of their homeland, and they found a way to sound like their culture and nationality. That said, one choral composer who I find has an amazing ability to create the imagery of his homeland is Ola Gjelio, in particular with his piece ‘Northern Lights’. When it comes to story-telling, choral music has the upper edge for me, often because I find words, when sung, can have more power to connect on an emotional level. At the end of the day, the composers who best communicate cultural and historical stories are the ones who connect and identify with the culture or story they are trying to tell. That’s not to say that if you’re not from a certain place or that story didn’t happen to you you cannot write a moving piece about them, it just means that you need to go deeper and really connect with what you are writing. I tell my singing students all the time that, “If they are connected to the song, the audience will connect to them”, and I feel this is also true of composing – if the composer is truly connected to the story and the culture they are representing with their piece, then the audience will connect to that.

The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus presents: Only All of Us

Saturday, March 24 | 7pm

St. Michael’s Church

225 W. 99th St. New York, NY

Tickets available online for $20 and at the door for $25.

This concert will be dedicated to the memory of our friend, fellow chorus member and Board President Daniel Thompson, who was the victim of a tragic accident on March 11.

Categories: Concerts, Mixed Chorus, Women's Ensemble

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