Deborah Pritchard’s The Heavens Declare received its premiere performance on Wednesday 15 May at choral evensong broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. We wanted to know more about Deborah and her new work.

Deborah PritchardWho or what has been the single biggest influence on your work?

Painting from an early age.

Tell us something about how you discovered composition or why you became a composer. 

I began with art and started music later, but as soon as I began music lessons (my first instrument was the double bass) it was natural to write music, in the same way that I painted.

It’s well-known that you have an extensive artistic portfolio as well as a musical one. How do the two art forms complement each other (or not!) when you are composing?

When I compose I sketch with both notation and images, using colour to help plot the trajectory of the work. My visualisations and music maps are created retrospectively and are closely linked to the music. Painting and composing resonate with each through many different ways including form, texture, colour and meaning. My synaesthesia specifically links colour with intervals. 

What is your experience of sacred music? Has it been a big part of your life and/or influenced your development as a musician or composer?

I have always listen to sacred music and feel that the setting of divine words helps to illuminate a powerful sense of spirituality. It is very special to connect composition with sacred text.

Tell us about The Heavens Declare – how did you choose the text and what does the piece mean to you?

The Heavens Declare sets Psalm 19 inspiring me to start the work with a declaration in a series of strong, homophonic statements. The final line “O Lord, my strength and my redeemer” is uplifting and life enhancing, reflected in the music as it builds in dynamic, before gently flowing upwards.

I understand you are also producing a visualisation to accompany The Heavens Declare – what can we expect from that?

The visualistion shows the structure of the my new work through shape and colour. It highlights the main events, changes of texture and register with various lines from Psalm 19 annotated alongside a timeline.

A graphic visualisation of The Heavens Declare by composer Deborah Pritchard

Any other interesting facts people ought to know about you?

My paternal grandfather played football for Manchester City and Crystal Palace, and my maternal grandfather flew planes and was an aeronautical engineer, designing plane wings in WW2.