On the Couch with Antony Pitts

Arts Review On the Couch Antony PittsWho is Antony Pitts?
I’ve been composing since I was about 7, so I guess I’m firstly a composer; I’ve also been the conductor of the British ensemble TONUS PEREGRINUS since college days, and am now looking forward to being the Artistic Director of The Song Company – from the beginning of 2016. In my time I’ve also been a Senior Producer at the BBC and a Senior Lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music in London; I’m currently working on a number of commissions and an online project or two. After living in Oxford, and then Bloomsbury in the heart of London, my wife Karen and I now live in the Sussex countryside where we’ve been attempting to bring up our five children.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Sleep more, spend more time with my children, and worry less.

Who inspires you and why?
It’s the unsung people I’ve met from time to time that have inspired me, rather than big names. People who are humble and get on with making the world a better place, sometimes at great cost to themselves.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Tax fizzy drinks, get rid of or replace traffic lights with roundabouts, and on a rather grander level – make sure natural resources are available to everyone. On a professional level, I do think that music has the power to change hearts and minds.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Oostduinkerke on the Belgian coast. It’s where I’ve been going to stay with my wife’s family for many years. It has a very deep and wide beach where the curvature of the horizon is very obvious, and lots of fab cafés on the beachfront that serve Belgian beer and chips, among other delights. I have written a lot of music there over the years. Since you ask, my favourite Belgian beer is Rochefort 10.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I’m looking forward to working that one out for myself, as I’m a newcomer. The Song Company’s office and rehearsal space is right by Sydney Harbour Bridge, so that’s a good place to start.

What are you currently reading?
I usually have a lot of books on the go, and some take me years to finish. Right now I’m on Norman Doidge’s second book about neuroplasticity, and I’ve also started Dave Eggers’ The Circle, which is compelling rather than pleasant reading, and seems chillingly prophetic, a bit like George Orwell’s 1984. I usually read a Psalm or two each day – they unfailingly get to the core of human emotion, with nothing held back.

What are you currently listening to?
I’ve been able to listen to quite a few of this year’s BBC Proms from the Royal Albert Hall in London, and was particularly wowed by the performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo. My listening is eclectic – I used to produce a radio programme juxtaposing world, early, and experimental musics, and now I get to hear my children’s tastes; it’s also largely professional listening that I do (e.g. exploring repertoire for The Song Company’s upcoming season), and I generally don’t make a distinction between business and pleasure. Might as well enjoy what you do.

Happiness is?
A Sunday afternoon walk in the Sussex countryside and coming back to cook and share a roast dinner with family, friends, and neighbours.

What does the future hold for you?
No idea. Hopefully I will get to see a lot of Australia and Australians in my new role with The Song Company, and make many new friends. Every day is precious.

Antony Pitt’s career as a composer, conductor, producer, and teacher has combined academic, industry, and professional musical experience at world-class levels: a Chorister in the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, Academic and Honorary Senior Scholar at New College, Oxford, Founder and Director of the Cannes Classical Award-winning ensemble TONUS PEREGRINUS, Senior Lecturer at the Royal Academy of Music, Senior Producer at BBC Radio 3, and Patron of the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, he is also recipient of the Radio Academy BT Award and the Prix Italia.

Commissions for leading European vocal ensembles and premieres at London’s Wigmore Hall and Westminster Cathedral, the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal include the 40-part motet XL, and his oratorio Jerusalem-Yerushalayim has been performed to standing ovations in the UK and the USA.

Scores of Antony’s music, including The Naxos Book of Carols, are published by 1equalmusic and Faber Music, and recordings released on Hyperion, Harmonia Mundi, Naxos, Signum, and Unknown Public, from milestones of early Western music to his a cappella version of Tears for Fears’ Mad World.

Antony has recently been announced as the new Artistic Director of The Song Company, taking over from Roland Peelman who is stepping down after 25 years at the helm. For more information, visit: www.songcompany.com.au for details.

Image: Antony Pitts – photo by Ian Dingle