This week we are in conversation with Garreth Broke, a pianist and composer, who recently has launched Upright Editions. With all profits going to the charity Music for Relief and the intention of increasing awareness in young musicians of the composers of today within the contemporary music scene, Upright is a truly inspired project. Find out more in our interview below.
Upright is such a brilliant idea. Could you tell us a little more about it?
Thank you! Upright is a booklet of sheet music for solo piano by contemporary composers from around the world, including Contemplative Classical’s own Michael Price and lots of other artists your readers will be familiar with, like Sergio Díaz De Rojas, Simeon Walker, Matt Stewart-Evans, Snorri Hallgrímsson, Doug Thomas, I could go on…. So for your readers who are musicians, Upright is an amazing chance to really get to know the works of some great composers.
Where can we buy Upright Vol.1?
You can download it as a 60 page PDF from uprighteditions.bandcamp.com – and the best thing is that you don’t even have to buy it, you can name any price from €0 to whatever. If you do decide to pay then all the profits go to the charity Music For Relief. This is because all the musicians have been kind enough to donate their music to the project for free.
What gave you the thought to do it? Was there a particular event or inspiration behind it?
One big inspiration came from my work as a piano teacher. I talk to a lot of other piano teachers and I’ve realised that many of them are completely unaware of how vibrant the contemporary classical scene is. This will sound ridiculous to most of your readers, but I’ve genuinely talked to a lot of piano teachers who have never heard of Nils Frahm and who think that all contemporary piano is represented by Einaudi… like… WHAT?! This means that many young piano students are often taught to play only classical repertoire, which means that they don’t learn to compose, they don’t learn to improvise, and they rarely learn music by living composers. So part of the mission of Upright is to help introduce our contemporary classical scene to a wider audience and to get young people excited about playing and composing new music. I want teachers to show their students these pieces and say “this piece has received over a million plays on Spotify” or “this composer toured Europe recently” or “this composer wrote the theme tune to BBC’s Sherlock“. If your piano teacher never taught you something by someone who was still alive then please send them a copy of Upright!
The other inspiration was simply my own curiosity – a while ago I heard Sergio’s piece Istanbul for the first time and I was totally entranced by it, but I couldn’t quite work out how to play it all, so I emailed him to ask him if he had a score and he generously sent it to me. It turned out to be a real joy to play. I started getting in touch with other composers I liked and before I knew it I had quite a big collection of contemporary scores. I figured I couldn’t be the only one who was interested, so I tried out Simeon Walker‘s piece Drift on a couple of students, and they really loved it.
Tell us more about the charity Music for Relief. Where will the money be going when people purchase Upright Vol. 1?
Music For Relief is a charity that provides immediate relief in the wake of humanitarian crises and natural disasters around the world. Recent programs include a hurricane relief fund for victims of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; working to combat famine and drought in the Horn of Africa; and helping save lives after deadly earthquakes in Nepal. So it’s good, important work, and the charity seems to be really well run: they received the highest possible award from Charity Navigator and meet all 20 standards set by the charity monitoring group BBB.
Music for Relief receive all the profits from Upright, but people who give money should be aware that both PayPal and Bandcamp take roughly 17% of all money given in exchange for providing the digital infrastructure that Upright needs to reach people. You can, of course, download Upright for free and then just donate to Music for Relief directly.
I’m going to be emailing and posting social media updates on how much Upright has raised every month, with the first update going out on the 23rd of June.
What are your thoughts on the contemporary classical music scene and community?
It’s a totally vibrant and extremely exciting place to be – apps like Bandcamp and Spotify and sites like Contemplative Classical and others have led to an explosion of new music from new artists reaching a new audience, and this music might not even have been released 20 years ago because it wouldn’t have got a record contract. I love being a part of it, it’s like being at the centre of an explosion of creativity. What’s particularly wonderful is the supportive nature of our scene – most of us are genuinely interested in the work that our peers are releasing. We’re all learning from each other. I really hope it lasts. If I’m honest I worry that in a decade or two the big financial powerhouses like Spotify and Amazon will have taken too much control and we’ll look back on the last 5 years as the good old days, where anything was possible. But hopefully I’m wrong!
How did you come to decide the artists for the first volume of Upright?
It was as simple as this: I asked myself and a couple of friends in the scene “what pieces for solo piano have you fallen in love with in the last couple of years?” and then I emailed the artists who made the music and if they were up for getting involved, then I included them. It really was a labour of love.
Will you be creating other volumes of Upright in the future?
Definitely. It’s been a total pleasure to create and I’ve already got a long list of pieces that I want to include in later editions. I hope to have the next edition out by the end of 2018. If any musicians are reading this and want to submit a piece for a later edition, then you should download Vol. I – it’s got instructions for how to get involved.
Do you have any other plans for Upright at the moment?
For now I’m just going to keep telling people how good the music is and how it’s all to raise money for a really good cause. So, if you’re still reading this interview and you haven’t downloaded it yet, what are you waiting for? Check it out! If you’re not sure you can get it for free!
Photo Credit: Lana Yanovska