Radical new project offers unique opportunity for promising composers

CERDDWN composers Top row (left to right): David John Roche, Jefferson Lobo (photo copyright Matthew Thistlewood), Mared Emlyn, Nathan James Dearden (photo copyright Catrin Arwel) Bottom row (left to right): Gerard Cousins, Heledd Evans, Michelle Maddock, Kian Ravaei 

CERDDWN composers Top row (left to right): David John Roche, Jefferson Lobo (photo copyright Matthew Thistlewood), Mared Emlyn, Nathan James Dearden (photo copyright Catrin Arwel) Bottom row (left to right): Gerard Cousins, Heledd Evans, Michelle Maddock, Kian Ravaei 

21 February 2024

Imaginative contemporary classical music will be composed and performed as part of a revolutionary new project led by Aberystwyth University.

CERDDWN will create a world-leading hub for musical experimentation and innovation in mid-Wales by connecting up-and-coming composers with orchestral musicians, allowing them to test out experimental concepts, and hone their music-making skills.

Funded by the Arts Council of Wales and Tŷ Cerdd, the project will give composers the opportunity to work closely with Aberystwyth community orchestra Philomusica, and leading professional chamber orchestra, Sinfonia Cymru.

Aberystwyth University’s Director of Music, Iwan Teifion Davies, explains:

“This is a really exciting project which will cultivate some of the untapped talent that exists in Wales, and give an opportunity to those who may not normally have the chance to work with musicians.

“The project will break away from standard approaches to writing for the orchestra, by providing hands-on opportunities for composers to work with orchestras throughout every stage of the compositional process.  This career-defining opportunity will give these emerging composers the space to experiment and evolve their work, test radically new and risky ideas - to fail, retry and improve.”

Following an open call for applications, four emerging composers have now been selected and presented with a bursary. Over the coming months Gerard Cousins, Heledd Evans, Michelle Maddock, and Kian Ravaei will be given the chance to experiment with the orchestras, while receiving mentorship from an established composer.

Left to right: Gerard Cousins, Heledd Evans, Michelle Maddock, Kian Ravaei 

In a second strand to the project, the four established composers providing the mentoring are also being commissioned and supported to compose new works of their own.  Varying in style and scale, the new compositions will be representative of Wales’ diverse musical landscape.

Chamber compositions have been commissioned from Brazilian-born Cardiff-based musician and composer, Jefferson Lobo; harpist and composer, Mared Emlyn; and award-winning composer and conductor, Nathan James Dearden.

Finally, the project will commission a ground-breaking and substantial orchestral piece from Tredegar-born composer David John Roche, the world premiere of which will be performed by Philomusica. 

Left to right: David John Roche, Jefferson Lobo (photo copyright Matthew Thistlewood), Mared Emlyn, Nathan James Dearden (photo copyright Catrin Arwel)

Composition Co-ordinator, David John Roche said:

“I am excited and proud to be part of CERDDWN.  The project is testament to the quality and ambition of arts organisations in Wales. CERDDWN will nurture new audiences, grow talent, and be a starting point for a new legacy of orchestral music in Wales.”


Gerard Cousins

Gerard Cousins, an acclaimed guitarist, gained fame by adapting Philip Glass's piano compositions for the guitar.  A highly trained musician with a love for improvisation, Gerard has performed globally and released eight albums. His compositions focus mainly on the guitar, but Gerard has also written for solo instruments and small ensembles. In 2019, Gerard was appointed as the inaugural "Composer in Residence" at the Cardiff Guitar Festival.

Heledd Evans

Heledd C Evans is an artist and facilitator based in Cardiff. Working with sound across composition, performance, and installations, her interest lies in the sound worlds that can be created with acoustic instruments and materials, focusing on organic sound. Working collaboratively and increasing access in the arts is a priority in her work.

Michelle Maddock

Michelle Maddock graduated in Music from Southampton, studied with Michael Finnissy. Dance producer returning to music after motherhood hiatus. Drawing inspiration from nature landscape, and soundscape. Processing emotions and illness through music. Cathartic. Making music for movement and healing. Transformative. Transcendent. Using field recordings, sound design electronics, and traditional composition and orchestration techniques. Obsessed with sound. Seeking out melodies and harmony. Neurodivergent. Working class. Synesthete. Multi genre artist.

Kian Ravaei

Composer Kian Ravaei synthesizes diverse inspirations into evocative musical portraits, drawing from the songs of endangered birds, for example, or the Iranian music of his ancestral heritage. He has collaborated with sought-after artists such as Tessa Lark, Eliot Fisk, and Fleur Barron, and has received a Copland House CULTIVATE Fellowship, a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Composer Teaching Artist Fellowship, a Chamber Music Northwest Protégé Project Residency Award, a New Music USA Creator Fund Award, and a Barlow Endowment Commission. He is a Graduate of UCLA, where he studied with Grammy-Award winning composer Richard Danielpour.

David John Roche

David John Roche’s music is direct, determined, and loud. Strongly influenced by heavy metal, lush orchestral music, and his working-class Welsh background, he has been marked out as a “clear-minded and class-conscious artist” (Culture Matters) and “one of the most energetic, driven, and successful of Wales’s millennial generation of composers” (Tŷ Cerdd). David’s work has been described as “exquisite” (Adam Walton, BBC Introducing Wales), praised for its “ingenious scoring” (The Arts Desk), and complimented for its “passages of intense expressive power” (Thomas Adès). His compositions have been broadcast, televised, and written about internationally to millions of people.

Jefferson Lobo

Brazilian-born Jefferson Lobo is a musician, composer and producer living in Cardiff. He has been focusing on futuristic, nature-inspired jazz-funk grooves and is currently releasing new music regularly from his catalogue. Jefferson's compositions are an invitation to a world of unpredictable sonic possibilities. Hauntingly sweet harmonies combined with soothing and (at times) witty melodies form the basis for his musical cauldron, which includes styles such as jazz, orchestral, Latin, reggae, futuristic, and world music.  He has worked with the theatre company August 012 and with BBC Radio and has written, scored, and arranged music for Butetown Carnival 2020 and 2021, a particular highlight being his transatlantic piece Zamba, commissioned by Butetown Arts & Culture Association.

Mared Emlyn

A graduate of Bangor University, Mared completed a doctorate in performance on the harp and composition in 2014 with a scholarship funded by the European Union. In 2011, she won the Urdd National Eisteddfod’s Chief Composition medal for her work Perlau yn y Glaw for solo harp, which is now performed regularly at different harp competitions and festivals. Mared has received a number of composition commissions, including works for the Wales International Piano Festival, Wales International Harp Festival, Colwyn Male Voice Choir, a work for the Bangor Music Festival premiered by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and a harp concerto for the Beaumaris Festival, performed by the Welsh Chamber Orchestra, with Mared herself as the soloist. 

Nathan James Dearden

Nathan James Dearden is an award-winning music creator, whose work has been described as “hauntingly beautiful” (Media Wales), and performed and featured by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Tippett Quartet, National Youth Orchestra of Wales, tenor Nicky Spence, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, Fidelio Trio, and Hebrides Ensemble. His music regularly features in concerts across the UK and overseas, including at the Cheltenham Music Festival, Dartington International Festival, CROSSROADS International New Music Festival and Vale of Glamorgan Festival. His music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, Resonance FM, RTÉ lyric FM, S4C and Soho Radio, whilst also released on NMC Recordings and Delphian. Nathan is also a sought-after conductor, arts advisor, event curator and educator, holding arts advisory roles with several international organisations.