Faculty Composer wins Royal Northern Sinfonia’s Young Composers’ Competition

Sturdivant Adams, who is studying for an MPhil in Composition, has won the Royal Northern Sinfonia’s Young Composers’ Competition with his piece POLIN. The winning piece was played by the RNS and their Music Director, Lars Vogt, in a special performance at The Sage, Gateshead on 26th January.

Sturdivant is a student at Worcester College and is supervised by Prof. Robert Saxton. Before Oxford, he graduated from Columbia University magna cum laude in 2016, where he studied both music and economics. He has studied classical and jazz piano, performing jazz piano widely as well as arranging and transcribing for Grammy winning and nominated artists Terri Lyne Carrington, Eric Harland, Taylor Eigsti, Julian Lage, and Ambrose Akinmusire. Sturdivant is a film composer, recently working as an arranger and orchestrator at Hans Zimmer’s Remote Control Productions studios in Los Angeles.

Sturdivant describes his winning piece, POLIN, as ‘an expression of the early beginnings of Polish Jews, as powerfully conveyed by Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

The piece starts as the story of the Polish Jews starts, surrounded by the magic of pure nature. Through this lens, the mythical descent from the heavens of a slip of paper urging Jews to find a home in Polania is interpreted through a prolonged descent from the orchestra. As the instruments descend in an overlapping manner, each plays a fragmented version of the central Polin melody.

The speed picks up, and the early, intricate development of Jewish life and its rich culture in Poland is explored. The violin plays the Polin melody, over swirling textures in the wind and brass. Variations are explored, and a motif is introduced in the strings that reaches upwards, emphasizing the centrality of faith in Polish Jewish life.

As the piece progresses, darkening, these two melodies are increasingly shrouded. The climax is reached as the orchestra erupts, an allusion to terrible violence interrupting the beauty of Polish Jewish life.

The music fades, and three solo violins seek a path upwards through the darkness, ascending the characteristic mode of the piece. There is a pulse, a glow, at the end, signalling continuation – life.’

Photo credit: Sage Gateshead/MK