Christopher Wood

Christopher Wood

Christopher Wood was born in Stoke-on-Trent. While still at school he co-founded The Blythe Spirits, a group that played on the working men’s clubs circuit in The Potteries in the “Beat Boom” years of the mid 60s. This developed an interest in songwriting and later, instrumental composition and led to private lessons with Neil Wade in Manchester.

He then studied composition as a Gasthörer (guest student) at the Musikhochschule, in Graz, Austria, where he studied in the Jazz Abteilung with Dieter Glawischnig and with classical composer Waldemar Bloch. After returning to the UK in 1976 he moved to Sutton, south London where he continued private lessons with jazz composer Herman Wilson. He wrote and arranged for Guest House, his own ten-piece, jazz-influenced ensemble, from 1978-81; his first published pieces were his Quartet for Brass (1977); the jazz ballad Sad Old Sunday (1982) and Fragments from a Shattered Dream for brass quintet (1983).

At this time he developed a parallel career in journalism. He was music critic and arts journalist with the Croydon Advertiser from 1980 to 1996 and contributed music matters, a music column, to the Advertiser every week, from 1990 until 2003.

Wood has had particularly close working links with the Croydon-based London Mozart Players. In 1997 he collaborated with Writer in Association Martin Mooney to write A Giant on the Line, a piece for performance in junior schools; while he composed Conversation Piece (1996) for James Turnbull to perform in a Oboists’ Masterclass given by Celia Nicklin at Whitgift School.

He contributed Scene from a sad, sad story for flute, bassoon and piano as the commissioned piece for the Whitgift/LMP Prize in the 1998 Croydon Music Festival.

Members of the LMP also gave the second performance of Wood’s String Quartet, at Fairfield, in 1996, the premiere having been given by the Fine Arts Sinfonia at Croydon Clocktower, the previous year. The LMP then commissioned a new work for solo viola and string orchestra, to mark the 10th anniversary of the orchestra’s residency in Croydon. Requiem for the Twentieth Century was premiered at Fairfield, on May 15, 1999. The piece has had three subsequent performances and continues to be well received by players and audiences alike.

In 2000 conductor Christopher Fifield commissioned Wood to compose a work for the Lambeth Orchestra, based in south London. The three-movement Triptych was premiered to critical acclaim in March 2001 in West Norwood, under Fifield’s baton.

Wood has had a long-term working relationship with the Fine Arts Sinfonia of London. The ensemble has premiered five pieces at the Fairfield lunchtime recitals series since 1999, including a new version of Scene from a Sad, Sad Story (1999), a song cycle, Songs from the Edge (2000), the song Lost in Life (2001) another instrumental piece, Portents and Omens, in 2003 and a revised version of Songs from the Edge in 2005. A selection of the composer’s songs also featured in WA! – a celebration of English and Japanese song presented by mezzo soprano Akiko Enomoto at the Cadogan Hall, Chelsea, in spring 2006.

Recently completed projects include No Way Out! – a trilogy of chamber operas (or a single chamber opera in three acts) – for his own group, Guest House Opera. The Tart and the Princess, for solo soprano and Carter in Crisis, for solo (high) baritone are linked by The Dinner Party, for soprano, tenor and (high) baritone.

Concert suites (for soloists, choir and orchestra), of selected songs and scenes from the rock opera Chains! were premiered by Guest House Opera in the 2011 and 2012 Imagine Arts Festivals, in Sutton. Olympic year 2012 also featured the premier of Wood’s homage to Martin Luther King, I have a dream, for choir and strings, and the premiere of Tutu Ubuntu, a planned operatic work in progress, in the presence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in Fairfield Halls Croydon. Both works were premiered by Guest House Opera, conducted by the composer.

The Imagine Festival of the Arts in Sutton directly instigated the composition and performance of the 5 Sea Songs for vocal quartet and the orchestral Sea Changes (intended as a sea ballet) in 2013; while the centenary of the start of World War One provided the motivation for A Great War Oratorio, music interspersed with poetry and readings, premiered by the Carshalton Choral Society under Philip Collin’s baton in November 2014. Another song – Close His Eyes – was composed in 2016, for Margaret Cooper, the soprano soloist at the premiere performance. A video of the latter song made by Beth Turner can now be seen on YouTube.

Other projects in progress are a symphony, a cabaret for Guest House Opera based on Sutton-born raconteur and gay icon Quentin Crisp, other orchestral and chamber music pieces, songs and an ongoing revision and orchestration of the rock opera Chains!