Q&A with Deep Waters composer Cecilia McDowall and librettist Christie Dickason 2014
Have you worked together before as composer and librettist?
Both: Many, many times. All of our works have been performed, at many different venues from cathedrals, the South Bank Centre, via St John’s, Smith Square, to school halls. Most of our collaborations have also been recorded. And to think that it all started when we were introduced at the school gates while waiting for our sons!
What are your backgrounds?
Cecilia: Full time composer now, although I did combine working as a composer while teaching at the Yehudi Menuhin School and Trinity College of Music for a number of years.
Christie: Professional novelist, poet and librettist. To which I have recently added a Research Fellowship for the Royal Literary Fund and the university tutor/mentoring of young writers.
What are you best known for?
Cecilia: I write to commission, mainly choral and orchestral works, and am a ‘house’ composer with Oxford University Press.
Christie: Writing Historical Fiction is my main livelihood. My poetry, celebrations (like weddings), and song lyrics and libretti feed my soul, keep me in vital contact with other people and help to keep inspiration flowing
How did you both get involved with W11 Opera?
Both: W11 commissioned us to write Deep Waters for their Millennium production
What did W11 Opera bring to your work?
Both: We used this special challenge of W11 to write more vocal parts than usual to give as many children as possible a chance to shine, however briefly
What is it like, working alone, working together?
Both: To work as composer and writer, or indeed in any creative discipline, generally needs isolation; a space in which to think, to try out ideas, reject them, find others. Working in collaboration is quite different and always great fun. We have each other to bounce ideas off, sometimes with hilarious (to us, at least) results. We always enjoy working on a new project.
Any words of advice for aspiring composers and writers?
Both (simultaneously): Don’t find reasons for not doing it. Just do it!
What do you do in your spare time?
Both (in a loud shout): What spare time?
What are the last plays you have seen?
Cecilia : Wolf Hall and the ‘James Trilogy’.
Christie: The 45 very different shows I saw in Edinburgh in August, ranging from stand-up comedy to Pina Bausch and the ‘James Trilogy’.