Sunderland composer on point for proms

music graduate’s winning orchestral composition celebrating the history of Wearmouth Bridge

Published on 03 October 2019

Cyprus-born Andreas Poupazis only graduated from the BA Music degree at the University of Sunderland in the summer, but already his very first orchestral composition ‘Wearmouth Stories’ has won this year’s entry of the Sunderland Symphony Orchestra (SSO) competition.

The orchestra will now perform the premiere of Wearmouth Stories at its annual promenade concert at The Point in Sunderland on Saturday, October 12, at 7pm.

While studying his degree, Andreas also completed a documentary film composition under the guidance of Lord David Puttnam after being selected as one of seven Puttnam Scholars during his degree. This is an opportunity to be mentored by the Oscar-winning film producer benefitting from his vast experience and learning about all aspects of the movie industry.

Explaining the inspiration behind Wearside Stories, Andreas, 27, said: “The composition is based on the Wearmouth Bridge, built in 1927-1929. Standing on it, a singular thought came to mind; the ability of the bridge to connect the people of Sunderland. This is not only in terms of, from one side of the river Wear to the other, but to connect them to their past. Therefore, my source of inspiration was to reach into the past to revive the forgotten stories of Sunderland and give them sound to be heard in the present.

“In the piece there are various sections, the main theme acts as the flow of the river. The melody suggests the steady look over the bridge, honouring and watching everything. This is highlighted by all its glory and joy enriched by the sound of the horns connoting the ships.

“Taking into consideration the complex history of the bridge there is a taste of sadness in the music itself suggesting the sense of falling. There is a repetition in the music to represent how the bridge is a testament of time. The music transcends the audience to different periods in time through the sound of chimes suggesting the building of ships.

“Beyond its troubles the bridge stands the test of time proudly connecting the two sides but more importantly connecting the past, the present and the future for the people of Sunderland.”

Andreas added: “I am honoured that my piece will be performed by an orchestra. It is a first-time feeling for me and I am really excited. I believe the feelings will intensify during the live performance at Proms at the Point.”

John Kefala-Kerr, Senior Lecturer in Music at the University of Sunderland, said: “It’s really gratifying to see the first fruits of the University’s musical association with Sunderland Symphony Orchestra. The composition competition provides a concrete focus for BA Music students to respond to the specific demands of writing for orchestra and to engage with the various artistic and technical challenges that presents. Andreas’ artistry, inventiveness and diligence have resulted in a piece of music that invites listeners to make an imaginative association between the musical patterns and motifs in his score and the Wearmouth Bridge structure, river narrative and industrial heritage of Sunderland.” 

Proms at the Point takes SSO to the City Centre as a part of its ‘Coming of Age’ Project, supported by Arts Council England (ACE).

Conducted by SSO Musical Director, David Milner, the concert will include ‘Flaming Tutti Celli”, a group of six local cellists, the Jarrow Choral Society performing North East Sea songs, and the choral arrangements of Phil Jackson’s “Sunderland”, a celebration of Sunderland’s heritage.

The ‘Coming of Age’ project enabled SSO to run its annual orchestral composition competition in partnership with the University of Sunderland, won by Andreas.

“The SSO composition competition is a great opportunity for SSO to develop its creative partnership with the University,” explained Mark Greenfield, SSO Co-Founder and Vice President.

“Andreas’s winning composition captures and reflects the flow of the River Wear through different times, with evocations of industry and ship building. We’re so pleased with the outcomes of our association with the University through new compositions enriching our repertoire with modern work and the avant-garde.” 

 Listen to a short preview of Wearside Stories:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B0_F0bylikj/?igshid=b6bve9h954xo

 

Proms at The Point - Orchestral Concert 
Saturday, 12th October, 7pm

Venue: The Point, 1 Park Lane, Holmeside, Sunderland SR1 3JE

 Information and FREE Tickets via Eventbrite.

 

Graduate profile: Andreas Poupazis

Since graduating in the summer with a BA Music degree, Andreas Poupazis has been composing non-stop, which had led to an award from the city and working with an award-winning film director.

The 27-year-old Cypriot reveals what led him to studying at Sunderland and how the city has influenced his music and life.  

 

Why did you choose to study at Sunderland?

I was studying Music at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa and decided to transfer in order to finish my degree in the UK as I never travelled there before. I also wanted to study at a coastal city because growing up on an island I learnt the calming and grounding power of the sea. Furthermore, Sunderland offered me the opportunity to transfer directly into third year. Also, the city’s affordable prices and friendly people make the town more welcoming to a student who has never been in the UK before.

 

What have been the highlights of your University experience?

This past year has been pretty exciting. In particular, I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with other departments in combined projects; something that enabled me to experience a more real-life work life scenario. Also, the Music-Image-Text module taught by John Kefala-Kerr was interesting and eye-opening as it explored the relationship between music and video, something very useful for a composer like me who enjoys composing for film, documentaries,

adverts etc.

 

You were named a Lord Puttnam Scholar – how did that feel, why were you nominated and how did it help with your degree course?

I consider the Puttnam Scholarship as an entire course in itself. Over a period of six months, being taught and guided by Lord David Puttnam was very challenging and inspiring. During this period, I learnt a lot. I was exposed to experiences, people and techniques I could not imagine

such as learning more about the processes of film-making, producing and even camera shots.

Additionally, working within a specific time frame enhanced my abilities to cope in a real-life, demanding project. This is an opportunity that I will always be grateful for; while the training and guidance that I acquired through this journey, are something I will always treasure and carry

with me in my professional life.

 

Can you tell me what you have been doing since graduating?

I have been composing and trying to establish myself as a composer in the music/film industry. I have recently composed a short film that was part of an Art Exhibition at the National Glass Centre.

 

How did you get involved in Proms at the Point?

Sunderland Symphony Orchestra was hosting a Composer’s Competition, and I had the honour to win the competition with Wearmouth Stories. The Orchestra is going to perform my composition at Proms at the Point.

I am honoured that my piece will be performed by an orchestra. It is a first-time feeling for me and I am really excited about it. I believe the feelings will intensify during the live performance at Proms at the Point.

 

Can you tell me about your winning musical composition Wearmouth Stories?

‘Wearmouth Stories’ is based on the Wearmouth Bridge which was originally built in 1927-1929. Standing on it, a singular thought came to mind, the ability of the Wearmouth Bridge to connect the people of Sunderland. This is not only in terms of, from one side of the river Wear to the other, but to connect them to their past. Therefore, my one source of inspiration for this piece was to reach into the past to revive the forgotten stories of Sunderland and give them sound to be heard in the present, and Wearmouth Stories is the starting point.

 In the piece there are various sections, the main theme acts as the flow of the river. The melody suggests the steady look over the bridge, honouring and watching everything. This is highlighted by all its glory and joy enriched by the sound of the horns connoting the ships.

Taking into consideration the complex history of the bridge there is a taste of sadness in the music itself suggesting the sense of falling.

There is a repetition in the music to represent how the bridge is a testament of time. The music transcends the audience to different periods in time through the sound of chimes suggesting the building of ships.

Beyond its troubles the bridge stands the test of time proudly connecting the two sides but more importantly connecting the past, the present and the future for the people of Sunderland.

 

How did it feel it win Sunderland Symphony Orchestra's first composition competition?

When I entered my piece for the composition competition I only had one thought in my mind; either I’ll win or better my knowledge of orchestral composition. When I found out that my piece won the competition, I felt great joy, honour and fulfilment that my hard work has paid off.

Also the vision of all the performers translating my music from paper into sound immediately filled me with anticipation for the actual live performance.

 

Can you tell me why you wanted to study music?

It’s something that I cannot describe with words… I was always feeling drawn to it. The way music functions as a universal language, the feelings and stories it can narrate with its sounds has always invited me to express myself through it. Therefore, it is a language I wanted to learn how to speak and master.

As a musician, external influences are constantly an important part to my creative process of composing. However, when I initially decided to study music there was not anything or anyone in particular that influenced me in my decision, other than that natural instinct and thirst I had within me to play, research and listen to music at all times. It was a feeling that I could not explain or control but I am very grateful I did not ignore.

 

Is there any advice you can offer students just beginning their own university journey?

Despite all the fun and laughter, my strongest advice is that whatever they choose to study is to make sure that they are happy. If they discover that this does not make them feel as such, I would say that they should not be afraid to take a leap or change what they are going after. It’s better to regret something that you did, than something that you did not.”