Francis Pott has acquired a national and international reputation as a composer over the past 25 years. His dramatic and emotionally challenging music unites a distinctive personal voice with a highly disciplined but versatile technique rooted in a keen awareness of the past. To date his works have been heard across the United Kingdom and also at prestigious venues in Eire, France, Belgium, Italy, Madeira, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Canada, the United States, and Australia. His works are published by four major houses in the United Kingdom and enjoy increasingly prominent representation on CD, including with Naxos and a particularly fruitful relationship in recent years with Signum Records.
Pott has been the recipient of four prestigious national awards for composition, including First Prize at the 1982 Lloyd’s Bank National Composing Competition (associated with the Cornhill Festival, London) and also the associated Special Prize for a composer under thirty years of age. In 1997 his virtuoso Toccata for piano, written for his friend, Marc-Andre Hamelin, was awarded First Prize in the second Prokofiev International Composing Competition held in Moscow. In 2004 his sacred choral works My Song is Love Unknown and The Souls of the Righteous received honorable mentions from the Barlow International Foundation of the United States, placing him second in a worldwide field of 362 and ceding First Place on that occasion to his friend and colleague Judith Bingham; this was the first occasion on which any British composer had been honoured by the Foundation.
An academic and senior university manager as well as a practising musician, Pott was John Bennett Lecturer in Music at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, from 1992 to 2001. In 2001 he took up the post of Administrative Head of Music at London College of Music & Media, now the Faculty of Arts at the University of West London, based in Ealing, West London. In 2002 he became Head of Research Development at LCMM, with a remit covering not only Music but also Media Studies and Creative Technologies. He also holds the title of Professor, having been appointed to the University’s first ever Chair in Composition during February 2007.
A chorister in the 1960s at New College, Oxford, as an adult Pott served in the Choirs of the Temple Church, London (1987-1991) and Winchester Cathedral (1991-2001), but as a performer he is primarily a pianist, with past training also as an organist and second-study oboist. His performing experience has embraced jazz (as pianist in Vile Bodies, now in its second incarnation but founded originally in Oxford by the late Humphrey Carpenter), medieval consort music (playing reedcap instruments and recorders), choral participation at a professional level, theatre-based keyboard work and harpsichord continuo work specialising in the French Baroque. In frequent demand as a solo pianist and accompanist, he currently maintains regular piano duo partnerships with Roger Owens, former winner of the Royal Overseas League Competition, and also with Jeremy Filsell, the internationally acclaimed virtuoso pianist and organist who has been a particular champion of Francis’s own work over the past two decades. An especial interest for Francis is the pianistic tradition of the late 19th and early 20th centuries; in particular, Russian repertoire and the music of Nikolai Medtner, on whom Pott is completing a major critical study which is under contract for publication by Ashgate Press in 2007.
This eclectic mix has been compounded by Pott’s work teaching compositional techniques at Oxford between 1987 and 2001. It results in a distinctive meeting of virtuoso keyboard technique, rhythmic freedom derived from the syllabic flexibility of 16th century and earlier choral music, an interest in the common ground between mediaeval dance music and post-War jazz and a conscious extension of aspects of Medtner’s thinking, where a radical approach to rhythm contrasts strikingly with a more conservative harmonic language.
A highly personal harmonic voice lies at the heart of his own compositional style. His output includes several solo piano compositions. However, he has attracted particular attention hitherto for his organ music and sacred choral works. In both he has harnessed fifteenth and sixteenth century polyphonic techniques to a distinctively recognisable idiom. An unusually rigorous use of motivic counterpoint, allied to a concern with the symphonic methods of the Danish composer Carl Nielsen, has found favour in Britain and also particularly in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia, Germany and Scandinavia. His style has been compared in the press with composers as diverse as Nielsen, Barber, Janacek, Messiaen, Martin, Tippett, and even Fauré.
Pott’s growing concert output includes sonatas for violin and for cello, both with piano; songs; a piano quintet; and a number of works for oboe, his own second instrument. In these works a greater Romantic lyricism is apparent, although use of tonality remains free. His most ambitious work to date is his oratorio A Song on the End of the World, composed as the Elgar Commission of the Three Choirs Festival at Worcester in 1999. First heard four months before the turning of the new Millennium, the piece articulates a passionate plea for world peace while exploring the Crucifixion as an event re-enacted within all the inhumanities and atrocities of successive ages. Drawing upon an immense range of poetic texts, A Song on the End of the World takes as its title that of a translated poem written in the Warsaw of 1944 by the late Czeslaw Milosz. The music is scored for soprano, mezzo-soprano and baritone soloists, chorus, orchestra and optional organ and lasts approximately seventy minutes, thus complementing the War Requiem of Benjamin Britten while projecting subtly different concerns of its own. The work made a profound impression upon a capacity audience at Worcester Cathedral on 26 August 1999 and received a five minute standing ovation. In 2011 he completed his Mass for Eight Parts and Lament, a shorter Remembrance anthem for Commotio, and in 2012 a setting of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for Chester Cathedral and an anthem on texts by Thomas Traherne for Hereford.
Current projects include a cycle on the poetry of R.S. Thomas for the Merton Choirbook and a set of organ fantasies. Works planned for the future include a concerto for cor anglais and sinfonietta-sized orchestra, a piano concerto relating to the history and topography of the remote North Atlantic archipelago of St Kilda (a passionate interest of the composer), many songs, further piano music (including a set of transcendental studies), a work for brass and percussion exploring links between modern and mediaeval idioms and a large-scale symphony, inspired in part by a 2003 visit to the 1941-1945 War Museum in Moscow and also by themes already explored in A Song on the End of the World. Pott will soon complete a Viola Sonata for Yuko Inoue, prior to its recording alongside the Cello Sonata by Raphael Wallfisch and Stephen Coombs.
- Year of birth: 1957
- Website: https://www.francispott.com/
- Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Pott_(composer)
Works by Francis Pott
- A Meditation
- As I walked out one evening
- Hymn to the Virgin
- I will give thanks unto thee, O Lord
- If ye then be risen with Christ
- Improvisation on Slane
- Jesu, dulcis memoria
- Mass for Five Voices
- Nunc natus est altissimus
- O Lord, grant the Queen a long life
- O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth our Queen
- Preces and Responses
- The Cloud of Unknowing
- The Souls of the Righteous
- Toccata and Fugue
- Turn our captivity
- Ubi caritas et amor
Festival performances of works by Francis Pott
Festival commissionWorld premiereLondon premiere
- Choral Evensong on Monday 9 May 2022 at St Michael, Cornhill
- “Retrospective”: 20 Years of Commissioning New Music on Thursday 12 May 2022 at St Pancras Parish Church
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- Choral Evensong on Sunday 17 May 2020 (online stream/broadcast)
- “Mother of God - Songs of Mary”: Promenade Concert on Friday 12 May 2017 at The National Gallery
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 14 May 2017 at St Pancras Parish Church
- “Martyrdom and Eternity”: Promenade Concert on Friday 13 May 2016 at The National Gallery
- Gala Concert on Saturday 14 May 2016 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Organ Recital on Tuesday 13 May 2014 at Lincoln’s Inn Chapel
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 18 May 2014 at Hampstead Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 18 May 2014 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Opening Concert on Saturday 7 May 2011 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Organ Recital on Tuesday 10 May 2011 at Lincoln’s Inn Chapel
- Choral Evensong on Tuesday 10 May 2011 at St George’s Chapel, Windsor
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 10 May 2009 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Wednesday 13 May 2009 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 11 May 2008 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Gala Concert on Saturday 17 May 2008 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Lunchtime Recital on Tuesday 15 May 2007 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Eucharist on Thursday 17 May 2007 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Saturday 19 May 2007 at Westminster Abbey
- Choral Eucharist on Sunday 7 May 2006 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Gala Concert on Saturday 13 May 2006 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Eucharist on Sunday 8 May 2005 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Wednesday 11 May 2005 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Eucharist on Sunday 15 May 2005 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Wednesday 12 May 2004 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Eucharist on Sunday 16 May 2004 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Thursday 15 May 2003 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 18 May 2003 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Choral Evensong on Sunday 5 May 2002 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Lunchtime Recital on Tuesday 7 May 2002 at St Pancras Parish Church
- Concert on Saturday 11 May 2002 at St Pancras Parish Church