Philharmonia Announces First Ever Composer in Residence Tarik O’Regan

When you think of a baroque orchestra, you don’t necessarily also think of cutting edge contemporary music, but at Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale we have made it an important part of our music-making over the years, ensuring that as well as bringing the past to life through faithful performances of the greats or the undiscovered from the canon, we also represent the very best of the art form as it lives and breathes now.

We now take this commitment to a new and higher level with the appointment of Tarik O’Regan as our very first Composer in Residence. Over the next three and a half years Tarik will play a central part in our activities, working alongside Music Director Richard Egarr, as well as all our artists, staff and broader community.

Tarik is a composer whose star is truly in the ascendancy, with the release of not one, not two, but three albums of his music this year. His music is described by the press as “exquisite and delicate,” “beautifully imagined,” and he’s written for many of the world’s best-known orchestras — the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and BBC Symphony Orchestra in his native UK, and the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Dutch National Ballet further afield. Closer to home, he is a Visiting Artist at Stanford University.

Of course, some of you may wonder how new music works with a period instrument ensemble, and when we asked Music Director Richard Egarr he put this elegantly: “Tarik gets that there’s a place for new music that doesn’t feel like a forced march, but rather an extension of what all the old music has taught us.”

Tarik’s vision for the residency ensures that new music isn’t just a bolt-on to our other activities but is instead seeks to become a seamless integration between old and new music and builds up our reputation as an incubator for exciting new music. The residency will include three large-scale commissions of his own music: a concerto for oud and orchestra, a major operatic production, and a new piece for the Philharmonia Chorale.

In addition to all of this, Tarik also plans to launch a short-form commissioning program, sourcing 10-20 new pieces of music lasting five minutes or less that will kickstart the availability of new repertoire for us and other historical performance ensembles — ensuring the impact of this appointment is felt not just in the Bay Area but country-wide and potentially further than that.

Added to this, O’Regan hopes to start a composition competition, with the winner receiving a paid commission from us; a live workshopping program for composers to develop their ideas; and a dedicated ensemble for contemporary music within PBO, with the ultimate goal of unifying the historic and contemporary perspective.  It’s fair to say that Tarik is going to be one busy man over the next three and a half years, and has taken time to think outside of the box about how a Residency like this can work, not just writing music for the orchestra to play, but being involved in almost every aspect of what we do.

How did this all come about? Well, as with many things, serendipity played a part. Backstage at a concert at Stanford, Tarik ran into Richard, who was guest conducting a Philharmonia concert. As the two got talking, parallels in their approaches to new music and period instruments become apparent. The two immediately started hatching plans for working together and the rest, as they say, is history. Of course their rapport and partnership is already very apparent in our period performance talk show What’s New and H.I.P. with Tarik and Rick, which will continue in the live space and through the residency, and which Richard has described as a bright spot during a very surreal debut year.

Tarik’s appointment also builds on our past experience with new music as Executive Director Courtney Beck explains: “Welcoming Tarik as our first-ever composer-in-residence feels like a natural extension of our creative legacy over the past several seasons and the next steps in PBO’s New Music for Old Instruments initiative that began in 2015. While we’ve had longstanding and fruitful creative partnerships with composers like Caroline Shaw, Tarik’s role will extend far beyond the traditional commissioning process…we couldn’t ask for a better artistic partner than Tarik!”

We caught up with Tarik to ask him about his new role, and he told us, “Philharmonia feels like an instantly natural and welcoming home in which to house these various ideas about integrating composition with performance, programming, education, and storytelling. In Richard I’ve found not just a phenomenal artist in his own right, but a wonderful forward-thinking friend and colleague with whom to explore how history and the present day are always in conversation. Ultimately our interest in nuancing definitions of ‘old’ and ‘new’ is driven by our love of live music in all its varied guises, and our desire to share it with, and to discover more from, our broadest possible community.”

Watch out for more about the residency in the coming weeks and months, and mark March 17th in your calendars, when there will be a special episode of What’s New and H.I.P. with Tarik and Rick: Tarik on Tarik. Full details of that coming soon, but make sure you’re standing by at 11am PT that day.

We’re thrilled to have Tarik as part of the Philharmonia family, and know you will be, too. Welcome Tarik!

Click here to read the full Press Release, which includes Tarik’s full biography.