Dating from 1979, The Land of the Long White Cloud (Aotearoa) was Philip Sparke’s first test-piece. It was commissioned by the New Zealand Brass Band Association for their 1980 National Championships (their centenary year) and set for the European Brass Band Championships, the same year, at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Aotearoa was the name given to New Zealand by its Polynesian settlers whose first sight of the islands was a long, flat cloud lying low over the land. The work has no specific programme although many have seen pictures of the surging ocean in the opening bars. A faster dance-like section leads to a slow, haunting solo for soprano cornet; this is taken up by the whole band before earlier material returns. The dance-like tune is, this time, given a fugal treatment and the opening bars return to close the work.
Philip Sparke was born in London and studied composition, trumpet and piano at the Royal College of Music, where he gained an ARCM. It was at the College that his interest in bands arose. He played in the College wind orchestra and also formed a brass band among the students, writing several works for both ensembles.
At that time, his first published works appeared – Concert Prelude (brass band) and Gaudium (wind band). A growing interest in his music led to several commissions, his first major one being this featured piece for the Centennial Brass Band Championships in New Zealand – The Land of the Long White Cloud. He has written for brass band championships in New Zealand, Switzerland, Holland, Australia and the UK, including three times for the National Finals at the Royal Albert Hall.
In September 2000, he was awarded the Iles Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians for his services to brass bands and in 2005 Music of the Spheres won the National Band Association/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest. In 2011, he received the BUMA International Brass Award for his contribution to brass music.
His conducting and adjudicating activities have taken him to most European countries, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada and the USA. In May 2000, he took the major step of becoming a full-time composer by founding his own publishing company, Anglo Music Press. The company is devoted to publishing his brass band, concert band, fanfare band and instrumental publications as well as recordings dedicated to his latest works.