Clare Loveday is a Johannesburg-based composer whose works have been performed on four continents. Striving to convey through music the complications of life in a post-colonial society, her works have been described by critics in turn as 'obstinate and fierce, big-boned and raw', 'subtle' and 'elusive'. She has been described as having 'a quite individual post-tonal harmonic language' and of writing works that are 'exciting to listen to and yet obviously also enjoyable to play'.
Clare has always lived in Johannesburg. She completed a Bachelor of Music at the University of the Witwatersrand in 1990 and was awarded her Doctorate of Music in 2009.
After her undergraduate studies Clare worked as a pianist, playing in musicals and theatre venues around South Africa and on cruise ships on the Southern African oceans.
In the late 1990s Clare returned to academic life as a part-time lecturer in music theory. In 2000 she embarked on a Masters in composition and became increasingly involved in new music. As Clare became more prolific, she became known particularly for her innovations in interdisciplinary and collaborative work, and her works for the 'straight' saxophone. Her interest in the instrument had started several years before when she chose to write her first commission (from the Foundation for the Creative Arts to accompany a commissioned choreographed dance for 1996 Dance Umbrella) for alto saxophone and piano. This instrumentation - chosen for purely practical reasons - marked the beginning of a long-lasting and compositionally productive fascination with the instrument.
Clare took up a full time lectureship in music theory and composition at Wits University in 2004, and began work on her D. Mus in composition. It was during these five years of study that her interest in the saxophone developed into the focus of her doctoral study. The years of study finally culminated in Duodectet for 12 saxophones, which was selected from the independent entries for performance at the 2010 International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) World New Music Days in Sydney. It was performed at the festival by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Saxophone Ensemble, conducted by Michael Duke. The same work, arranged for eight saxophones, was performed three days later at the Royal College of Music in London, conducted by Kyle Horch.
The saxophone has continued to fascinate Clare. She has, for example, written three saxophone octets. Her 2nd octet (2016) was performed at the Royal College of Music in London and the Nordic Saxophone Festival in Arhus. Her 3rd octet was performed at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2017, the World Saxophone Congress in 2018 and the Royal College of Music in London in 2019. Clare's saxophone quartets have enjoyed similar attention. Her first quartet, Untitled, was premiered by the Stockholm Saxophone Quartet in 2006 and has been performed frequently around the world, including a version for saxophone choir. Deep City was premiered in 2023 in Birmingham by the Laefer Quartet and recorded by the same ensemble for their album Strata.
Over the years, Clare has been commissioned by numerous commissioning bodies, performers and creative artists. The Southern African Music Rights Organisation has commissioned many works and Clare's first international commission came from Ensemble Reconsil in Vienna, for whom she wrote Blink, premiered at the Arnold Schönberg Centre in Vienna in 2007. She was subsequently commissioned by a number of overseas performers, including US-based Duo Montagnard (Joe Murphy on saxophone and Matt Slotkin on guitar, oboist Alison Lowell for the Loboe Project, and Guy Yehuda commissioned Heatwave for the 'Rhapsodies Around the World' project. Her work Fever Tree for 8-piece ensemble was played by L'Instant Donnè at the Opèra Bastille Amphitheatre in Paris, France at as part of the Festival D'Automne à Paris; the same work was played by the Julliard New Music Ensemble in New York City. Eight-Plus-One (2014) for 8-piece ensemble was played and recorded by Ensemble Reconsil Vienna as part of their Exploring the World project, and the trio Ribbons performed on the opening night. She was the composer-in-residence for the 2014 Johannesburg International Mozart Festival (JIMF), at which her commissioned piano concerto Three Portraits of Intimacy was performed by pianist Florian Uhlig and the Johannesburg Festival Orchestra.
Clare has worked on numerous collaborations over the years, and relishes the process of working with creative artists from different disciplines. Her years at the Wits School of Arts coincided with a strong focus on and support for interdisciplinary and innovative creative work, which facilitated a number of Clare's collaborative projects. Most notable of these was The Collision Project (2006), created with fine artist and scenographer Gerhard Marx who lectured at the time in the Division of Dramatic Arts. Featuring a car wreck with attached string parts, this was a part installation, part concert performance and was described by critics as "provocative" and "wickedly innovative".
The most prolific collaborative partnership has been with award-winning artist Nandipha Mntambo. The two have worked on a number of projects together, including a commissioned film for the Puma films4peace project, Cycles (2014), a work for solo violin and installation commissioned by the Goethe Institut, and many subsequent collaborations. City Deep (2018) for saxophone and clarinet with accompanying video by Nandipha, premièred in South Africa and subsequently has been performed frequently in the UK, including at Wigmore Hall.
Clare's other collaborative partners have included Jill Trappler, a Cape Town-based artist. Voyeur Piano, an event conceptualised by pianist Mareli Stolp that explored urban performance spaces, featured Clare's Johannesburg Etude 1, which has been taken up by a number of pianists, including German pianist Jan Gerdes. Mareli and Clare have subsequently worked on a number of projects together, including Johannesburg Etude II and You Will Find Your People Here for vocalising pianist, with text by Caroline Wanjiku Kihato. This has been performed frequently, including at the 2023 La Biennale di Venezia Carnival and the video as part of an exhibition at the Biennale on migrant women.
The Centre for the Less Good Idea, Willian Kentridge's innovative incubation space in Johannesburg, has premièred a number of Clare's works, including City Deep and You Will Find Your People Here. Clare has also been involved in a number of the Centre's annual creative workshops.
In 2019, BBC Music Magazine selected Clare as one of five of South Africa's best composers.
Biography taken from composer’s website.