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6th Week MT23 Newsletter Interview - Maria and Peter Copley

Each week, the OUMS newsletter features an interview with someone who positively contributes to the Oxford music scene. This week, Christopher had the pleasure of enjoying a rainy Thursday afternoon in the delightful company of Maria and Peter Copley!

Maria Copley (she/her)

Conductor, Cellist and Trumpeter

Peter Copley (he/him)


So, starting broadly — tell me a bit about yourselves!

MC: Hi! I'm Maria, I'm a second-year music student at New. I play cello, piano, I conduct and I've wanted to come to Oxford since I was four years old — so, it's pretty cool to be here!

PC: Well, I'm Maria's father, Peter. I'm primarily a composer — I've worked with various ensembles, as well as at the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education. And, well, we are a musical family.

I suppose that was the next thing I wanted to ask you about: It's so fascinating to see this father-daughter relationship at Oxford. How did the collaboration come about?

MC: Well, we're such a musical family; Dad always thought I would be musical because I started singing before I could talk, and we played a lot of music together over lockdown. The idea came about when we were driving back home from Oxford after I started as the conductor of OUWO. Dad gingerly mentioned that he would love to write for wind orchestra, and the whole thing went from there!

So, Peter, tell me about the piece!

PC: The piece is titled Challenging Chaos, and I composed it during the summer, specially written for OUWO — my first work for wind orchestra. Taking on a loosely structured March and trio format, the piece undergoes significant transformations. In the 'trio' segment, I weave in a 'national' folk song, although deliberately withholding the specific country to avoid overly 'localising' the work. My intention is for listeners to experience a distinctive emotional connection, as they hear the song in the piece, which I've concealed through a new harmonisation. This concept intrigues me, like how Haydn seemed to have written folk songs into his music as inside jokes for his friends, although now lost to time.

MC: The feedback from the orchestra and committee has been fabulous. When I first sent the MIDI file of the piece to our group chat, our secretary Elspeth said she could imagine the piece on the Plush dance floor at 3 am! There are some lovely touches throughout, like Duke Ellington-style sax soli, and this fantastic off-beat oom-pah brass section. It's very tongue-in-cheek.

How have you found working with OUWO?

PC: Well, I only heard the piece in rehearsal for the first time last night, but it really was a fantastic rehearsal. It was fantastic to see all the musicians paying such close attention, with some great rehearsal work happening!

As a musical family, whose lives have been touched by Oxford — what does Oxford mean to you as a city?

MC: I've wanted to study here since I was four. Since I got here, I have found out that my grandparents actually had a house in Oxford. While they weren't students, they were of student age and loved going to concerts here, embracing the social aspect of living in Oxford. I went to a state school, but it took a lot of hard work to get here, and it's so great to know that my efforts were worthwhile. I absolutely adore Oxford — I've met so many incredible friends and musicians here.

PC: Well, I was never an undergrad here, but I teach in the Department for Furthering Education, and I've been connected with the city for decades. I know the city so well musically, love the fact that my completely non-musical friend (an English lecturer) and Martin Harry will go to the same concerts because of how varied the city is.

Thank you so much! Finally, I always finish up by asking for a music recommendation. What are you listening to at the moment?

MC: I'm really obsessed with the new debut Fizz album The Secret to Life!

PC: Recently, there's been a fantastic revival in the music of female composers, but one standout composer who has been notably overlooked is Elizabeth Lutyens; I'd particularly recommend her astonishing work, Ô saisons, Ô châteaux.

Get your tickets for Oxford University Wind Orchestra on Thursday 23rd November here.

To find out more about the OUMS newsletter and our interviews, email Christopher at


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