Saturday 25th March 2017
Holy Sepulchre Church, Northampton
Conducted by Graham Tear
Earl of Oxfords March – William Byrd
Little is known about Byrd’s early life, though he once implied that he was born around 1540. It seems likely that he came under the influence of Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) at an early age as he later dedicated works to him as ‘my great teacher’.
Tallis was the finest English composer of his generation and his influence on Byrd’s music can be seen in many ways. Byrd was later to be hailed as ‘the father of English music’
It was probably written after 1588 when England was in a mood of national celebration after victory over the Spanish and French Armadas. The movement which Byrd calls Marche Before The Battell became known as The Earl of Oxford’s March, though it is not entirely clear why – it appears with that title in an early manuscript copy of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. Written while Byrd was at the height of his powers, it still stirs the soul to this day.
Illyrian Dances - Guy Woolfenden
Guy Woolfenden composed over 150 scores for the Royal Shakespeare Company. This suite of dances is adapted from thematic material from a production of Twelfth Night, set in Illyria. The precise location of Illyria was not important to Shakespeare; what excited him was the resonance of the word itself and the romance of all far away, make-believe places. Illyria is “Never-Never Land”, and Woollfenden was intrigued with the idea of inventing dances for such a place.
Cornet Concerto – Denis Wright
Soloist: Chris Cox
Denis Wright was an English composer and conductor of Brass Band music, he completed this concerto during 1941 while he was working in Glasgow for the BBC. The first performance of the concerto was broadcast from there with Harry Mortimer as the soloist with the BBC Military Band, it was a year later when the Brass Band version was first performed and it has been a standard for cornet soloists ever since.
Millennium Bridge - Nigel Hess
The first two of these pieces by Nigel Hess are from a suite of 3 movements entitled New London Pictures, the missing movement being London Eye.
Millennium Bridge describes the journey across the new landmark bridge from the Tate Modern, crossing the busy river and onwards to St Paul’s Cathedral with its bells ringing over the great city.
Congestion Charge is a racy and comical romp depicting Londoners attempting to go about their business in the face of overwhelming odds – including traffic lights.
Our final item of our first half is Thames Journey, depicting the river that has shaped London. The piece begins at the river's source with just a few drops of water and gains strength as it begins to flow, crossing through Oxfordshire and Berkshire we hear many local themes along the way until passing the chimes of Big Ben and out to meet the sea.
First Suite in E flat – Gustav Holst
In 1909, Holst composed the Suite No. 1 in E-flat, a revolutionary piece in that it was written exclusively for wind band. At that time, concert wind band repertoire consisted of reductions of pieces originally scored for orchestras, essentially program music. Holst wanted to make the concert band a serious concert medium, and this piece is seen as the first step in that direction.
Holst was well suited for this role as concert band composer; he played trombone in the Scottish Orchestra and the Carl Rosa Opera Company, and he was well acquainted with the working of wind instruments. It should also be noted that Holst played for seven years as a trombonist for the White Viennese Band. It was a seaside band which claimed to be foreign, and the members even spoke with phony accents, but in actuality, two-thirds of the group was from England. During this time period, audiences were more likely to go to a concert held by a foreign band than a British one. Talk about patriotism!
Igor's Lament - Venetian Spells – Martin Ellerby
Venetian Spells by Martin Ellerby is a suite of 4 movements each paying homage to a composer who has been associated with Venice in the past. It was commissioned by Timothy Reynish and is dedicated to him on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday. Rather like his previous Paris Sketches Ellerby's work pays tribute to a great city and in particular to various composers associated with it.
The second movement, Pas-de-Deux (Igor’s Lament), is a dedication to the composer Stravinsky and the impresario Diaghilev who are both buried in the island cemetery of San Michele.
Irish Tune from County Derry – Percy Grainger
Australian-born Percy Grainger (1882-1961) was a piano prodigy turned composer who was known for his strange personal habits, his colorful prose, and his equally unusual music.Irish Tune from County Derry is a setting of a now-famous tune from the Irish county of Derry in the north (also sometimes called Londonderry). This classic arrangement features beautiful, delicate part-writing for both woodwinds and brass, highlighting each family in turn.
While this tune is widely associated with the lyrics “Danny Boy”, it in fact, has a rich history of lyric settings of which “Danny Boy” is a relative latecomer. Another title for the music is “Londonderry Air”
Shepherd's Hey – Percy Grainger
Grainger made several different settings of Shepherd’s Hey, which is based on a folk tune collected by the British folk song expert Cecil Sharp. The tune itself is a Morris dance though Grainger himself insists on his 1913 piano solo score that “This setting is not suitable to dance Morris dances to.”
The March Beyond the Wall - The Legend of the Ninth - Peter Smalley
Much has been written and speculated about what happened to the Roman Ninth Legion. The main theory being that the 5,000 strong unit was lost marching north to Caledonia to put down a rebellion and was the inspiration for the 2011 film The Eagle.
Peter Smalley portrays this legend in this suite and in the opening movement we certainly get a sense of the legions arrival; North of the wall.
Pre Goodman Rag – Malcolm Arnold
Soloist: Colin Giles
Somewhere in Ireland, 1974. The telephone rings. A voice says, “Malcolm? Benny Goodman here.” Malcolm Arnold shouts, “Sod off!” and hangs up – thinking that he was the victim of a prank call. Arnold got another call: “Malcolm, this is Benny. I may be a bit stoned, but I think your concerto is just great!” and thus a great friendship was formed.
Arnold’s second Clarinet Concerto was dedicated to Benny Goodman and first performed by Benny as part of the Red Rocks Music Festival in 1974. The third movement, known as the Pre Goodman Rag is an outrageous ragtime parody with a hauntingly wistful middle section.
Freylachs - Yiddish Dances (Movement 5) – Adam Gorb
Written for Timothy Reynish’s 60th birthday in 1998, Yiddish Dances is very much a party piece. It brings together two of Adam Gorb’s abiding passions: the Symphonic Wind Orchestra and Klezmer – the folk music of the Yiddish-speaking people.
The 5th Movement - Freylachs is a very fast stomp in which themes from the other movements are interwoven, ending in a riotous Yiddish ‘booze-up’ for all concerned.
The Royal Hunt of the Sun - Evocations - Martin Ellerby
Martin Ellerby wrote: "Evocations is cast in four contrasting movements based on Spanish subjects. I have not used any nationalist folk elements but rather alluded to a Spanish atmosphere by means of melody, rhythm, harmony and orchestration filtered through my own listening experiences. The result is more that of an affectionate observer than of a native correspondent."
The Royal Hunt of the Sun which closes the work evokes the spirit of the ritual dances of Spain. The subject matter is a play by Peter Shaffer concerning the conquest of Peru by the Spanish in the 16th century.