La Folia (Madness)
Written for the Royal Forest of Dean Orchestra.
The Treasure of May Hill
The narrative, interweaving with the music, is a tale about the myth of May Hill and is a collaboration with actor, Phil Hemming. Its orchestral overture is based on an old pipe-and-tabor Morris dance tune whistled by Mr William Henry Watts in Tewkesbury, April, 1908, and recorded there by Cecil Sharp. There is treasure buried on May Hill. This is the story of one man's quest to find it.
Narrator, Phil Hemming
Programme: 1. Air of Gloom 2. The Town Council 3. The Landlord; (Intermezzo) 4. The Tax Man 5. May Day Morris 6. The Despair 7. The Storm 8. The Spirit 9. Composer's Gold 10. Wilma's Return; (Intermezzo) 11. Finale.
Each piece lasts for about two minutes and while some feature different combinations of instruments, from string quartet to wind band, others are for full orchestra.
This orchestral piece is for Joe Meek, 'The Telstar Man', whose childhood home is just round the corner from my own house in Newent. Joe Meek, 1929-67, was perhaps the UK's greatest and most innovative record producer. His life ended tragically in a studio on Holloway Road, London, where, in a state of extreme mental anguish, he shot his landlady and then killed himself. His grave is in the Newent cemetery.
I wrote this some years ago but the orchestration was poor. I've completely revised it in 2023 and the new version is, I think, much better.
Four painting-with-music meditations on seasonal haikus by Japanese masters are written for small chamber groups featuring unusual instrument combinations:
Under the Rainclouds - Uejima Onitsura (1661 – 1738):
Under the rainclouds
The plum blossoms seem like stars
Despite the daylight
Spring: Flute, Viola, Bassoon and Celesta
The Charcoal Kiln - Hayano Hajin (1676 - 1742):
The charcoal kiln –
A deer watches
The evening smoke
Summer: Flute, violin, piano & percussion
Leaves of Ivy - Yamamoto Kakei (1648 - 1716),
Leaves of ivy
Every one astir -
The autumn wind
Autumn: Oboe, French horn, cello & percussion
Snow's Falling! - Masaoka Shiki (1867 – 1902):
I see it through a hole
in the shutter...
String Theory - Also scored for string orchestra. Like many people, I have a fascination for the strange sub-atomic world where the building blocks of the universe are at play:
The (Get It) Together Song - As an eccentric lock-down project, I played all the string quartet parts for this, plus percussion. As my cello skills are nil, this part was transposed up an octave for viola and then the software transposed it back down to sound like a cello!
Inspired by quantum-mechanical principles, in four movements.
3. Strangeness and Charm
Alchemy In Music
A suite for orchestra, telling the story of the old pier at Weston-super-Mare, its heyday, decline, disaster and rebirth. The pier is a couple of hours drive from my home and I have visited several times, and always am captivated by the atmosphere that emanates from this crumbling but once vibrant site:
Dead Cat Bounce
Octet for wind band
Whispers of the Garden
Bagatelles for brass quintet
Six short pieces inspired by poems of T.S Eliot, Longfellow, Wallace Stevens, Philip Larkin and Oscar Wilde:
The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls
A Symphony of Scenes
Inspired by my home town in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, the scenes depicted in each movement could be from any small, historic town in our beautiful countryside.
The Old Fayre
More Orchestral Works
The Well-Tempered Orchestra
For small orchestra: a nice piece but the original had several compositional faults. This updated version (2023), is, hopefully, much improved.
... and a song by Vivian Ellis from 'Bless the Bride':
More Chamber Music
Inspired by the Offa's Dyke national trail, featured in Ramblings About Music:
Imagination for solo Violin: