Sangsters: Concerto for Orchestra
Composition Date: 2002
Commissioned by Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Swedish Chamber Orchestra with Gerry Mattock and Beryl Calver-Jones.
First performed by Scottish Chamber Orchestra in Glasgow, 2002.
1. Laverocks (Andante:Allegro)
2. Selkies (Adagio)
3. Choir-sang (Andante maestoso)
The starting point for the piece is a poem written in Scots by Betty McKellar [reproduced in the score as an accompaniment to the performance] The three movements are connected to the three verses, and feature different soloists from within the orchestra. The first, light in character, concentrates on the higher instruments: piccolo, flute, oboe and clarinet, as well as solo violins. There is also a big solo part for timpani. I have notated the songs of sky-larks, and high-lighted the strong resemblance between these fragile sounds and the filigree ornamentation of pibroch (bagpipe music). The second movement is much darker, and the soloists are lower pitched - cor anglais, bass clarinet, contra bassoon; and solo viola, cello and bass. There are echoes of traditional songs; wave-shapes are set against a rhythmic, slow beating. The last movement, again influenced by traditional singing from both Scotland and Sweden, begins with a fanfare for trumpets, which leads into chorale-like writing for brass, contrasted with fragments from the first two movements. The centre of the movement takes the form of a fugue.
Sangsters is the final work to be written as a result of my residency with the Scottish and Swedish Chamber orchestras. However this one is a little different, in that the main funding has come from the work's dedicatees, Beryl Calver-Jones and Gerry Mattock. Beryl and Gerry have now commissioned a number of diverse pieces from me, and their support and input is something I wish to acknowledge as having had a profound effect on my development as a composer.
Laverocks play the clarsachs o the air
They're speerits o music
Ris up chord on chord for ilka note they sing
Pu'in on crescendo strings o their ain herts
Until they're brak wi sweetness
In the gowden reaches
O the hivven's airts.
Selkies sough the hert-beat o the sea
Greetin their saft grey teardrops wi the waves
Ripplin intil melody
Mournful soonds like cymbals
Agin the derk clift wa's
O hollow caves.
Gledness - dool
Twa pairts heich an laich o the choir-sang
We pitch oorsels
Agin the plains o Earth
Whaur we maun gang.
Glossary: laverocks - skylarks; selkies - seals; dool - sadness; sough - sigh; laich - low