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For String Quintet

Composition Date: 2018

Instrumentation: String Quintet (



Commissioned by Divertimenti Ensemble and first performed by them at Kimmeridge House, Bournemouth University, on 31 March 2019

EP 73289

Programme Note:


for string quintet

Dedicated to my Divertimenti friends, and to my Scottish family

1. Stramash

2. First Light

3. Lullaby

4. Waltz

5. Reel

In 2018 I wrote a series of chamber pieces expressing my sadness at leaving Scotland, where I had spent nearly half my life, and raised a family.

The pieces also represent the anticipation of new beginnings, and a new chapter in my life.

The first of these, A Farewell, is for six violas, and the quintet Divertimenti is the second; followed by A Myndin’ for string quartet.

I was a founder member of the London-based chamber group Divertimenti, and enjoyed years of happy music making with them as a viola player. To receive a commission from them some 40 years later was a great pleasure, and also a timely reminder of the friends and musicians I left behind when I moved north in 1990.

The brief was to write a companion piece for the great Schubert Quintet – to be an approachable work that would not be too daunting for groups to prepare, thus making it more likely to enter the repertoire.

To this end, I decided on a set of very short ‘divertimenti’, or diversions. This seemed an apt title for obvious reasons, but also because composing the piece represented a diversion from my forthcoming move south. They are each based on a different fragment from Burns’ beautiful ‘farewell’, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’.

At the centre of the piece is a lullaby. My three children regard themselves as Scottish, and Scotland will remain an intrinsic part of us all, however far away we may travel. The soloist is the viola.

The piece is framed by two Scottish inspired dances – the first entitled Stramash – which means a kind of exuberant chaos, and the last, a reel.

Preceding the lullaby is a gentle duet for two violins, inspired by dawn overlooking the summer Isles, where we had two family holidays. After the lullaby comes a quirky waltz for two cellos, reflecting the faerie lore that surrounds our former home near Aberfoyle.

The Divertimenti may be performed separately.

Divertimenti was commissioned by Divertimenti Ensemble and first performed by them at Kimmeridge House, Bournemouth University, on 31 March 2019.

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