soprano saxophone, string orchestra
duration: 8′
Gemini Publications
First performance 30 March 2005
Amy Dickson (sax), Orchestra Nova/George Vass
St Giles Cripplegate, Barbican, London (Dutton recording)

Programme note:

Dancing Fish is inspired by a Russian fable of the same name by Ivan Krylov. Krylov worked in government before abandoning the post in 1807 to devote himself exclusively to a literary career. His famous Fables, published in 1809, were immediately successful. His tales expose human weakness and are directed against injustice and corruption, rife in the government and professions of the time.

Dancing Fish tells of the piscine race, contentedly getting on with its fishy business in the stream. The fox, elected by the Lion, ruler of all beasts, oversees the finny tribe as governor. However, the waters grow murky as the fox has a penchant for indulging in a fishy dish or two. One day, the Lion passes by and notes that the fox is growing rather fat and asks why the fish ‘wag their tails and heads that way?’ The crafty fox replies that the Lion’s presence has brought the fish joy and set them all a-dancing. The Lion, suspecting (at last) that the fox is up to no good decides to make him pay for his corrupt behaviour, but too, late for the fish are now having their last dance – in the frying pan.

A fragment of Russian folk song is first heard on the saxophone in the opening section and makes further melancholic appearances as the piece progresses, moving from aquatic tranquility to somewhat frantic dancing.

Dancing Fish was commissioned by Sarah Field with funds from David Bowerman and presented by Concordia Foundation and was first performed by Sarah Field, soprano saxophone and the Bronte String Quartet on 29 May, 2004 at the Purcell Room. The following year the string orchestra version was made for a Dutton Epoch recording for Amy Dickson, saxophone, and Orchestra Nova.

There is now a version for Narrator, soprano sax and string orchestra which tells the whole story!

Link to recording: