Trombone and piano
Duration: 12′
Gemini Publications (contact composer)
Commissioned by Newark Brass Festival
First performance 24 January 2010 | Michael Buchanan (trombone), Helen Reid

Programme note:

Skerry and Fjord was commissioned by the Newark Brass Festival for the 2009 overall prizewinner, trombonist Michael Buchanan. The first performance was given by Michael Buchanan and Helen Reid, piano, on 24 January, 2010 at Barnbygate Methodist Church, Newark upon Trent, Nottinghamshire.

There is something so majestic and yet so dark and perilous about the Nordic, ice-scoured coastline. At the mouth of the deep-cut, resounding fjords, pinnacles of rock (skerries) pierce upwards and give menace to the incautious navigator. The trombone seems the perfect instrument to draw out sonorous images of this powerful landscape. Listening to a recording of the Canadian alphorn specialist, Mike Cumberland, playing at the summit of a glacier and I was transfixed by the way in which the alphorn reverberated in that vast open space. The sound would slip behind the mountain, emerging transformed, many seconds later, from the other side of the valley.

In the opening and closing passages of Skerry and Fjord the major/minor third makes an interplay between trombone and piano, jangled and echoing.  Long lyrical lines rise and fall above the ringing accompaniment, which often gravitates towards the lowest region of the piano. Occasional, fast patterned upbeats break the length of the solo line. The central section, faster paced and more urgent in manner,  allows turbulence to surface before returning to the sustained, reverberating section which brings the work, which lasts for about 12 minutes, to a close.