Wind quintet
Duration: 5′
Oxford University Press
Commissioned by the Presteign Festival for the Creating Landscapes project
First performance September 201 | Galliard Ensemble | St Andrew’s Church, Presteigne, Wales
Also see: chamber music

Subject to the Weather uses the Welsh folk song The Blackbird as its inspiration, but also references Wesley’s hymn tune Aurelia: The Church’s one Foundation. The music evokes country life and birdsong in a charming and engaging style.

Programme note:

Creating Landscapes was a cross-arts project which brought together composers and visual artists to create new pieces of music and art for the 2010 Presteigne Festival. The project also giave young people from primary schools in rural Herefordshire and Powys the opportunity to work with The Galliard Ensemble, composers and artists. The inspiration for the project was the natural beauty of the landscape and rich heritage of the Border Marches. The pretty Welsh folksong, The Blackbird, was used as a focus for five compositions. The four other composers were Mark Bowden, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Paul Patterson, and Lynne Plowman.

Subject to the weather (wind quintet with a focus on the flute and on the outstandingly beautiful Hick’s Farm, Powys)
Seeing the poverty and attending difficulties which faced farm labourers and their families in the Border Marches in the late 19th Century, the local Methodist schoolteacher, Thomas Strange, gave inspiration and support to the co-operative venture in the 1880s for Hick’s Farm (one of the places of outstanding natural beauty in the area) which emerged from the trade union movement of the time. As Methodism lies at the heart of Hick’s Farm I have used the well known hymn tune, Aurelia: The Church’s one foundation, written by Samuel Wesley’s son, S. S. Wesley, to underpin the structure of the quintet. (Samuel Sebastian Wesley was born 200 years ago on 14 August, 1810 and began his working life as organist at Hereford Cathedral).

The work opens with the hymn tune’s first phrase stated by the horn, accompanied by an outline of The Blackbird. This is followed by a lively motif derived from the opening of the folksong. The first section of the quintet is a sort of perpetuum mobile (which seems about right for farming life) and the little motif is shared between the players, with the flute presenting ‘out of time’ fragments of the song. The flute solo, blackbird-like, leads from the bustling of the first section to the meditative second and final section. Here the folksong appears complete, woven through the solemn under structure of the hymn. The title, Subject to the weather, is a quotation from Johnny Arkwright, local landowner, magistrate and supporter of the labourers’ movement; Arkwright, speaking of farming, said: No other industry is to the same extent subject to the weather.

Commissioned for the 2010 ‘Creating Landscapes’ education and community project by Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts Limited with funds from Arts Council England. The first performance was given by The Galliard Ensemble wind quintet on 30 August at St Andrew’s Church, Presteigne.


Link to Score: