Bells in the Air (2000)

Duration: 4′

  • Fanfare, trumpet, horn
  • Brass Wind Publications
  • Commissioned by Fibonacci Sequence
  • First performance 11 September 2000 – Paul Archibald (tpt) | Stephen Stirling (hn) – Minterne Summer Festival

The clangourous sound of a peal of bells always fills me with a sense of great joy. The skill of bell-ringing seems to require such a fine balance between physical strength and perfect timing and yet when the sounds do collide with each other these imperfections seem just as endearing.

I wrote Bells in the Air, a fanfare for trumpet and horn duo, thinking of that characteristically uneven fall of sound and how each pitch can set rich overtones a-jangling.

The musical direction bells in the air or bells up is an exhortation to the brass player to bring the sound forward by raising the bell of the instrument. But in this fanfare there is also a suggestion that bells of a different kind may be heard, peals of bells, both near and far.

The UK premiere performance was given by Paul Archibald and Stephen Stirling on 11 September, 1999 at the Summer Music Society of Dorset, Minterne.

Cavatina at Midnight (2008)

Duration: 10′

  • Clarinet, cello and piano
  • Friedrich Hofmeister
  • Commissioned by Chamber Music Trust
  • First performance 8 May – Catriona Scott (clarinet) | Gemma Rosefield (cello) – available for violin, cello and piano

Cavatina at Midnight encloses, at its centre, a reference to the opening of the sublime Cavatina, the fifth movement from Beethoven’s String Quartet in Bb Major, Op 130. Shapes and shades of the long lyrical line are hinted at throughout Cavatina at Midnight which also brings together songs of another kind, two allusions to the nightingale; one drawn from the poem by John Keats, who wrote Ode to a Nightingale one springtime, under a plum tree in a Hampstead garden, and the other from the first live broadcast of birdsong in 1924, in which the cellist, Beatrice Harrison, played well-known songs in nocturnal duet with a nightingale in her garden. In the trio the clarinet takes an agile role, suggestive of birdsong, often with arpeggio motifs, and is supported by the lyricism of the cello. As I was writing the piece a blackbird sang at my window, not its beautiful, mellifluous evensong but an insistent F sharp which somehow found its way into Cavatina at Midnight.

Cavatina at Midnight was commissioned by the CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust and first performed by Catriona Scott (clarinet) Gemma Rosefield (cello) and Michael Dussek (piano) as part of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival on 8 May 2008 at Christ Church, Hampstead Square, London. © 2008, Cecilia McDowall

Cavatina at Midnight was commissioned by the CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust and first performed by Catriona Scott (clarinet) Gemma Rosefield (cello) and Michael Dussek (piano) as part of the Hampstead and Highgate Festival on 8 May at Christ Church, Hampstead Square, London . A version for violin, cello and piano was made shortly afterwards.

Century Dances (2005)

Duration: 9′

  • Trio, oboe, clarinet and bassoon
  • Hunt Edition
  • Commissioned by The Thorne Trio
  • First performance 1 December – The Thorne Trio – St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol
  • See also: wind and brass

Five dances stretch a time-line from the 18th Century to the present day, each very different in character. The Allemande, which was often an introductory movement to the Baroque dance suite, ushers in Century Dances with flourishes and trills, using the conventional form of the period. This is followed by Menuet, subtitled ‘ghost dance’, distant and fragmented. Mazurka, a Polish dance form much favoured by Chopin, expansive and stately, is succeeded by the dark intensity of the Tango. The Last Dance rocks the suite to an exuberant conclusion.

  • I Allemande
  • II Menuet – ghost dance
  • III Mazurka
  • IV Tango
  • V Last Dance

Century Dances received its first performance on 1 December, 2005, at St George’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol, and was commissioned by The Thorne Trio with funds generously provided by the Gilbert and Eileen Edgar Junior Fellowship, the Lord and Lady Lurgan Fellowship and the Philharmonia Orchestra/Martin Music Trust Scholarship Fund Education and Outreach Award.

Colour of Blossoms (2009)

Duration: 12′

  • Piano trio. violin, cello and piano
  • Friedrich Hofmeister
  • First performance 20 March 2009 – The English Piano Trio – St James’, Piccadilly

Colour of Blossoms has been inspired by a 13th century Japanese story, The Tale of the Heike Family: the book centres on the emptiness of war, a recurring theme in Japanese literature. Colour of Blossoms draws on the delicate imagery from the famous opening passage; ‘The bell of the Gion monastery echoes slowly, warning that all is vanity. The colour of blossoms symbolizes the truth, that the prosperous will inevitably decline. The proud will fall in no time like a dream on a spring night. The valiant must perish too, as frail as dust blown by a puff of wind.’ For most Japanese people these temple gongs are associated with peace and they differ considerably from Chinese gongs or European church bells. They are huge, sometimes weighing as much as thirty tons, and are often hung in high places so that the reverberation can be heard across the valley.

Colour of Blossoms is punctuated throughout by the low, deep sonorities of the piano; the violin and cello etch delicate, lyrical lines against this darker resonance, opening into a fast, impassioned central section and then fold back into melodic meditation.

Colour of Blossoms was commissioned and part funded by the English Piano Trio; in addition the commission has been financially supported by the RVW Trust and was first performed by the English Piano Trio at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London, on 20 March, 2009.

Dance the dark streets (2003)

Duration: 12′

  • Piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass
  • 1: Haar | 2: Whirlwind
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by Mr McFall’s Chamber with funds from the Scottish Arts Council
  • First performance 12 February 2003 – Mr McFall’s Chamber, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

The two movements of Dance the dark streets are inspired by poems about different aspects of Scottish weather. I enjoy the rich language and the sense of glowering stillness that Alexander’s poem, Haar in Princes Street, evokes with phrases such as ‘hudder like ghaists in the gastrous haar.’ In Haar I have tried to capture the drifting looming quality of that mist from the sea.

The second movement, Whirlwind, brushes away the ‘haar’ with a wild wind. This movement is influenced by Norman MacCaig’s poem, ‘April dances the dark streets of November, Pied Piper leading a procession of the coloured dreams of summer.’

Dancing Fish (2004)

Duration: 8′

  • Soprano saxophone, string quartet
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by Commissioned by Sarah Field with funds from David Bowerman
  • First performance 29th May 2004 – Sarah Field (sax) | Bronte Quartet – Purcell Room, South Bank, London

This work for soprano saxophone and string quartet was inspired by Dancing Fish, a Russian fable written 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 weaknesses, particularly those which are typically Russian, 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 their fishy business in the stream. The fox is elected by the Lion, ruler of all beasts, to oversee the finny tribe as governor. However, the waters grow murky as the fox helps himself to a fishy meal or two. The Lion, passing by one day, sees the fox is growing fat and asks why the fish ‘wag their tails and heads that way?’ The fox replies that the Lion’s presence has brought the fish joy and set them all a-dancing. The Lion, suspecting foul play, makes the fox pay, but too late for the fish who are now having their last dance – in the frying pan.

A fragment of a 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

Dream City (2002)

Duration: 17′

  • Flute, clarinet, harp, string quartet
  • 1: Method of measuring time | 2: Walking the line | 3: Before the snow | 4: I had to dance
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts
  • First performance 26th August 2002 – Presteigne Festival Ensemble | George Vass – St Andrews, Presteigne, Wales
  • See also: Wind and Brass, flute, clarinet, string quartet, harp

Dream City draws its inspiration from the life and work of the artist, Paul Klee, and in particular, his painting, Traumstadt, or Dream City. Klee was surrounded by music: both his parents were musicians and his wife, Lily Stumpf, was a pianist, who provided the much needed financial support for their early years together by teaching the piano. Klee, himself, was a very good violinist and music was always central to both his art and his pedagogical writings. He was somewhat out of sympathy with contemporary composers, finding Schoenberg dry and academic. His real interest lay in his passion for the highly developed structures of the music of Bach and above all, Mozart. His passion was reflected in his interest in rhythm and musical forms which played an integral part in his artistic conceptions.

Klee painted a series of pictures with transparent layers of paint, which he referred to as his ‘polyphonic paintings’. Dream City (1921) is one such example. The French scholar, Jean-Louis Ferrier, writes of the painting: ‘the contrapuntal composition of Dream City, in which forms are allowed to float beyond their own boundaries, evoke the art of fugue. We see a juxtaposition of houses, trees, plants and abstract motifs which are echoed to the very edges of the painting. This is a dream city, but also a glass city, so transparent to the mind’s eye. It is perhaps also an ideal city.’

I have called the brief opening movement, ‘method of measuring time,’ as I was intrigued by Klee’s application of that phrase to his technique of layering watercolours (tonality) in the ‘polyphonic paintings’. In this introduction the flute, clarinet and harp give a bright edge to the supporting texture of the sustained string ensemble. Each instrumental flourish is ‘measured’ to give a feeling of rhythmic freedom and spontaneity.

Klee also described drawing as ‘taking a line for a walk’. In the second movement the first violin takes charge of the ‘line’, sometimes held in suspension and sometimes sent in wild zigzag motion. The other instruments of the ensemble are either ‘with’ the solo or in opposition to it.

The third movement suggests the distant, still world of the ‘Oriental’ landscape, Before the Snow (1929). Klee’s painting evokes the poise and transparency of the Japanese artists, Hokusai and Hiroshige. The texture of the strings provides a gently rustling backdrop to the solos of the flute, clarinet, harp and cello.

In 1921 Klee moved to a studio at the Bauhaus in Weimar, where he became lecturer, the same year in which he painted Dream City. One day, a fellow artist, working in the studio below his, heard a strange rhythmical banging. Curious, he asked Klee what it might have been when they next met. Mortified, Klee explained, ‘I was painting and painting and suddenly, I don’t know why, I had to dance!’ The last movement opens with angular dance-like shapes which move swiftly towards a twelve note fugue. Each entry, whether inverted, in retrograde or in augmentation, is interrupted by the clarinet and flute, both inveterate dancers, intent on bringing levity to the proceedings. In a lyrical middle section the flute and clarinet use rhythmic motives from the opening section of the movement and intertwine them across the supporting string texture. The opening ‘dance’ is then reprised followed by a return to the initial flourish of Dream City; the final bars leave the City suspended in the air.

Eleven (1999)

  • Flute, harp (or piano)
  • Hunt Edition
  • Score cat no HE57
  • First performance April 1999 – Lise-Maree Amos (fl) | Danielle Perrett (hp) – Purcell Room, South Bank, London

Eleven was originally conceived for flute and harp but I later rescored the harp part for piano. I visited Hungary in the mid nineties and gathered much middle European folksong material which Bartok had collected. I found one particularly heart rending song called the Three Orphans which I have alluded to in this work. Eleven was written at the time of the troubles in Kosovo and I became obsessed with what happens to a culture when it is dispersed due to war. Eleven means ‘alive’ in Hungarian and I thought of the harp or the piano as a cimbalom accompaniment and dedicated it to all those in danger of losing their cultural identity, in the hope that they can keep their voice ‘alive’.

Falling Angels (2007)

Duration: 8′

  • Cello and piano duo
  • Oxford University Press
  • Commissioned by Gemma Rosefield
  • First performance 7th January 2008 – Gemma Rosefield (cello) | Nicola Eimer (piano) – Purcell Room, South Bank Centre

Falling Angels was commissioned by Gemma Rosefield for performance as part of the Park Lane Group Young Artists Concerts, January 2008.

Falling Angels, a meditation for cello and piano, draws inspiration from the book City of Falling Angels in which the writer, John Berendt, gives a richly atmospheric portrayal of Venice where decay and disintegration are part of the allure. The rhythm of the lagoon, the gentle tides and waves of the Adriatic, frame the city like the rhythm of breathing. Extended melodies contrast with fragmented, falling phrases, sometimes ghostly, in this reflection on a beautiful city. The title was suggested by the sign ‘Beware of falling angels’ which was posted outside the Santa Maria della Salute Church in the 1970s before the marble angels were restored.

Mein blaues Klavier (2006)

Duration: 10 minutes

  • Soprano saxophone and piano
  • Friedrich Hofmeister
  • Commissioned by Amy Dickson
  • First performance 6th March 2006 – Amy Dickson (soprano saxophone) | Catherine Milledge (piano) – Wigmore Hall

This duo for soprano saxophone and piano, commissioned by Amy Dickson, finds its inspiration in the poem Mein blaues Klavier (My blue piano) written during the Second World War (1943) by the German Expressionist, Else Lasker-Schüler. Though the composition is essentially abstract the fractured, tilted world of the poem pervades the piece; it is as if the broken, disused piano, standing in shadow, is a metaphor for all that has been lost in wartime. The work opens with a bright-edged four note motif which then becomes fragmented; it takes many shapes before its final utterance, narrowing down to a single note at the end of the final section. The central section of Mein blaues Klavier is a lament in which the two instruments intertwine their melodies over a falling bass line.

Piano Forty

  • Piano 40
  • Recording: Regent Records REGCD194

The idea of writing for four pianists at two pianos was a challenging one. The main thoughts behind Piano Forty were to do with finding orchestral colour and variety: the lyrical, the bold, the loud, the soft. Hence the title. Also, a desire to put the spotlight on those 40 dextrous, driving digits. Piano 40 were orginally called the London Piano Quartet and subsequently renamed after I wrote Piano Forty.

Skerry and Fjord (2010)

Duration: 12 minutes

  • Trombone and piano
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by Newark Brass Festival
  • First performance 24 January 2010  |  Michael Buchanan (trombone) Helen Reid

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.

Strange violin, are you following me? (2008)

Duration: 10′

  • Violin and Piano
  • Friedrich Hofmeister
  • First performance April 2008 – Peter Fisher (vln) | Peter Hewitt (pf) – St John’s Smith Square, London

Strange violin, are you following me? was commissioned by Peter Hewitt and Peter Fisher for performance at a concert in aid of Cancerkin at St John’s, Smith Square, London, on 27 April 2008.

This work draws its inspiration from the evocative, nocturnal poem, Der Nachbar (The Neighbour), by the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke. Its eerie, elegiac mood pervades the dark, meditative duo in which extended melodic lines intertwine between instruments, seemingly in pursuit of each other. Intensely lyrical, there is a constant pulse that beats a course throughout the work. The poem begins:

Strange violin, are you following me?

  • In how many distant cities has your
  • lonely night already spoken to mine?
  • Are a hundred playing you? Or just one?

String Quartet (The case of the unanswered wire – 2004)

  • String Quartet
  • Gemini Publications
  • First performance August 2004 – Sorrel Quartet – St Mary’s Church, Leintwardine, Herefordshire

The case of the unanswered wire was inspired by The Donkey’s Ears, a verse novel by the Scottish poet, Douglas Dunn, in which he describes the life of a Russian engineer on board ship at the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The work of the engineer is necessarily meticulous and repetitive (as well as dangerous) and to preserve the other side of his life he writes tender poetic letters to his wife, to be sent by telegram.

In this quartet I have thought of the pulsation of those communicating wires, conveyors of fact, terror and joy, but also, bound into this, is an expression of despair at the tyranny of war and its calamitous consequences.

The stoical Russian engineer prepares for battle in the closing lines of The Donkey’s Ears, ‘well dressed to meet the horrid sea,’ and in the final section of the quartet there is a suggestion of Morse code, stuttering into silence. As ships go down communication fails.

Subject to the weather (2010)

Duration: 4’30”

  • Wind quintet
  • Duration: 5′
  • Oxford University Press
  • Commissioned by the Presteigne Festival for the Creating Landscapes project
  • First performance September 2010  |  The Galliard Ensemble | St Andrew’s Church, Presteigne, Wales
  • See also: wind and brass

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.

The case of the unanswered wire (see String Quartet)

Duration: 10′

The case of the unanswered wire was inspired by The Donkey’s Ears, a verse novel by the Scottish poet, Douglas Dunn, in which he describes the life of a Russian engineer on board ship at the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The work of the engineer is necessarily meticulous and repetitive (as well as dangerous) and to preserve the other side of his life he writes tender poetic letters to his wife, to be sent by telegram.

In this quartet I have thought of the pulsation of those communicating wires, conveyors of fact, terror and joy, but also, bound into this, is an expression of despair at the tyranny of war and its calamitous consequences.

The stoical Russian engineer prepares for battle in the closing lines of The Donkey’s Ears, ‘well dressed to meet the horrid sea,’ and in the final section of the quartet there is a suggestion of Morse code, stuttering into silence. As ships go down communication fails.

The case of the unanswered wire was first performed by the Sorrel Quartet at the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts in August, 2004 and was recorded by the Tippett Quartet on
1 April at St Giles’ Church, Cripplegate, London, and released in November 2005 on the Dutton Epoch label (CDLX 7159)

The Night Trumpeter (2002 rev. 2004)

Duration: 11′

  • trumpet, violin, cello, clarinet, bassoon and piano
  • 1 The power of dreams | 2 Kircher’s Ear
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by The Fibonacci Sequence
  • First performance 8 November 2004 – The Fibonacci Sequence – St John’s, Smith Square, London
  • See also: Wind and Brass

Both movements reach for historical connections between different uses, in the 16th Century, of the trumpet as a conveyor of information. Inspiration for the opening movement has been drawn from Rose Tremain’s novel, Music and Silence, where she describes how the Duchess of Mecklenburg hired a night trumpeter to stand guard over her sleeping grandson, the future King of Denmark, Christian IV. If the baby awoke the trumpeter was instructed to sound the alarm (probably waking the entire royal household as he did so). The Duchess feared the “power of dreams” so the trumpeter was also commanded to play a lively melody “to chase away the child’s terrors”.

The introduction sets the nocturnal pace, followed by a gentle rocking motion in the accompaniment with sustained trumpet line. Darker textures follow, leading to an alerting call. The middle section gives way to a distant bright trumpet tune to lift the baby’s spirits. The nightmare dispatched, the household now returns to its somnolent state.

The German architect, Kirchner, a contemporary of Christian IV, designed an early “bugging” device which was shaped like a huge trumpet, structured on the Fibonacci sequence. This trumpet “ear” was secreted between walls where Court conversation could be monitored in seclusion. In my imaginings this aural instrument might have produced diverse results, from sweeping reverberation to a perpetuum mobile of discourse. The trumpet opens the movement with the bell directed into the piano, to exaggerate the resonance of the harmonics. After this, all manner of musical exchanges follow.

Three Antiphons (2006)

Duration: 9′

  • Trumpet and organ
  • Brass Wind Publications
  • 1. Ave Regina | 2. Ave Maria | 3. Regina Caeli

Three Antiphons for trumpet and organ are adaptations of Latin motets for unaccompanied choir, commissioned originally by Janet and Douglas Mackay for the City of Canterbury Chamber Choir and first performed in Faversham, Kent, in April 2004. Regina Caeli, as a motet, was nominated for the Liturgical section in the British Composer Awards, December, 2005. The rescoring for this combination was made for Paul Archibald and Leslie Pearson and first performed at the Yoxford Festival in 2004.

The three texts I chose for the choral motets address the Virgin Mary. The first movement, Ave Regina, is a gentle and lyrical response to the ‘Queen of the heavens . . . from whom the light came into the world.’ The Ave Maria, originally written for upper voices, is more intimate in expression with a plainchant-like muted opening. In contrast, the final movement, Regina Caeli, is robust and exultant. Each chordal passage (an Alleluia in the motet) punctuates the linear writing of the ‘verses’ which make use of the plainchant footprints of the Regina Caeli itself. Three Antiphons have also been arranged for trumpet ensemble and organ and have been recorded in this version by the International Celebrity Trumpet Ensemble for the Brass Classics label. The motets are published by OUP and have just been released on the Chandos label by the renowned American choir, Phoenix Chorale.

Time Between Tides (2010)

Duration: 8′

  • for String Trio, Violin, viola, cello
  • 1. Edge | 2. Fall
  • Gemini Publications
  • Commissioned by the audience of Music in the Village, Walthamstow
  • First performance 15th April 2010 – Lendvai String Trio – The Ancient Church of St Mary’s Walthamstow, London

Time Between Tides was commissioned by the audience of Music in the Village, Walthamstow, with financial assistance from the RVW Trust, for the Lendvai String Trio. The first performance was given by the Lendvai String Trio in The Ancient Church of St Mary’s Walthamstow, London, on 15 April 2010. Time Between Tides received its second performance by the Lendvai String Trio on 18 May 2010 at Imperial College, London.

  • I Edge: ‘gleaming along its edge’
  • II Fall: ‘falling down into the story’

Time Between Tides was inspired by the vivid and shimmering imagery of Cliff Fall, in which the poet and broadcaster, Seán Street, gives the powerful illusion of a man falling, ‘a single figure framed in the cliff’s spun moment.’ When Seán Street made a radio programme at Samphire Hoe, Kent, he discovered that the cliff, below which the Hoe lies, was called ‘Shakepeare’s’ cliff, where the ‘dreadful trade’ of gathering Samphire occurs in King Lear. The narrative of Time Between Tides, in one almost continuous movement, falls into two contrasting sections, each defined by a phrase from Cliff Fall. The work opens with a poised stillness (Edge) in which the long lines of the three instruments entwine in their highest range, ‘gleaming along its edge’. The last section (Fall) emerges firstly as broken phrases, then unifies into something much more urgent. The phrase shapes give (I hope) a feeling of ‘falling’, as if inevitably being pulled down by gravity, ‘flailing through air bright for the love of Samphire.’

Cliff Fall (subtitled, Samphire Hoe, Kent. King Lear, Act IV, Scene VI) opens:

  • Gloucester’s imagined cliff,
  • Samphire, murmuring surge,
  • a dizzy horizon
  • gleaming along its edge,
  • sunlight dazzle blinding
  • a gaze on the far sea,
  • persuading memory
  • that it saw a man fall,
  • time between tides rushing
  • towards darkness . . .

Seán Street has generously given permission to quote from his poem, Cliff Fall.

Time Between Tides is dedicated to bassist, Peter McCarthy, who set up the Walthamstow concert series, Music in the Village, and to the Lendvai String Trio, Nadia Wijzenbeek, violin, Ylvali Zilliacus, viola and Marie Macleod, cello.