Many of the composer's works since 1985 have been published by;
2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets (B flat), 2 Bassoons. 4 Horns (F), 2 trumpets (B flat), 3 Trombones, Tuba. Timpani Percussion (3 players) Side drum (snares), Cymbals (clashed) Castanets, Woodblock, Triangle.Strings.
This short piece for orchestra is dedicated to Martin Rutherford and the Orchestra of Melbourne Grammar School, Melbourne, Australia. It is a light-hearted, humorous piece based on the tune "Old Macdonald had a farm." Its origins go back to 1970, when the composer was assistant Director of Music at George Heriot's School, Edinburgh. The piece was written as a bit of fun for an ensemble consisting of Clarinet, Saxophone, Tuba and Piano. A recording of the original version exists, as well as a performance by the Melbourne Grammar School Symphony Orchestra.
Anthem for S.A.T.B. Choir, Harp and Organ.
The words of this anthem are by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) and Compilers. The date of the Ms score is Ludlow, July 28/29th 2000. It is somewhat experimental, having been written for the unusual combination of S.A.T.B. Choir, Harp and Organ.It has not, as yet, been performed.It follows the format of a hymn-anthem, with a quite elaborate part for Harp. The third verse is more chromatic and has a section for solo Soprano/Treble.Verse four returns to the opening and leading to a climax. The anthem ends quietly.
The "Twelve Sketches after Grock" for Trombone and Piano were written in Ludlow in September 2000 to fulfil a long-standing wish to write a substantial piece for the composer's nephew, Ben Carvell, an outstanding young trombonist who studied at Chetham's School, Manchester, and who has since gone on to Durham University.The pieces are often humorous and are loosely based on the antics of Charles Adrien Wettach (1880 - 1959), a Swiss clown who became world-famous through the pseudonym of "Grock". Although mainly light-hearted, the pieces make considerable demands on both solo Trombonist and Pianist. Three of the pieces are written in homage to great composers - Malcolm Arnold, Serge Prokoviev and Sergei Rachmaninov. There is a strong element of pastiche throughout these pieces as suggested by the indigenous buffoonery! The "Twelve Sketches after Grock" have not received a public performance.
These songs were written at Ludlow between September and December 1999. They were written as fun pieces to be sung by Barbara Kalman (now Francis) and the composer (piano). The wish inherent in the writing of these pieces was to preserve the old Nursery Rhymes which are in danger of becoming extinct in this modern world. They are even now thought to be more violent than most childrens TV programmes of today! The words are taken from the Faber Book of Nursery Rhymes edited by Donald Mitchell and Carey Blyton. Some Of the songs are short and aphoristic, others are extended. Each song uses the traditional melody dressed up with a freely composed accompaniment. Song no.3 uses jazz and 'fugato' style,4 uses Speech-rhythm, 5 is influenced by minimalism, 10 is grotesque! , 11 briefly enters the world of Schoenberg.12 is a brilliant Ostinato.
This score is dated Ludlow, December 2nd, 2000 and was written especially for the composer's young nephew, Jon Carvell who has studied the Trumpet while living in Whitby, North Yorkshire, but changed to Trombone on the advice of his teacher once he went to Chetham's school, Manchester. The first piece quotes a small part of the "last post" at the end. The Scherzetto is mysterious and brilliant, requiring considerable agility, with a rather vulgar Trio section in the middle.The Final "Hymn of Peace" is a restful hymn with moments of vision in the ' luminoso" sections.
The piece was revised in August, 2008. It was also arranged as a suite for Trombone and Piano - see below:
This very pastorale-type anthem is set to words by Joseph Addison (1672 - 1719). It is dedicated to Jean Cole, a long-time loyal alto in St Laurence's choir, Ludlow. The style is homophonic throughout. The anthem has not, as yet, been performed. The score is dated Ludlow, 24th/ 25th of October.
This concerto was written in Ludlow in October 2000. It was intended for a performance combining an Allen electronic organ and a pipe organ that did not eventually materialize, and thus remains unperformed. The first movement is bold and forthright, the harmony tonal (modal) with the two organs either combining or contrasted. The second movement Pastorale is in the nature of a double Trio sonata slow movement as found in the examples by J.S.Bach. The finale has something of the influence of Hindemith about it. It is a short, monothematic, rather busy movement.
This piece was originally written in 2000 as a Concerto for Two Organs. In 2008 it was re-written as a Concerto for Organ and Piano. It awaits a first performance in its new format.
"The Perfect Cha Cha Cha" was written in Ludlow in January 2001 and entered for the Gregynog International Composers Award competition for 2001.It was awarded first prize (£1000, an engraved crystal vase and a period of residency at Gregynog, near Newtown, Powys. The first performance, and the award of the prize did not take place until June 21st, 2002 at Gregynog because of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001. The adjudicators for the competition were Welsh composer, John Metcalf, Lecturer, John Hywel and clarinettist, David Campbell. The first performance was given by the Soundwood Ensemble directed by David Campbell. The composer's programme note stated that …"the piece is based on a ballroom dance of Latin American origin. After an extended introduction (featuring a controlled accelerando and rallentando) acting as a kind of decoy, the Perfect Cha Cha Cha emerges in all its glory. Two variations follow featuring oboes then horns. The Cha Cha Cha returns as a kind of rapturous duet. Two further variations follow, featuring bassoons and clarinets, before a bried coda ushers is a rapid finale, together with a final appearance of the Perfect Cha Cha Cha whipped up to a frenzied climax. The piece has had no further performances to date.
This short anthem was written in Ludlow in April, 2001 for Jaap Bol and The "Cantilene" chamber choir, Katwijk, Holland. The piece is simple and Homophonic in outline set to words by Emily m.Crawford (1868 - 1927). The piece, as yet, has not been performed.
This carol is dedicated to Neil and Carrie Spencer, two much loved friends of the composer, who sang in St Laurence's choir for many years, before Neil took up a curacy at Weobley, Herefordshire. They have since moved to near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. The piece is freely tonal, homophonic, and is deceptively simple. It features a Soprano/Treble solo up to a top A flat at the end. The piece is dated Ludlow, July 18th, 2001.
This Carol is dated Ludlow, July 19th, 2001 and was written for Jaap Bol and the "Cantilene" chamber choir, Katwijk, Holland. The words are taken from an old church-gallery book, Dorset, discovered by the Reverend L.J.T. Darwell. It goes "with a good swing" , is moderately difficult and requires some divisions.Verses 3 and 4 are at a slower tempo with a different theme. Verse 6 returns to the original theme in E major and adds a descant to the original tune.
Many of the composer's Anthems, Christmas carols, and Canticles are collected together in a single volume entitled ; "The Anthems of Richard Francis" published by INTRADA, catalogue number 21033. The front cover features the colour print of the interior of St Laurence's Church, Ludlow by Edward Hodson, the younger, dated about 1850.
This is the second of the three humorous pieces for organ written for the Italian organist, Alessandro Bianchi. It was written in Ludlow on July 26 /27th and is in pastiche style. It was written for Alessandro's organ recital tour of Romania in 2002 and it is no surprise that the piece lives under the shadow of a certain Count who lived in Transylvania!, although there is no direct reference to the gentleman. The Prelude opens with a mighty theme of gothic splendour! The second theme, with its repeated chords is clearly influenced by Mendelssohn. It is eventually cut short by a return of the opening theme, and a direct quotation from Beethoven's 5th symphony, and Liszt's Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H., before the movement ends capriciously. The Fugue is a fully worked specimen with a subject slightly reminiscent of Bruckner. During the course of the fugue, there are various quotations from famous organ pieces, and other sources. The main theme of the Prelude eventually returns leading to a quotation from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" played pianissimo. A stretto then ensues leading to a grand coda based on Henri Mulet's organ toccata "Tu es Petra".The Prelude has been performed by Alessandro Bianchi on tour and at St Laurence's Church, Ludlow. This piece requires a virtuoso player to do it justice!
First performance of the Prelude was by Alessandro Bianchi at St Laurence's Church, Ludlow on July 16th, 2003.
Flute 1, Flute 2 (Piccolo), Oboe 1, Oboe 2, Clarinet 1, Clarinet 2 (B flat) Bassoon 1, Bassoon 2, French Horn 1, French Horn 2 (F), Contrabassoon. Cello, Double Bass.
"The Echoing Green", set to words by William Blake (1757 - 1827) was commissioned by INTRADA for performance at a concert at "De Rinkelbom", Heerenveen, Holland given by the chamber choir "Capella 92" and the Frysk Blazers Ensemble (Friesian Wind Ensemble). The first performance took place on March 17th, 2002 and was conducted by Gerben van der Veen. The performance was recorded on CD. The piece is dedicated to Gerben van der Veen and Jan de Jong. "The Echoing Green" has been performed at one other location in Holland. It has yet to receive its first UK performance. Its overall form very much follows the plan of the poem. The musical language is radiantly tonal in the outer sections, but freely atonal in the middle.
An opening prelude sets the scene at dawn as the choir enters with "The sun does arise", accompanied by bell-ringing and birdsong in the ensemble. The play and merry sport on the green is depicted in a fast, brilliant fugato for the wind ensemble, with the choir joining in eventually with "Old John with white hair, does laugh away care." The opening theme returns as the choir sings; "Such, such were the joys" with the main climax occurring on the words " Echoing Green".A rhythmic Stravinsky-like fanfare takes place as the sport and games continue until a sudden change brings in a slow tempo, change of key and still, sustained texture, and the choir enters with "Till the little ones weary". Dusk now sets upon the Echoing Green, and a peaceful coda draws the piece to a close on a gentle chord of A flat.
This quirky little March fro manuals only was originally written as a pencil sketch in 1981 and then got left on the shelf until 2001 when it was thoroughly revised and completed. It pays homage to the great organ builder Johann Snetzler (1710- 1784) who moved to London from his native Switzerland in the 1740's. Snetzler built the new organ for St Laurence's Chruch, Ludlow which was installed in 1764 and later enlarged by Gray and Davison in the 19th Century. This was the instrument Richard Francis played for many years as organist and choirmaster. Snetzler's instruments were noted for their clear and restrained chorus work and delicate "chimney flute" Stopped Diapaisons. Pedals in those days were no more than manual "pull-downs". The piece simply requires some simple 8'4'2' registration on a small organ. The opening section in E flat has some teasing changes of time signature and interesting use of 2 bar silences. The middle section in B flat has something of a Hindemithian business about it. The recap of the first section - played a little slower combines the two main themes before resuming speed and hastening onwards to its close.
This second cycle of songs based on Nursery Rhymes was written in June 2001 . The set is again dedicated to Barbara Kalman (now Francis), and song no. 6 is affectionately dedicated to her dear cat, "Augustus" (Gussie), alas now deceased. Some of the songs are short, and some of them are extended (such as no.3, 11 and 12.). No.5 contains quotations from Bizet's "Carmen" and the "Sailor's hornpipe". No.8 virtually combines Jazz with a Fandango. No.11 (in the outer sections) pays humble homage to Johannes Brahms. No.12 hints at "Children's favourites" of the 1950's, as well as using "Oh dear, what can the matter be?" and a quotation from Liadov's "A musical snuffbox". The songs are all fun and meant to be enjoyed, although some contain moments of depth of feeling. The song cycle awaits a public performance.
This setting of the major morning Canticles for the Anglican church was written in Ludlow between November 2001 and January 2002. It is a major, extended setting and is intended for performance by a cathedral choir and organist. Both the vocal and organ parts are demanding.Both canticles are freely tonal and the textures alternate between homophony and counterpoint.
The Te Deum opens with an organ introduction used originally in the setting of Psalm 150 (1986).A dance-like theme follows on the words; "Holy, holy". A march-theme takes over on; "The glorious company of the Apostles"."Declamato" is the marking for "Thou art the King of glory",a fanfare-like section in D flat. A faster section in B begins "O Lord save thy People" which is suddenly cut off for a slow Treble/Soprano solo over a sustained accompaniment for "Vouchsafe, O Lord".The final section, "O Lord, let thy mercy" makes use of the plainsong Te Deum (tonus simplex)
The Benedictus commences, after a short introduction, with a Tenor solo. The section; "That we should be saved" uses a varied version of the march theme from the Te Deum, which is used quite extensively in the middle section of the Benedictus. "And thou child" is a section or 3 solo Trebles or Sopranos and relates to the "Declamato" section of the Te Deum. The final section of the Benedictus , "To give light to them" is almost unaccompanied except for a wandering solo line in the organ part. The Gloria begins in "Declamato" fashion, with organ flourishes, before giving way to a dance-like section on "As it was in the beginning".The final Amen ends similarly to Psalm 150, with which this piece is directly connected. This setting has not yet been performed publicly.
Trumpet 1 (B flat), Trumpet 2, Trombone 1 (or French Horn in F) Trombone 2, Tuba.
This is the third brass piece, based on ballroom dance-forms to be written for Otto Gittel and his group the Nurnberg Barock Blaser. It was written in January 2002 and dedicated to his wife Silka. The piece is in the rather pungent harmonic style of the previous offerings. After and extended Introduction, Strain 1 of the "Terrific Tango" begins, and is repeated. Strain 2 is slightly slower and features a solo for Trombone 1 (or French Horn). The Introduction returns (slightly varied) followed by a reprise of Strain 1, this time played pianissimo, with the main theme played by a muted first Trumpet, with some playing about with the rhythmic shape. This is repeated, leading directly to Strain 3, played slower and in a rather sentimental fashion. The introduction returns again, brought to an abrupt halt by a deep "raspberry" on the tuba! A link section brings back Strain 1 for a final reprise leading to a unanimous conclusion.
First performance (with the composer present) took place on September 20th, 2008 at the Ev. Luth. Church, Langwasser, near Nuremburg, Germany. This concert faetured the composer's other brass music and the first performance of "Portraits of Sebald" for organ.
This song, dated Ludlow, February 2002 was written to words by Audrey Aveyard, a lay reader at St Laurence's Church, Ludlow, and a member of the choir. The words tell of the witness of the wagtail on the occasion of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The musical language is freely atonal, rather tough and uncompromising as befits the nature of the words. The song awaits a public performance and exists in Ms form.
This anthem is a realisation by the composer of an English motet (Latin words) from the 13th century Worcester Ms. The reason for doing this was to provide material for a concert in St Laurence's Church, Ludlow celebrating the death of Prince Arthur in Ludlow Castle in 1502 and the subsequent funeral procession to Worcester Cathedral for the final burial and solemn vespers. With the help of David Lloyd M.B.E. a suitable Ms was found in Worcester cathedral library which would have been performed during the period of Prince Arthur's death.The formal re-enactment of Prince Arthur's funeral at Worcester took place on May 3rd, 2002. "Salve sancta parens" in its original form carries the plainsong in the bass part. Some of the pitches of the upper parts had to be transposed an octave to comfortably fit a four part choir.The motet was performed by St Laurence's choir on May 2nd, 2002.
This short penitential motet for unaccompanied choir was written in Ludlow, March 2002. The words are taken from the story of the Prodigal Son, St Luke; Chapter 15, verses 17 and 18. It is dedicated to Paul Renshaw, a long time bass singer in St Laurence's choir. The piece is essentially homophonic and has a rather austere beauty. It is set in a fairly free A major and there are some divisions. The motet looks relatively easy, but there are one or two tricky moments.
This short solemn prelude was commissioned by the composer's great friend, Ran Ogston, the honorary assistant organist at St Laurence's Church, Ludlow. It was written in Ludlow in March 2002, and performed by the composer at an organ recital in St Laurence's Church on June 12th, 2002. The piece moves at a slow pace and has subdued dynamics. At no point is S.S.Wesley's hymn tune stated in its entirety or in fragments, yet its presence is audible throughout the piece. The piece is freely tonal, and ends with a gentle, wistful coda based on the final line of the hymn tune. Ran Ogston died on December 17th, 2003, and the piece was played by the composer at his funeral at Westhope church, near Craven Arms, Shropshire. It was also played by Gareth Price, the Director of Music at Summefields, Oxford (where Ran taught) at a memorial service there on May 22nd, 2004.
Recorded by Roger Fisher on the organ of St Laurence's, Ludlow on AMPHION PHI CD 219.
2 Flutes, Piccolo. 2 Oboes, Cor Anglais. 2 Clarinets (B flat), Bass Clarinet. 2 Bassoons, Contra Bassoon. 4 Horns (F), 3 Trumpets (C). 3 Trombones, Tuba. Timpani. Percussion: ( 4 players) Bass drum, Snare Drum, Suspended cymbal, Cymbals (clashed) , Tubular bells, Triangle, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Tam tam. Harp, Piano / Celesta, Strings.
"The Adamantine Door" was written between June and October 2002 and entered for the composers competition, "Masterprize 2003" ,in association with Classic FM. Along with nearly 800 entrants it did not make it to the final 10. It still awaits a public performance.
The origins of this composition go back to the composer's participation in the re-enactment of the funeral procession of Prince Arthur in Worcester in May 2002. This was to be the basis of a piece entitled "Cortege", but it was soon realised that the substance of the music was much too contemporary and had no relevance to the medieval period. It had much more in common with our own time, and in particular the events of September 11th 2001. The language of the first part of the "Adamantine Door" is tough and gritty and largely atonal as it moves inexorably at a slow pace to a shattering climax, invoking a real tragedy. After this,a period of stasis is reached before a simultaneous passage of rising and falling minor triads opens a door into a completely contrasted world of stillness, beauty and radiance. During this second section, a solo Cor Anglais intones the "In Paradisum" and "Chorus Angelorum" of the Misaa pro Defunctis over a diaphanous bed of string harmonies. The piece ends very softly with a gently rippling piano arabesque in the background. The whole Prelude is governed by an unwavering pulse of crotchet = 60, and there are no changes of time signature.In search for a better title than "Cortege", the composer came across a poem by the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882) called "The Past" which included the reference to the "Adamantine Door" - thus providing a suitable title for the composer's orchestral piece.
This piece for piano solo was written in July 2002 and dedicated to the young musician, Liam Dunachie, who is a very fine pianist. The piece has not yet been performed in public.It was written in a mood of mock solemnity and is a requiem for the composer's beloved Jaguar XJ6 built in 1972 which finally gave up the ghost and was driven to a car dismantler's yard at Rhosllanerchrugog, near Wrexham on July 19th, 2002. The car was reckoned to be Sir William Lyons' finest saloon. It gave eleven years of pleasure before rust took its toll. The outer sections of the piece represent grief at the car's final demise. The middle section attempts to portray the vehicle making its way effortlessly on the open road (at a legal speed, of course!).
The "Welsh Songs" were written in September 2002, as a long unfulfilled wish by the composer to set some of the less well- known Welsh songs for S.A.T.B. choir and piano. Sources studied included "The Songs of Wales" ed. Brinley Richards, and "Welsh Melodies" (Part Two) ed. J. Lloyd Williams and Arthur Somervell. Both these editions had words that were very dated and often did not follow the Welsh words exactly in meaning. A new translation, therefore, was sought from Anne Davies, and the composer's wife, Barbara set about putting them into verse. The songs would need to be performed, either in Welsh or English by a very competent choir or choral society, and the pianist needs to be of concert standard. " Y Gadlys" tells of the strife between Welsh and English in the distant past and is dynamic and aggressive. "Doli" is warm and suggestive, as the singer tries to court the young lady attending her sheep on Snowdon mountain. The piano part is luxuriant. "Dadl dau" is a quicksilver scherzo requiring great rhythmical preceision as the quarrel takes place. "Breuddwyd y Bardd" takes us into the deep past of Wales' history and culture as the Bard's dream unfolds. The piano here acts as a harp and there is much eight-part writing for the voices. "Codiadd y Ehedydd" is written for divided sopranos and altos (single line) and rather jazzes up the famous tune as the piano chirps away. The Welsh male-voice tradition is recalled in "Rhywun" as the singer eventually hopes he will fall in love with"someone". "I Wisgo Aur Goron" is a kind of triple-time march with a strong theme suggesting the enduring flourishing of the Welsh nation.
The first performance took place at a choral festival held in Heerenveen, Holland in the Rinkelbom Centre on October 20th, 2007. The songs (minus "The Bard's Dream") were performed by Capella 92 conducted by Gerben van der Veen with Jan Paul Grijpink (piano).
This Festival anthem is based on the Welsh folksong " I Wisgo Aur Goron" or "Glan Meddwod Mwyn" as used in the composer's "Welsh Songs" of 2002. The words are by Richard Keen c.1787. This is a direct transcription of the song.The piece exists in Ms form.
This short anthem was written for Marian Bates, and the choir of St Anne's, Alderney.It is also dedicated to them. It was written in Ludlow in April 2003 and was performed by the Choir when the Composer visited Alderney and played for the services on the 24th of August, 2003.The anthem is quite short, homophonic and quite easy to perform.
These three songs are taken from the same sources as the "Welsh Songs" (2002), with words translated by Anne Davies and set to verse by the composer's wife, Barbara. They are meant to compliment the "Welsh Songs" for choir, and can be sung in between the choral items.They only exist in Ms form, at present, and have not been performed publicly. "Merch megan", known as the "Song of the Thrush", presents the melody with a rich accompaniment in the piano. "Can'un iach i Arfon" is a song from Anglesey, and is cast here in the form of a March. The harmony in this song is quite dissonant. It also contains vocal cadenzas at the end of each verse. "Yn Hufen Melyn" - the singer sings of his love of the milkmaid - Gwen. The piano part is very elaborate, flowing and tonal with some interesting shifts in key, while the tenor vocal line is highly lyrical.
The Introduction and Grand Concert Variations were written in Ludlow in July 2003 and form the third of three pieces written in pastiche style, dedicated to the Italian organist, Alessandro Bianchi. The humorous vein continues in this piece, perhaps the most elaborate of the three. Designed as a counterpart to Britten's "Young Person's guide to the Orchestra", there is an optional part for Narrator who fills in the links between each Variation.. Each variation on Sir Arthur Sullivan's hymn tune, "St Gertrude" (to the words "Onward Christian Soldiers) makes use of a section of the organ together with characteristic sounds. The Narrator's part can be omitted if necessary. Once again, the piece abounds with quotations from organ music and other sources.The piece opens with a grand flourish, incorporating the hymn tune and a quotation from Schubert's "Marche militaire"at the same time. The mood changes to "in modo operatico" for the Aria in which the tune is decked in seraphic harmonies decorated by a flute solo quoting from Ketelbey's "Monastery Garden". A loud fanfare based on the "William Tell Overture" ushers in Variation I, a frantic gallop.
Variation 2 is an Arabesque headed "tempo di Casse Noisette". Variation 3 is a virtuosic solo for the pedals, including double-pedalling and some 3 part chords. Variation 4 is a homage to Durufle, with the tune played on a 4 foot reed in the pedals, heavenly celestes on the swell, and a flute solo on the top manual, ending with a quotation from Dvorak's "New World" symphony. Variation 5 is a Musetta marked "alla Zipoli", a trio contrasting Cromorne and Cornet, with quotations from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" and the "Sailor's hornpipe".The Finale, marked "Grande Verdi" opens with the beginning of the Grand March from "Aida" and then leads into a parody of the famous Widor Toccata, centred around Sullivan's tune.
First performance given by Richard Walker MA FRCO Director of Music at Harrow School at a recital in Cromer Parish Church on August 7th 2007.
The piece has been recorded by Martin Setchell on a CD entitled "A Taste of Shropshire" for QUANTUM QM 7041. He has also played it at Christchurch Town Hall, New Zealand. Also performed by Stephen Farr at a recital at All Souls, Langham Place, London on 15th October 2007.
This short piece for organ was written in February 2004 and first performed by Andrew Goodwin, organist of Bangor Cathedral, N. Wales, on the occasion of the composer's marriage to Barbara Kalman at St Laurence's Church, Ludlow on April 17th, 2004. Cast in a firm tonality of A,the piece opens with a festal flourish before giving way to a rhythmic Allegro vivo section. The opening returns, this time over a marching pedal line.
Recorded by Roger Fisher at St Laurence's, Ludlow on AMPHION PHI CD 219
This enormous project has taken from June 2003 to November 2004. The moment of inspiration for this enormous cycle of pieces for organ solo occurred on April 19th, 2001 when the composer visited Denmark with his friend Ran Ogston. They visited Viborg Cathedral on the Jutland peninsular where the walls are all decorated with frescoes by the painter Joakim Skovegaard (1856-1933) who finished his monumental task in 1906 having taken some 10 years in the completion. The organ pieces reflect the composers thoughts on each scene from the bible as depicted by Skovegaard in his frescoes. It was decided to settle on 60 pieces in all that could be played in a series of 4 recitals (15 pieces per recital) or 3 recitals (20 pieces per recital). This order has yet to be determined. The shortest pieces comprise the Old Testament frescoes,and the longest comprise the new Testament frescoes. The range of musical response is wide, from highly tonal writing to harsh dissonance, very much in accordance with the subject matter. The whole cycle will need to be performed by a virtuoso player on a large-scale organ with a vast palette of colour (preferably mechanical action). Some pieces make use of quotation, for example no.34 uses the Basque noel, "Gabriel's Message", no.35 - the plainchant Magnificat, No.37 - the plainsong Nunc Dimittis, No.42 - the composer's own "Mors et Ressurectionem", no.48 - the composer's "Te Deum" and the hymn "All glory, laud and honour".No 51 - the plainchant Pangue Lingua.No.54 - "Divinum mysterium". No.58 - plainchant "O filii et filiae" and Alain's "Litanies". No.59 - the composer's own Carillion no.2 and No.60 is centered almost exclusively around the plainchant "Lauda Sion Salvatorem". Once the Ms score is transferred to computer and possibly published, the realisation of this project into sound will be a massive challenge for the future.
A SMART EXTRAVAGANZA is a concert fantasia based on the more well-known organ pieces of Henry Smart (1813 - 1879), the English organist and composer famous for his hymn tunes. He was also strongly associated with Dr William Spark in the field of organ building and they were both instrumental in the development of the organ at Leeds Town Hall. "A Smart Extravaganza" is dedicated to Michael Sullivan, a good friend and avid lover and disciple of Henry Smart's organ music. The piece (very much in pastiche style) begins with an opening fantasia section directly related to the Postlude in D by Smart. The middle reflective section is built upon the D major lyrical theme from piece no.5 "en forme d'ouverture" from Henry Smart's 5 Pieces in various styles. An abrupt change marks the grand finale where Smart's Festive March in D has some of its bars put in the wrong order!, and eventually combines with the hymn tune "Regent Square" in the pedals. The final coda has references to the Postlude in C major.
PORTRAITS OF SEBALD was composed for the organist and Director of Music at the Evangelical Lutheran, Paul Gerhardt Church in Langwasser, Nürnberg, Germany - Martin Schiffel. The piece was written in March 2005 and was first performed by Martin Schiffel at a concert devoted to the music of Richard Francis (including all three pieces for Brass ensemble, played by the Nürnberg Barockbläser.) held in the Paul Gerhardt Church, Langwasser on September 20th, 2008 at which the composer and his wife were present.
The connection between Richard Francis and the city of Nürnberg (especially the Paul Gerhardt.church at Langwasser) goes back to 1989 when a series of exchange visits between St Laurence's Church, Ludlow and the Paul Gerhardt Church, Langwasser was initiated. Several works by Richard Francis, including anthems, a Jubilate Deo for choir, brass and organ and three pieces for Brass ensemble were written, one for each occasion of these exchange visits, and in 2005 PORTRAITS OF SEBALD for organ was written for the organist Martin Schiffel. While in Nürnberg, Richard Francis visited the church of St Sebald several times, and the idea of composing an organ piece centered around religious artefacts in the church was born. At the first performance, a screen was set up and pictures of these works of art were shown during the performance which helped the audience's appreciation, especially in the rather difficult first two pieces.
"Madonna in a Gloriole" is a reflection on a statue of the Virgin Mary surrounded by a bright halo dating from 1425 to 1430 . Fiery outbursts of sound contrast with still, mysterious, soft sounds. A canonic trio section reflects on the chorale melody - "Puer Natus in Bethlehem" written in Nürnberg in 1553. The movement builds to a large climax and there is a reprise of the main material including the chorale.
"Crucifixion" is a direct reflection on the stark wooden cross hanging in St Sebalds church, created by Veit Stoss in 1520. The movement is relatively short (about 5 minutes duration) and is full of abrupt outbursts punctuated by silences. The very loud opening translates Christ's outburst from the cross - "Eloi! Eloi! Lama Sabacthani?" This is followed by a soft, very subdued contrapuntal rendering of a line from Hans Leo Hassler's chorale "O haupt voll blut und blunden" (O sacred head sore wounded) with the tune in the pedals. These abrupt statements form the basis of the movement which ends very softly.
"Epitaph for Lorenz Tucher" is a joyful picture on a side wall of St Sebald's and depicts a holy gathering in happy union. It was painted by Hans von Kulmbach in 1513. A joyful paean of praise in B flat heralds in another Nürnberg chorale melody - "Ich dank dir, lieber Herre" by Johann Horn dating from 1544. This appears as a cantus firmus in the pedal. At one point, later on in the piece, the music of praise suddenly halts for a complete statement of the chorale in its original guise. The paean music resumes and a later statement of the chorale on full organ uses more contemporary harmony. Joy continues unabated and eventually an uprising angelic flourish on the Swell organ brings this triptych to a joyful conclusion.
2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets (B flat), 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns (F), 2 Trumpets (B flat). 3 Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion: ( 4 players)Snare Drum, Bass drum, Cymbals (clashed) , Tambourine, Triangle, Woodblock, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Harp, Strings (Violin1, Violin2, Viola, Cello, Double Bass).
THE SLENDOUR OF ENGLAND is the third suite for orchestra based on folksongs. It awaits a first performance. Of the three suites written so far it is the one that has undergone the least amount of revision and remains substantially as it was first composed. The basis of the suite are famous English folksongs. Some, like "The Vicar of Bray", "My Ladye Greensleeves", "The Drunken Sailor" and "The Grand Old Duke of York" are very well known indeed. The others are less so, including "The Bonny Lab'ring Boy" (from Sussex), "The Farmyard", and "Sweet Nightingale". Opening the suite, "The Vicar of Bray" treats the 17th century melody in a quasihumorous manner. "My Ladye Greensleeves" (ever so mindful of Vaughan Williams' fine setting) is rather different in that it is more richly scored and cast in the style of a lilting Siciliano. "The Farmyard" humorously shows off all the attributes of the animals and ends up as a kind of "Hoe-Down" reminiscent of the American composer Aaron Copland! The beautiful, haunting Sussex melody; "The Bonny Lab'ring Boy" is played by the strings of the orchestra and, like the Vaughan Williams "Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis", provides solo parts for the principals (concertino) contrasted with the full sound of the remaining string orchestra ( ripieno). Humour returns in "The Drunken Sailor", scored for woodwind, brass and percussion. The tune is given to the three trombones in unison and at one point the music becomes a sort of oriental dance. There is a strong jazz influence in this movement ranging from Slow Blues to fast rhythmic writing (again involving the three trombones). "Sweet Nightingale" must be one of the most beautiful folk melodies ever written. The rich texture suggests a summer day with birdsong in the distance. Over a slow but persistent ostinato bass, the beautiful melody emerges as a slow canon through various voices. The arrangement of the "Grand Old Duke of York" is taken from an earlier arrangement for voice and piano contained in "More songs my mother ought to have taught me" dating from 2001. This humorous arrangement suggests the army matching up and down the hill as well as combining the tune with snatches of Bizet's "Carmen" and the "Sailors Hornpipe"
Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets in B flat, 2 Bassoons, Contra Bassoon, 4 Horns in F, 3 Trumpets in B flat, 3 Trombones, Tuba. Celesta, Harp, Glockenspiel. Percussion (3 Players) Bass Drum, Side Drum (snares), Tam Tam (2nd movement) Cymbals (suspended and clashed), Woodblock. Strings; Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Violoncello, Double Bass.
SYMPHONY NO.1 "SHROPSHIRE MEMORIES" has remained a long time in gestation before reaching its final form. The outline of the first movement was sketched as long ago as 1980 during the composer's period of study with Professor William Mathias at the University College of North Wales, Bangor. The second movement was sketched in 1999 and was written largely as a reaction to the shocking tragedy revealed in Northern Ireland - the Omagh bombings. The 3rd Movement Scherzo was written shortly after largely as a light-hearted contrast to the profundity of the slow movement. The 4th movement was written in short score in 2005 and it was at this time that an attempt was made to draw the whole work together. The whole full score was completed in 2008 and transferred to computer.
The title "Shropshire Memories" was added once it became obvious that the Symphony had autobiographical connections. The opening, marked "Awakening- Activity" is not unrelated to a sunrise (each day when you awake in the summer is exciting - when you are eleven!). After the first statement of this music which grows and grows, there is a cadenza passage for solo flute, reminiscent of birdsong. The opening music resumes and continues to grow leading to a climax with the theme presented canonically. After it subsides, a new faster section is ushered in marked Tempo Moderato ma con moto. This is almost "utility" music associated with "activity" (activity at age eleven consisted of school, playtime, music lessons, train spotting etc!). The magical "forest music" in the central section is not unassociated with days playing in the glades of the Whitcliffe (parkland overlooking Ludlow).
A sinister drumbeat ushers in the slow movement marked "Tragedy - Sorrow". In 1999 the funeral cortege as a result of the Omagh bombings was unbearable to watch, and tortured writing, especially in the strings, represents this. On a more personal level, the tragedy relates as well to the death of a young childhood school-friend who died at his new boarding school, the result of a prank which went tragically wrong. A faster moving cantilena section leads to a "carillion" section where the bells ring out, not in joy, but in mourning. The rather cryptic quiet ending over an oscillating accompaniment featuring solo string instruments.
The Scherzo third movement marked "Recreation, Playfulness" is a strong reminder of idle days of summer with weekends spent in the Corvedale playing with the young boy who died so tragically later on. Imagination ran riot as games were invented on the spot with large tracts of countryside to cover to realise these ideas. All this had to be accomplished before tea-time! (again - difficult when you are eleven!). Muted strings suggest movement whilst a deliberately naïve tune (childish in nature) appears in the woodwind. The music rushes on and eventually quietly peters out.
The Finale fourth movement, marked "Celebration - Festival" is directly related to the town of Ludlow, Shropshire where Richard Francis has spent most of his life. The gaunt stoic opening suggests the tough, worn rocks of Ludlow Castle, scene of battles with the Welsh, and eventually succumbing to ruination in the Civil War. Suddenly the mood changes completely and in a new section marked Allegro giocoso (alla danza), the spirit of the Ludlow Summer Festival is invoked - the merriment of Puck and Oberon in "A Midsummers Night Dream" perhaps?. A more dignified second theme marked Meno mosso - un poco Maestoso (alla Marcia) is directly related to one of the annual Shakespeare plays performed in the Castle every summer and perhaps suggests a royal procession or pageant . Against a reprise of the "castle" music, now swathed in mist or just a memory, the music is suddenly interrupted by a humorous episode marked Allegro molto in five-eight time and called "the Rude Mechanicals" - the comical antics of Bottom and co. in "A Midsummers Night Dream" are here translated into musical imagery. A reprise of the "alla danza " music leads to a slowing down, and in the following Maestoso section, both the "dance" music and "procession" music are combined, leading to a joyful conclusion.
In spite of clear autobiographical references throughout this symphony, the music should be able to stand alone on its own two feet even if the listener is unaware of the circumstances leading to composition. The musical language is largely tonal, but this quasi Hindemithian world is exploited fully from radiant diatonicism to powerful expressive dissonance, at all times aiming to be clear in outline to the listener, and,it is hoped, to be both entertaining and moving in alternative moments.
This moving tribute to a great Benedictine monk - Dom Alan Rees was an attempt to leave a musical monument, a remembrance of a fine and wonderful man. The piece was first performed by Anthony Gritten at a lunch-time recital in Tewkesbury Abbey on August 14th, 2007. Dom Alan Rees (1941 - 2005) was born in Morriston, near Swansea, and his early love of music dated from being taken to the Welsh Baptist Chapel by his father and to St David's Church in Wales by his mother. He later became an Anglo-Catholic while at Dynefor Grammar School, Swansea and a Roman Catholic once he entered University College, Cardiff. He held diplomas from the Royal College of Music and Royal College of Organists as well as holding an honours degree in music and a diploma in education. It was from the 1960's that he began composing music for the Liturgy in English.In 1968 he joined Belmont Abbey, near Hereford where he became a housemaster. In 1970 he became organist and choirmaster. In 1986 he was elected the ninth Abbot of Belmont, a position he held for seven years. His music was always rooted in the Gregorian chant which he loved and sang every day at Belmont. His later composing took on a more ecumenical slant as his compositions also were taken up by the Church of England and others. At the time of his death, Alan Rees was involved in setting the new English translation of the Roman Missal to music.
Richard Francis' connection with Alan Rees goes back to the days when the composer was Director of Music at Moor Park School, near Ludlow. A priest from Belmont used to come every week to Moor Park to celebrate Mass, including, on one occasion, Dom Alan Rees himself. Dom Alan's settings of the "Congress Mass" (written for the Pope's visit to Cardiff) and "Mass of Our Lady of Peace" were frequently used at Moor Park. It was largely as a result of involvement with the Catholic liturgy at Moor Park and connection with Belmont Abbey that the inspiration came to write a lasting musical tribute to this great man.
The piece starts very quietly with a monodic melody which is eventually repeated over static chords. A second, more fluid theme is introduced which weaves a texture over the plainchant hymn; "Adoro te devoto". This gradually builds to a tremendous carillon-like climax, dominated by this wonderful plainchant melody. After an ecstatic cadenza-like section, the opening idea re-appears dramatically, then peacefully before ushering in a pensive and reflective coda which quotes the Agnus Dei theme from Alan Rees' "Congress Mass" before dying away to hushed stillness and rest.
EPITAPH FOR DOM ALAN REES was reviewed by Marcus Huxley in the November edition - 2008 of the "Organists Review".
The anthem "To God the Mighty Lord" was written in June 2006 for Christopher Barton and the Choir of St Woolos Cathedral, Newport. This was really a thank-you present for allowing and encouraging the Choir of St Laurence's, Ludlow to sing services at St Woolos on two occasions.The reference to "food" in verse 4 makes this anthem suitable for Harvest Festival, but it could be used for any Festival or in general. Over a suitably "catchy" accompaniment the verse is set to a "swinging" melody with an imitative second half. Verse 3 requires "divisi" of the lower parts and verse 4 requires some "divisi" of the upper parts. At one point in the middle, the anthem makes use of an idea from my Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis for upper voices dating from 1979.
The GRANDE SYMPHONIE for organ was completed in November 2006. It awaits its first public performance. This is by far the most ambitious of the composer's Humorous Pieces for organ and is written in pastiche style, very much based on the organ symphonies of Widor,Vierne and Guilmant. Each movement makes use of one of the famous organ pieces of Louis James Alfred Léfebure-Wély (1817-1870) who used to entertain the congregations at the Madeleine and St Sulpice in Paris, showing off the largest organ of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Much of his organ music appeared in a collection called "L'Organiste Moderne". For many, this composers music is regarded as banal and vulgar, but for many more the vulgarity is far transcended by the sheer enjoyment it brings, as it adds a whiff of the Opera comique or Folies Bergères to each Grande Offertoire or Postlude. This is fun-music and the Grande Symphonie attempts to exploit this element even further.
A striking ostentatious introduction based on the "Marseillaise" and with hints of a theme from Saint-Saëns "Organ Symphony" (no.3) leads to an Alla Marcia marked "con brio". This March uses the "Celebrated Capriccio in F" by Léfebure- Wély, transcribed from the piano version by Alfred Whittingham. The whole piece is used, exploiting its potential to the full and requiring considerable virtuosity.
The second movement - marked Andante Amabile is a Barcarolle and elegantly combines Jacques Offenbach's celebrated "Belle Nuit" with Léfebure-Wély's "Hymn of Nuns", alternating one with another, with moments of Schubert's "Ave Maria" thrown in.
The third movement begins with an Introduction before the Scherzo proper begins. The Introduction is based on the famous "Marche du Ré" from Bizet's incidental music to "L'Arlésienne". This leads directly to a passage marked Allegro energico, quoting the Farandole from the same piece. In L'istesso tempo, the Scherzo proper begins and is based upon Léfebure-Wély's March in C. In this version Lefebure-Wely's March is much expanded and at one point for a moment leads into a theme from Lieutenant Kije by the Russian composer Sergei Prokoviev !
The Grande Final begins with an extended Introduction based on Léfebure- Wély's Grande Offertoire in G (here transposed to F major). This leads to a linking passage which hints at the Léfebure Wély piece to come. The opening Maestoso material is repeated, and this time the linking passage leads to a new section marked Allegretto. This is based on the famous Léfebure-Wély Sortie in B flat. What follows is a remarkable "pot-pourri" of well-known tunes that will combine with Léfebure- Wély's original piece. In the first section we have "Camptown Races" and "The Entertainer" (Scott Joplin) and a hint of the Scherzo from Schubert's 9th Symphony. The Maestoso section is repeated, and this time the Grande Offertoire has an added pedal obbligato section. This leads into a repeat of the Allegretto section with the Léfebure-Wély Sortie in B flat. This time it combines with "Oh I do like to be besides the sea side", the March from Tchaikovsky's "Casse-Noisette"(Nutcracker), Offenbach's "Can Can", "Adeste Fideles" (O come,all ye faithful), "Doing the Lambeth Walk", "Take a pair of sparkling eyes" (from the "Gondoliers"), the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers". All this leads to the final coda (exaggerated - of course!).
LA GRANDE SYMPHONIE DE MONSIEUR L.J.A. is dedicated to the Australian concert organist - Thomas Heywood and his wife Simone. Thomas' recordings of transcriptions for organ are legendary and he is one of the best entertainers of the public in the world today.
The idea of a humorous Scherzo Fantastique to be published in "Humorous Pieces for Organ" Volume 2 came quite by chance. A play-on-words was invented and the transformation of Joseph Bonnet's famous piece ELVES into AN ELF IN MY BONNET took place. A wonderful cover picture by Nicola Haigh illustrates this surprise admirably with Mr Smart and Monsieur Cavaillé-Coll (looking suspiciously like Hercule Poirot) looking on. The whole piece is written in pastiche style and again introduces Bonnet's piece to many quotes from other sources. The piece is dedicated to Paul Derrett who has done so much to promote the music of Richard Francis.
The opening Introduction - marked Vivo-Leggiero features a humorous interchange between manuals of the organ and owes nothing to Joseph Bonnet. Eventually the Scherzo leads straight in (L'istesso tempo) and Bonnet's piece is virtually quoted intact, together with some elaboration of texture. What does not appear in Bonnet's piece is a second subject - marked Piacevole which includes a quote from another famous organ piece - the Scherzo in E major by Eugene Gigout.. Once stated, the tempo is resumed with an outrageous quotation of the song;"She'll be coming round the mountain when she comes!". After this, there is an optional repeat of the whole of the first section. The middle section of AN ELF IN MY BONNET quotes the G minor theme used by Bonnet but then transforms it into G major for a quotation from Johann Strauss' "Die Fledermaus". The return to G minor includes quotes from "Colonel Bogey" and "The Harry Lime" theme. As G major returns, a whole section is lifted from Saint-Saëns beautiful piece; "The Swan" from "Carnival of the Animals". The music returns back to Bonnet's "Elves" theme and proceeds to a re-statement of the Gigout Scherzo in E, this time leading to an outrageous quote from Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony and the song; "For he's a jolly good fellow!". The G minor section includes quotes from Mozart's Symphony no.40 and Rossini's overture "The Barber of Seville". The final coda disappear like a wisp of thin air and includes the famous opening theme of Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini.
My four arrangements of Taizé chants date from December 1997 for the first three and April 2006 for "Laudate Dominum". During my period as Organist and Choirmaster at St Laurence's Church, Ludlow,like many other churches we sung Taizé chants as part of the regular services, and in singing them, I felt there was a need for a bit more variety in the settings rather than just singing them in simple 4 part harmony. In December 1997 I set about composing new arrangements which follow roughly a pattern of a) singing the chant in 4 part harmony b) giving the chant to sopranos and altos c) giving the chant to tenors and basses and d) keeping the chant in either alto, tenor or bass and providing a descant for the sopranos or give the whole choir a varied version of the chant. The aim of the organ part (which is sometimes quite elaborate) was to provide a flowing independent part, turning the piece into a kind of chorale prelude.
The first three Taizé chants were used regularly at St Laurence's during my time there and the settings worked perfectly well in the liturgy. They are flexible enough so that they may be repeated enough times to fit in during the service, and at a given signal, the organist goes to the Coda to round off the setting.
The setting of "Laudate Dominum" is more ambitious, providing a striking organ introduction before the antiphon is sung. This dates from 2006 and got to rehearsal stage but was never sung in performance. There are several startling harmonic changes in this setting which very much brings it up to date. One of the later verses uses Berthier's descant and towards the end and the final Alleluia, the music is my own. This setting should work very well in a Festival service.
O LUX BEATA TRINITAS was written in September 2007 for the recital organist Paul Derrett to mark the occasion of his making a CD of the organ music of Richard Francis at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool which took place on October 7th,2007. The aim of this piece was to provide an extra substantial piece to fill the CD, and how Paul Derrett learnt all the notes in time for the recording is a matter for speculation!
To provide material for this composition, Richard Francis went back to a substantial discarded sketch dating from 1991/2 entitled "O Beata Lux" - a Fantasy for organ which remained incomplete as a pencil copy. The aim in 1992 was to surround the beautiful plainsong melody "O Lux Beata Trinitas" with an extended Fantasy ending in a large-scale Fugue. The sketch was set aside for many years but the plainsong melody was not forgotten. In its new form, the plainsong melody is set as 5 variations with new opening and closing material. The wonderful organ and glorious setting of the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool, with its brilliant stained glass windows and glorious shafts of sunlight provided the backdrop for the new piece. Also in the composers' mind was the organ piece "Invocations" by William Mathias (with whom Richard Francis studied) . This piece marked the opening of the new Walker organ in 1967 and was first performed by Noel Rawsthorne.
Like the Mathias piece, O LUX BEATA TRINITAS begins with an opening "Summons" written as a kind of fanfare. Following this, a more chordal theme is presented representing "Prayer" building up to a large dissonant climax (Grande Campanile). A series of answering phrases (very soft) ushers in the plainsong; "O Lux Beata Trinitas" with its simple but very beautiful melody in stepwise movement. Variation 1 places the melody in the pedal on an 8 foot stop with a cloudy dissonant celestial accompaniment. Variation 2 retains the 8' sound in the pedals/. This time the the melody is stated as a double pedal idea with static chords in the manuals. Variation 3 elaborates the melody in Bach-like counterpoint, each statement getting louder. Variation 4 is a Scherzetto marked "Vivace" and is very rhythmic. Variation 5 is preceded by an Introduction and states the melody in alternating simple and complex forms. A very slow linking passage ushers in a return to the initial "Summons" - this time expanded. The "Prayer" section closes the work leading to a peaceful conclusion.
This piece turned out to be much longer than envisaged and very nearly did not appear on the final CD, even though Paul Derrett had recorded it. As it turned out, the decision was taken to go to a second CD so the piece was found space for inclusion. Paul's remarkable performance remains for all to hear. Although it appears on the double CD "Mystical Vision", O LUX BEATA TRINITAS awaits a first public performance.
MYSTICAL VISION for organ was written in September 2007 and is dedicated to Serena Derrett, the wife of Paul Derrett, the recital organist and recording artist. It was also written for inclusion in the double CD that Paul recorded in October 2007 in the Metropolitan Cathedral, Liverpool. MYSTICAL VISION has no particular vision in mind, and the listener and performer can feel free to allow any particular interpretation to occur as a result of hearing or playing the piece. It opens with a slow, prayerful, meditative section leading directly into the middle section, a flowing cantabile melody with an accompaniment reminiscent of the music of Fauré or, perhaps more relevant, the pastoral sections of the music of Joseph Jongen, the Belgian organist and composer who lived in the first part of the 20th century. MYSTICAL VISION closes with a reprise of the opening, leading to a peaceful close in D major.
The TRIO "Reflections of Thomas Hardy" was sketched in May/June 2007 and finally completed in May 2008. It came about partly as a result of conversations with Keir Francis (the composer's brother, who lives in Charminster, Dorset). The TRIO was also written for the pianist Duncan Honeybourne, who lives in Weymouth, and the piece is dedicated to Duncan and his friends who play other instruments with him in concerts together. The piece has not yet been performed, but it is hoped to schedule a performance sometime in 2009.
Further stimulus towards the composition of this work came as a result of the composer's time in Dorset, between 1971 and 1974 when he was Director of Music at Sherborne Preparatory School, and spent much free time roaming the byways of this beautiful county. Between December 27th 2001 and January 3rd 2002, Richard Francis took a holiday in Dorset together with his great friend Ran Ogston (who sadly died in 2003) and they stayed at Evershot. On a cold Sunday, December 30th, they visited Thomas Hardy's birthplace at Upper Bockhampton and also called into Stinsford Church. All the above mentioned influences relate to the TRIO.
Each of the four movements is clearly related to a specific poem by Thomas Hardy and was selected from the collection of poems introduced by Claire Tomalin and published by Penquin Classics in 2006.
The first movement, marked Molto Moderato is directly related to the poem "A Church Romance" (Mellstock c.1835) - a reference to the wooing of Jemima Hand by Thomas Hardy's father, also called Thomas. The reference is to the church gallery at Stinsford and its church musicians….."until her sight…caught its row of musicmen with viol, book and bow". The music of the first movement attempts to capture memories of gallery fiddlers combined with pealing bells. The early love of this couple is caught in an upward rising phrase - static at first (divided between violin and cello at the interval of a 10th). This leads to a Recitative-like section for the Cello. The gallery music returns eventually leading to a Recitative section for the Violin, a kind of audible musical conversation. Suddenly a slow sepulchral introduction ushers in a transformed version of the "love" music, now in a celestial resting-place. The bells return and the fiddlers bow even more vigorously as life moves on. The quiet Coda now only hints at the past romance.
The second movement - marked "Tempestuoso" - relates to a poem by Hardy entitled; "Night-Time in Mid Fall" from his collection; "Human Shows, far Phantasies, Songs and Trifles". This late collection of poems dates from 1925 and the poem "Night-Time in Mid Fall" is one of several relating to Autumn and the ravaging storms outside a house resembling a scene from Shakespeare. (Background information to these poems comes from the book "Thomas Hardy" - the Time-Torn Man", an excellent biography by Claire Tomalin and published in 2006 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Classics to whom the composer is indebted. The opening says it all…."It is a storm-strid night…." This short powerful rapid movement is cast as a virtuosic "Moto perpetuo" with ghostly muted strings in the first half and the fuller sonority of open strings in the second.
The third movement, marked Adagio Solenne is based on the poem; "Rain on a grave" and comes from the collection "Veteris vestigial flammae" dating from 1912-13. Claire Tomalin groups this and other poems around the title "Remembering Emma" in her collection and the poem clearly relates to Hardy's pain and anguish at the death of his first wife Emma in 1912. The opening section of the third movement of the TRIO focuses upon the steady beat of rain on her grave and the anguish of bereavement…… "Would that I lay there and she were housed here"….. The middle section of this ternary form movement offers consolation around the words….."Soon will be growing green blades from her mound, and daisies be showing like stars on the ground"…..Hardy's poem ends on this note of optimisim. The third movement of the TRIO returns to the opening and the grief of the loss of a beloved one. Hardy's poem is dated January 31st, 1913.
If the third movement of the TRIO is the heart of the work, a totally contrasting poem was deliberately chosen for the Finale, marked Poco Allegretto. Here, a breath of fresh air is all-pervasive after the claustrophobic atmosphere of he middle two movements. "On a Midsummer Eve" wistfully recalls the countryside and Hardy's own approaching death…."I idly cut a parsley stalk and blew therein towards the moon"…… The steady humming of his tune is represented by an opening hymnlike melody which becomes the basis for a Theme and Variations. Hardy mentions in his poem about wondering what ghosts would walk to his tune. The two episodes in this last movement are perhaps a little more frightening than he might have imagined! Eventually the first half of the melody acquires a second half and the complete tune is stated (with all kinds of decorations) before being cut off, leading to a tranquil Pastoral coda, a transformation of the opening tune involving reminiscences of earlier movements (particularly the first). Eventually an ambiguous chord containing the notes D,A and E flat resolves itself on to a unanimous E flat, sustained in a diminuendo to virtually nothing as the vision fades into stillness.
The composer makes no apologies for the direct links to Thomas Hardy's poems in the TRIO . He has attempted to make the imagery clear and communicable through a musical language that is at once bright and luminous and at other times, dark and foreboding. He hopes he has succeeded in his tribute to this so famous an English poet and author, a tribute from a composer in Shropshire to the memory of the great son of Dorset.
PARTITA 1 for trombone and piano was written in September 2000 and is dedicated to my older nephew, Ben Carvell who has recently finished his degree course at Durham University and is now training to be an air traffic controller. A keen trombone player, Ben previously studied the instrument at his home town of Whitby, North Yorkshire and then at Chetham's school, Manchester. My 12 Pieces after Grock, written also in 2000 were dedicated to Ben, and in this new piece I wished to create for him a piece which is more demanding yet ultimately rewarding. The piece was sketched in 2000 but was put aside until it was taken up again and revised in 2008. It is now in its final form.
My aim (as in Partita 2) was to create a 3 movement work lasting about 10 to 15 minutes which reflected my interest in various aspects of America (which I have visited twice). The first movement - Dialogue is a rather tough discourse between trombone and piano. The opening unison statement provides the main material for the movement. A second more rhythmic idea ends in a series of rising chords. This material is extended, developed, discussed until a new section is reached marked Tranquillo. It is as though a new vista has been cast on the material which is now broader in scope, less dissonant, more consonant, ending on a quite unresolved chord. The second movement - Elegant Dance is a bit of a contradiction in words given the nature of the instrument, but it is a sincere attempt to produce a touch of the ballroom for an instrument noted for its "macho" qualities. The rapidly changing time signatures keep both instruments on their toes, and the second statement sees some elaboration in the piano part. Following this, a short Interlude involves some serious discussion of its main material leading directly into the Finale; "In the fast lane" - a vigorous ostinato "moto perpetuo" movement which is the most obviously American movement of the whole Partita. Over a driving ostinato part in the piano, the trombone builds up its part from short jazz-like "riffs". This could easily be TV music with cops chasing robbers or simply a bit of a "burn up" on the Los Angeles freeway (not to be advised as the American police are hot on speeding motorists!). The relentless motion of the music is cut off at a suitable climactic moment.
PARTITA 2 for trombone and piano was written in August and September of 2008 and is dedicated to my younger nephew Jon Carvell who is at present studying academic music at the University of London. A keen trombone player, Jon initially learnt the trumpet in his home town of Whitby, North Yorkshire and continued his studies at Chetham's school, Manchester. However, on advice from his teacher, he changed to Trombone. In 2000,I wrote a Suite for Trumpet and Piano for Jon which (in 2008) has been re-arranged as a Suite for Trombone and Piano. The existing Suite for Trumpet and Piano will continue to remain in my compositional output. While re-arranging the Suite, I decided to write a matching Partita for Jon to balance the one I had written (based on a sketch of 2000) for Ben. In both cases these pieces, lasting between 10 and 15 minutes are an attempt to provide them with further concert music that is at once more demanding technically and aesthetically as well as being ultimately rewarding.
PARTITA 2, like Partita 1 for the same combination, is clearly influenced by aspects of America (which I have visited twice) - its vibrant culture, its huge skyscrapers and vast spaces. The impressionistic first movement - Nocturne (Skyscrapers) starts from virtually nothing - a trill (possibly a burglar alarm going off!) as gradually material accumulates and the structure rises upwards as in a large city. A second idea (letter B) suggests a wide vista at the top of one of these huge edifices. The second movement - Intermezzo relates to a slower version of the trill in the piano part. The trombone intones a rather lonely wandering aria leading to a falling figure (letter A) in the piano part. The juxtaposition of these two ideas makes up the majority of this movement which hints at a kind of overall improvisation. The 3rd movement Finale - subtitled 3.10 to Yuma is clearly a "moto perpetuo" train influenced movement (I have loved them all my life!). I think the reference is to steam rather than diesel and the movement recalls the days of the "wild west" with the clattery old 3.10 "highballing" to Yuma (a city in Arizona). At the end, the old 3.10 rattles on its way and disappears into the distance as the visitor makes his or her way to savour the delights of the city (perhaps I will one day!).
THE ARCHANGEL OF THE JUDGEMENT was written in August 2008 as a concert piece for the organist Anthony Gritten who has played several of he composer's organ works in recitals. The piece is dedicated to Anthony Gritten, and he is scheduled to perform the piece on the Klais organ in the church of St John, Smith Square, London on May 28th, 2009.
It was agreed between composer and performer that the subject matter on which this piece of some 11 minutes duration should be based was the Polyptych of the Last Judgement created by the Flemish painter Rogier van der Weyden between 1446 and 1452 and situated in the Maison Dieu, Hospices de Beaune, Burgundy,France. It was a chance meeting while on holiday near Beaune that introduced Richard and Barbara Francis to Anthony Gritten and his wife Adèle back in the summer of 2006. From that time onwards, Anthony has shown a special interest in the composer's compositions for organ for which he is eternally grateful. This piece therefore has a special significance, being a memory of that first meeting.
The visionary painting of Rogier van der Weyden had special significance to the Richard Francis in signifying, in its nine panels, the journey of the mortal soul, indicated by the Archangel of the Judgement, as to whether it should be to the troubled region of Hell or to the palace of eternal rest - Paradise. THE ARCHANGEL OF THE JUDGEMENT is highly virtuosic and full of arabesque writing signifying Angelic movement. The three main ideas comprise a) virtuosic angelic writing for the manuals b) a bare statement of monolithic chords suggesting a vast space in time and c) a troubled chordal passage suggesting despair as the soul searches for its salvation, not knowing in which direction the Archangel of the Judgement will direct it. At the end of the first large-scale statement, the troubled desperation suggests the nethermost regions of Hell - not a comfortable place! The larger second counter-statement (utilising the forgone material) expands into a much larger paragraph culminating in the same kind of desperation as the first statement. Eventually, more luminous, less dissonant sounds begin to prevail, and this time the resolution is in the nature of a celestial Lullaby "In Paradisum" in which a gentle rocking idea is decorated with angelic arabesques and birdsong (in the manner of Messiaen). The piece ends in quiet resolution. The material of THE ARCHANGEL OF THE JUDGEMENT makes reference to two of the composers earlier organ works; CARILLION (No.2) of 1979 and IN PRAISE OF SWEELINCK, dating from 1999.
This amiable short piece of fun was written in pastiche style for the principal trombone player of the Nürnberg Barockbläser - George Beckstein. It was presented as a present on the occasion of the composers visit to Nürnberg/Langwasser in September 2008. It awaits a first performance. The tempo marking is Allegretto a la Roy Rogers!