New work for brass band by Sir Harrison Birtwistle

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by James Yelland, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. James Yelland

    James Yelland Active Member

    More than a quarter of a century after Grimethorpe Aria and Salford Toccata first shocked the brass band world, a new work for the medium by Sir Harrison Birtwistle will be heard in public for the first time later today. The piece, Clitheroe Chorale, will be given its world premiere by the Clitheroe Citadel Salvation Army Band under the baton of its French conductor Alain l’Orpof.

    L’Orpof studied composition under Pierre Boulez at IRCAM, the centre for experimental music in Paris. In 2007 he was invited to take up a professorship in the Department of Music at Lancaster University, where he quickly learned to love the traditional British brass band sound, and soon afterwards was invited to conduct the Clitheroe ensemble. To bring brass bands and the Accrington-born Birtwistle together again was the inevitable result.

    “I know that Sir Harry is regarded as the enfant terrible (or ‘awful child’, as we say in France) of British music”, says l’Orpof, who comes from Never-sur-Dimanche, a small manufacturing town near Marseilles. “But I grew up surrounded by a bleak industrial landscape, so his music really struck a chord with me - I think it was an augmented fourth note cluster with random quarter-tones. When the opportunity arose, I asked him to write something in his normal uncompromising style but which would also fulfil the Salvation Army’s requirements that some uplifting spiritual content be included. And his response has been, well, formidable.”

    Sir Harrison says of his new work: “Trying to combine traditional religious material with my own particular brand of contemporary music was a big challenge, given that much of it tends to be rather tortured and gloom-ridden. In fact, it makes a lot of my own stuff sound quite cheerful. But I think I have managed to fuse the two genres in a rather subtle way. I was slightly concerned that the aleatoric section featuring the Timbrel Brigade might be a step too far, but after I had explained that ‘aleatoric’ meant ‘happening by chance’ they assured me that it wouldn’t be a problem, as that was how they played normally”.

    The score has already met with the approval of the Salvation Army’s International Music Department, whose head, Captain Bram Leigh-Happell, has confirmed that the work meets the organisation’s strict criteria on sacred content, and said that it will be published later this year.

    The project has revived Birtwistle’s interest in the brass medium, which waned after his third work for band, Heckmondwike Habanera, commissioned by the Heckmondwike Temperance Band and Glee Club in 1993, was met with only muted enthusiasm and has now been largely forgotten. The composer spoke animatedly of a brass band opera which he is now writing for Alain l’Orpof, due to be completed in April 2013.

    “A lot of my music over the years has been inspired by myths and legends (The Minotaur, or Silbury Air, for example), and also by English mediaeval themes, such as Gawain”, said Sir Hariwistle. “So while I was researching the Chorale in Clitheroe Public Library”, he droned on, “ I was excited to stumble upon the story of The Witch of Clitheroe who, according to the 14[SUP]th[/SUP] century legend, was able to change herself at will into the form of a young goat and wander around the town creating all sorts of mischief. This fired my imagination, and I now have the outline of the new work, which will be called “The Clitheroe Kid”.

    The premiere of Clitheroe Chorale will take place at Castle Gate, Clitheroe town centre (near Cowman’s Famous Sausage Shop) at 11am this morning. TMP subscribers unable to attend the premiere can hear a short extract from the work by clicking here.

    (The composer has asked listeners to note that the E natural in bar three is incorrect and should be an E flat.)
  2. Bayerd

    Bayerd Active Member

    Fantastic. Alain's name throws up some interesting anagrams...
  3. PeterBale

    PeterBale Moderator Staff Member

    You forgot to mention that the performance is to be sponsored by the French philanthropic society "Poisson d'Avril".
  4. Bob Sherunkle

    Bob Sherunkle Member

    Not been busy this week then Jim?

    As if anyone would really have a silly name like Harrison Birtwisle! Dead give-away.

    Otherwise marvellous.
  5. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    Thats great news! I hope the banding community will appreciate this music!
  6. Anglo Music Press

    Anglo Music Press Active Member

    Ah, Bram Leigh-Happell. He was in the same core as my granny.
  7. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Your Granny was Mrs Smith? Always a bit sharp for my liking.
  8. Thirteen Ball

    Thirteen Ball Active Member

    Was she the one known as the 'Pink Lady' who always helped out at Cox's Gala?
  9. Rapier

    Rapier Supporting Member

    Yes that's her. Used to go green when she heard Balsam play though. :D
  10. brassbandmaestro

    brassbandmaestro Active Member

    That's when the Braeburn's came in? :)

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