[imgleft]http://www.themouthpiece.com/images/tmp_news_icon.gif[/imgleft]'tMP Piece of the Week' feature: Dances and Alleluias - Philip Sparke Dances and Alleluias was commissioned by the British Federation of Brass Bands for the inaugural English National Brass Band Championships, which is being held today, July 1st 2006, in the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry, Salford Quays, For this new contest, the British Federation of Brass Bands made the decision to commission a new work from the pen of Philip Sparke. Philip Sparke was born in London and studied composition, trumpet and piano at the Royal College of Music, where he gained an ARCM. It was at the College that his interest in bands arose. He played in the College wind orchestra and also formed a brass band among the students, writing several works for both ensembles. At that time, his first published works appeared - Concert Prelude (brass band) and Gaudium (wind band). A growing interest in his music led to several commissions, his first major one being for the Centennial Brass Band Championships in New Zealand – The Land of the Long White Cloud. Further commissions followed from individual bands, various band associations and the BBC, for whom he three times won the EBU New Music for Band Competition (with Slipstream, Skyrider and Orient Express). He has written for brass band championships in New Zealand, Switzerland, Holland, Australia and the UK, twice for the National Finals at the Albert Hall, as well as the European Championships held in Birmingham in 2000 (Tallis Variations) and his test pieces are constantly in use wherever brass bands can be found. A close association with banding in Japan led to a commission (Celebration) from and eventual recording of his music with the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. This opened the door worldwide to his wind band music and led to several commissions, particularly from the United States. In 1996 the US Air Force Band commissioned and recorded Dance Movements, which won the prestigious Sudler Prize in 1997. In 2005 Music of the Spheres won the National Band Association/William D. Revelli Memorial Band Composition Contest. His conducting and adjudicating activities have taken him to most European countries, Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the USA. He runs his own publishing company, Anglo Music Press, which he formed in May 2000. In September 2000 he was awarded the Iles Medal of the Worshipful Company of Musicians for his services to brass bands. The success of his work has enabled Philip to set up his own publishing company - Anglo Music Press in which he continues to extend his music catalogue with a fine array of music. http://www.philipsparke.com/ His last major work ‘Music of the Spheres’ was a captivating composition which found much acclaim amongst the competing bands when it appeared at the European Championships last year, and has quickly become a ‘showpiece’ within the brass band repertoire. With his latest composition Phlip has decided to tread a different path and in a recent interview for theMouthPiece.com explained his thoughts on the music to John Burns. . . . . My chief concern when writing Dances and Alleluias was that I knew I couldn’t continue the line of thought that had led to Music of the Spheres, a piece which had taken me about as far as I currently could (or wanted to) go in terms of scale and virtuosity. In addition, I wanted to write ‘absolute’ music rather than a programmatic piece but keep the same emotional journey which is for me the most important aspect of Spheres. My first idea for the new piece was a final ‘alleluia’ - I didn’t imagine any specific religious connection but wanted the slow music to be vocal in nature and ecstatic in mood, as that word implies. It was then logical to intersperse the slow music with faster dances. The work opens with a very quiet unison passage, leading to the first alleluia, which is intoned by horns and trombones. It’s not clear here whether the music is fast or slow and this ambiguity continues until the first dance is reached at bar 51. This reaches a climax but is interrupted by a euphonium cadenza which leads to the second alleluia, sung first by trombone and then euphonium and soprano cornet. This again reaches an emotional peak which dissolves into a second dance, in the form of a nimble and delicate scherzo. Despite a turbulent central section the scherzo ends quietly before a baritone introduces a chorale-like episode for the lower half of the band. A solo cornet then begins the final alleluia section which builds to a passionate close. "It will be as much a test of delicacy as brawn" - Philip Sparke I’m sure those present at today’s competition will have plenty to say about the test piece, and we look forward to hearing your views and comments over the next few days.