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A BRIDGEWATER SERENADE - Martin Ellerby
To Mr Ben Bridgewater
The seven movements of this light hearted set of miniatures pay tribute by means of allusion and suggestion to the various composers contained within. They are not meant to be copies of these composers’ styles but rather brief salutes to a group of them I have felt to have contributed enormously to either British string music or 'light music', as a once reverential term described it. They are as follows:
1. Caprice (Edward Elgar) – despite his towering contribution to the repertoire in its grandest forms, Elgar wrote a good deal of light music all of which is of the highest quality. I have endeavoured to capture his essential 'English' sound in this opening movement.
2. Barcarolle (Frederick Delius) – the rich sound that Delius delivered in his miniature tone poems is referenced here though the closing cadence refuses to allow a glowing sunset – more of a sigh before night falls.
3. Fughette (Gustav Holst) – this lively movement, using fugal devices, parodies Holst's own excursions with the fugue notably to be found in his popular St. Paul's Suite. In 2003 I was the happy recipient of a Holst Award to help commission my Cabaret Concerto. Thanks, Gustav!
4. Tristesse (W. S. Lloyd Webber) – I studied with this composer at the RCM in London – he was the finest contrapuntalist I ever met! However, in his personal life he was a sad, essentially gentle figure, his own highly romantic music (for example the sensuous tone poem Aurora) considered out of time and place. My own effort, as here presented, is tinged with sadness rather than being a ceaseless elegy.
5. Aquerelle (Percy Faith) – Faith was a very successful arranger during the golden period of light music. I was very much attracted to his use of chromatic counterpoint in the inner parts alongside a preference for rich textures bordering on the over-romantic!
6. Vignette (William Walton) – this takes its inspiration from Walton's Death of Falstaff, music he wrote for the 1944 film Henry V later made into a concert suite. Although mine is not such a pure passacaglia as Walton's, the essence of the continually repeated motif is adhered to throughout. I'd like to think there is something of the 'air of Agincourt' about this particular movement, the field of which I have twice visited.
7. Caravelle (Eric Coates) – arguably the king of British light music, Coates wrote some of the most enduring tunes of his times and they still ring true today! My personal finale is a giocoso 'happy feeling' affair with a central interlude where I attempt the grand melody myself. The music then returns to the opening material to conclude in a mood of much joy and celebration.
I am aware that 'fughette' is an incorrect spelling ('fughetta' is correct) but I fancied all the subtitled individual movements, like the overall title, to end with an 'e' so there!
There is an intended link with the main title, which to all intents and purposes refers to the Bridgewater Canal in my own locale, and the dedicatee of this work Mr Ben Bridgewater. Ben is a renowned heart surgeon who receives the overall dedication of A Bridgewater Serenade for successfully taking apart and returning to health the very composer of this work.
© 2017 Martin Ellerby
“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive...” - William Wordsworth
C. 17 minutes