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A LITTLE SYMPHONY OF ENGLISH CAROLS - Martin Ellerby
There is a little history to the creation of this work. The first version (six of the final eight movements) was commissioned by Matthew J. George for the Choral Union and Symphonic Wind Ensemble of the University of St. Thomas at St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. These forces gave the first performance of that version in Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA on 6 December 2009. Since then the work has been extended and the order of the movements reconciled into this final publication. The two later movements were first performed independently by the Exeter Festival Chorus and the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines conducted by Nigel Perrin in Exeter Cathedral, Exeter, UK on 15 December 2018. The first complete performance of the final version was given by Ex Cathedra Academy of Vocal Music and Birmingham Symphonic Winds conducted by Keith Allen in the CBSO Centre, Birmingham, UK on 8 December 2019.
The work has been recorded by the Kantos Chamber Choir (Ellie Slorach, Director) and the RNCM Wind Orchestra conducted by Clark Rundell on the MER label. This recording was generously supported by the Ida Carroll Trust and the music publisher Mr Stanley George Kitchen (1931-2018). It was one of the last recordings produced by the late Richard Scott of RAS Audio.
A Little Symphony of English Carols is dedicated to my mother, Barbara Alice Woodhouse.
The work takes eight existing carols of English origin (either in music, texts or both) and structures them into a symphonic format. In essence, for the composer, the piece is an exercise in arranging extant material and forms the 4th in an ongoing series of nine Sinfonias leading towards the symphony-proper in the future. There are constant re-harmonisations, the clothing and colouring of orchestration, diversions (both from expectation and as interludes) plus, where appropriate, faithful adherence to the original vision. Subtitles have been given to each movement to consolidate the journey, with the carol name closely followed in brackets thereafter:
2 B flat 1st Clarinets
2 B flat 2nd Clarinets
2 B flat 3rd Clarinets
B flat Bass Clarinet
2 E flat Alto Saxophones
B flat Tenor Saxophone
E flat Baritone Saxophone
3 B flat Trumpets
4 F Horns
3 Trombones (3rd Bass)
SATB Choir (with divisions)
5 Percussion – 1st & 2nd Clashed Cymbals, Side Drum, 2 Xylophones (or 1 & Marimba played 8ve), Bass Drum, Vibraphone, Marimba (2 or 1 shared), Suspended Triangle, Low & High Suspended Cymbals, 2 Glockenspiels, Tam-tam, Tubular Bells, Triangle, Mark-tree, Ride Cymbal, Wood Block, Tambourine.
C. 17 minutes