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DUNHAM DANCES - Martin Ellerby
To Dr. W. P. Stephens
In music, a dance is not necessarily a 'dance' anymore and as such this 'suite of dances' is primarily a 'sequence of movements' borrowing from, but not subservient to, such devices. The work is unique in that it follows the personal journey of a medical experience and the association that had with a local doctor.
The six individual movements are subtitled as follows:
1. Stephens’ Day - the subtitle refers to the day I first met Dr. W. P. Stephens at Trafford General Hospital, Tuesday 2 February, 2010. It was to be quite a day: he was rather chuffed with himself when he analysed my condition in under 24 hours and, as a matter of fact, so was I! There are two subjects, the first in the minor and the second in its relative major – the effect is initially of melancholic apprehension and later of cautious hope.
2. The Dolls House - a tutti pizzicato, minus the basses, the rhythmic metre of 7/8 is adhered to throughout. The subtitle refers to the Stephens’ home in Cheshire.
3. Dry Bones – I originally called this 'The War March of the Surgeons' and I think audiences will understand this! The whole ensemble play col legno (with the back of the wood) and this unique sound gives the movement its flavour. The subtitle relates to a passage in the Bible from Ezekiel: “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”
4. A 'March' Fugue - the word ‘march’ is placed in inverted commas to indicate the musical form of a march and the month of March (March, 2010 marked the height of my stay in the Alexandra Hospital) – the music finds its way from an opening 'rainy-day' G minor to a bright and optimistic G major.
5. Blue Mercedes – the subtitle refers to Bill’s car in which he took me from Trafford General to the 'Alex' in Cheadle – I like the idea of the car being a 'woman' in our lives as Mercédès was the femme fatale in Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, a novel that tells a tale of desperate travel from darkness to light, that at that time I could relate to.
6. Patrick's Day – at last it's the composer's day! On St. Patrick's Day (Wednesday 17 March, 2010) I was released from hospital – this essentially warm yet rhythmic finale (cast in 10/8 throughout) closes the suite in high spirits: the D minor of the first movement exchanged by the D major of the closing one. The letter 'D' is also of personal relevance not only in key terms but in the overall title with 'Dunham' and 'Dances'.
© 2017 Martin Ellerby
“Never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope'.” - Alexandre Dumas (père)
C. 17 minutes