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Northumbrian Dances - Martin Ellerby
Composer’s programme notes:
My Northumbrian Dances were commissioned by, and are dedicated to, the Northwestern State University Wind Symphony,
(Nachitoches, Louisiana, USA) and their conductor Jeffrey C. Mathews. They were written in draft form in 2019, after a trip that
took in all the locations of the four movements, and fully orchestrated in January 2021.
The English ceremonial and historic county
of Northumberland is located by the North Sea, more or less between the River Coquet estuary in the south and Berwick-upon-
Tweed in the north. It boasts some of the most magnificent coastline and beaches in England, is generally sparsely populated, and
beholds much scenery of rural beauty. This brief dance suite is cast in four movements each with a descriptive subtitle:
1. Alnwick Town – this historic market town has an impressive castle, founded in Norman times, but is now a magnificently
preserved private residence open to public access. Several film companies have filmed there including the famous Harry Potter
series. This dance reflects all this within its brief overture status.
2. Bamburgh Beach – another glorious castle is present here, but by the coast, and aside one of the best of the golden beaches
England can deliver! It also provides rich sunsets which looking up to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) north, or the Farne Islands out
to the east, the effect is of a complete serenity. A folk song idiom is adapted with a brass chorale to represent the ever present
if now less daunting fortress on the cliff.
3. Flodden Field – fought on 9 September 1513, this battle between the Scots and English armies resulted in a victory for the
English side. It remains to this day a preserved site and from the monument a visitor can appreciate the struggle of both armies
on this fateful day. The dead are remembered by a pipe tune ‘Flowers of the Forest’ but this is so well known I decided not to
quote it. What I have tried to provide is a fitting elegy for the lost that day – all of them. Flodden is a sad place because of the
battle – but like so many Northumbrian vistas it bleeds a solitude to relish.
4. Alnmouth Bay – this coastal village, to the south of the county, is a most picturesque resort with a beach to match Bamburgh
in its own way. Having paced these sands over many years the last time I did so a brilliant wind was present which caused a
sandstorm of miniature proportions to develop and there is a moment in this finale movement where this is openly represented.
However, I conclude my tribute to this ‘county of counties’ in pure celebration and in D major, which I note was the opening
movement key, the second movement key and, in the minor, the third movement key – one for the academics to ponder!
2 1st B flat Clarinets
2 2nd B flat Clarinets
2 3rd B flat 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)
Euphonium (part in bass & treble clefs)
5 Percussion – Tenor Drum, Suspended Cymbal, Clashed Cymbals, Tubular Bells, Side Drum, Xylophone, Glockenspiel, Bass
Drum, Tam-tam, Suspended Wood Block, Triangle, Vibraphone, Mark-tree, Ride Cymbal.
C. 10 minutes