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ST. MARK'S SUITE - Martin Ellerby
To the Rev. J. Sutton and the Congregation of St. Mark's Church, Dunham Massey, Cheshire, on the occasion of their 150th Anniversary
This five movement suite takes its inspiration from things associated with St. Mark's Church, Dunham Massey, Cheshire, of which I have been a member of the congregation for several years. The individual movements are related to personalities associated with the church and its immediate environs.
1. The Parachuting Priest – The Reverend Jerry Sutton is a rather unique priest because he is also a military chaplain to the Parachute Regiment. Because of this, and in my musical depiction of him, he has two personalities: the opening (Mozart flavoured) music reflects his lighter side, riding his Harley Davidson for example, with the half-tempo interlude depicting his serious side administering to his charges on the annual Arnhem Anniversary parachute drop to which Jerry subjects himself along with his cadre.
2. The Old School House, 1759 - there is an intentional implication of 'rock a-bye baby' about this lilting piece. There's not too much information on Thomas Walton, however besides the old school house in Dunham Town there is another mention of him related to an educational establishment at Oldfield Brow Primary School, now converted into a block of stylish flats. What is demonstrated out and around is the legacy of his generosity to the local community.
3. Lady Stamford's Waltz – I have taken the liberty in this movement to imagine someone's personality: Elizabeth, Countess of Stamford, a former resident of Dunham Massey's grand house now administered by the National Trust. The movement is marked 'nostalgically' and what a vague term to present a conductor with! Nevertheless there is a conflict between play and duty which doesn't quite get swept away. She now resides amongst others from her own circle and the local community in St. Mark's Churchyard.
4. Ad Astra – in St. Mark's Churchyard there are two CWGC graves in the traditional stye. We must assume that these servicemen lost their lives on wartime duty within the country and presumably at a nearby location. One grave is Royal Air Force and the other Royal Signals. For this movement I divide the ensemble into a double string orchestra – this is to give a rich sound world within which the two protagonists can make their entrances and exits. Per Adua ad Astra ('through adversity to the stars') is the motto of the RAF and seemed appropriate to use here.
5. Machine Man – Curtis Sparkes wrote a fine book (Famous for a Century) on his industrial exploits which I found very useful in creating this, both my imaginary character study and the work's finale. The musical style of this movement is much more radical than found anywhere in this suite. The Bartók derived ostinati are thoroughly appropriate – after all this man lived and worked in the presence of chattering machinery all his life! Curtis Sparkes is also laid to rest in St. Mark's Churchyard. The machine like rhythms and harmonies eventually give way to a closing coda which quotes the St. Mark's Hymn 'Brockham', the music of which was composed by Jeremiah Clarke (1670-1707) famous for his ‘Trumpet Voluntary’, long attributed to Henry Purcell. I have re-harmonised its melody to suit my own ends and the suite's overall style.
© 2017 Martin Ellerby
“All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above; then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord, for all his love.” - Matthias Claudius
C. 14 minutes