I. Bells Up; II. Friday Night Blues; III. Dash; IV. Hippodrome Hop
Commissioned by the BBC for the Golden Jubilee season of the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Jubilee Dances are a fine embodiment of that blend of accessibility and sophistication which has made Patterson’s music universally popular. Lasting some 20 minutes, the work is in 4 movements and it utilises a full-sized orchestra with such extras as a piccolo, cor anglais (this last instrument making its first-ever appearance in Patterson’s orchestra), harp and a typically multifarious percussion section.
The opening Tucket sets the ball rolling with a stentorian call to arms on the horns which unleashes a trenchant display of orchestral pyrotechnics, all driving rhythms and glittering sonorities. It is followed by a slow, melancholy Blues where solo woodwinds are the dominating voice throughout. Patterson is no stranger to this territory, as his previous orchestral work, The City Within (2000), also incorporated a blues-like interlude. The ensuing Dash is a darting, mercurial scherzo with more than a whiff of the hunt about it; the more transparently scored central section suggests a lull during the chase, but it is not long before the scherzo is off once more in full cry. The concluding Hop sets out to be a grand, lavish waltz; however, as the title suggests, it keeps tripping over its shoelaces! Its dignity is further threatened when, after its middle section, the main theme returns on a solo tuba backed by an improbably balletic accompaniment. But equilibrium is quickly restored as the music sails towards a Pattersonian “all-stops-out” ending.
Programme note by Paul Pellay
Note for the first performance
When I was asked by the BBC Concert Orchestra to write a piece in celebration of their 50th Jubilee, I thought almost straight away of composing something that would in some way serve as a portrait of this wonderful orchestra, showing perhaps some of the variety in their performances and broadcasts. They are as well-known for their light music broadcasts as they are for their performances of Broadway shows and avant-garde music. (I have fond memories of the Orchestra’s performance my very way out Voices of Sleep at the Proms in the 1980s.) So it was always at the back of mind that I should somehow try to convey some of these different areas. I knew that I had about 15 minutes of music to write, and began to develop the idea of a 4 movement dance suite that would serve as a kind of orchestral showpiece. Jubilee Dances, then, is a very upbeat, accessible piece, written in a way that (I hope) is appropriate to the orchestra and its Jubilee.
I’ve applied the term ‘dances’ in a very loose way. The music is often more dance-like than pure dance, and only in the final Hop do you hear an extended dance form – and even here the nominal waltz frequently threatens to disintegrate as notes are lopped off the triple-time beat. The first movement (Tucket) opens with 6 horns announcing the theme with their bells raised up in the air, and proceeds to a pyrotechnical orchestral display in which each section of the orchestra is explored and celebrated. The 2nd (slow) movement is an orchestral blues, and I’ve given it the subtitle of “Friday Night”, which of course in BBC Concert Orchestra terms means “Music Night.” I’ve featured woodwind and brass quite a lot here – much of the melodic material is given to the cor anglais, oboe and flute, and there are also little solos for trombone and muted trumpet. Once again I’ve tried to capture an essential element of the Concert Orchestra, in this case applied to the genre of symphonic jazz. The 3rd movement (Dash) is a bit more serious – a fast and furious scherzo once again featuring a lot of writing for solo instruments. I’ve deliberately kept the textures as transparent as possible, to allow the orchestra’s marvellous solo playing to come through. And so we come to the final Hop, with its quirky ‘missing beats’ explaining the title. I’ve never written anything like this before, but I have to admit it was great fun to do! Happy Birthday to the BBC Concert Orchestra!!!
Derived from an interview with Brendan Beals
Symphony Orchestra. 2(2 dbl Picc).2(2 dbl CorA).2.2/22.214.171.124/Timp/3Perc/Harp/Strings
Commission: BBC for the 50th Anniversary of the BBC Concert Orchestra
Dedication: ‘To Ian Maclay’
Publisher: Josef Weinberger