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Seven Halts on the Somme

composer
for solo trumpet in C, harp and string orchestra

 
Seven Halts on the Somme responds to the series of oil paintings by artist Hughie O’Donoghue that mark seven stopping points for British troops during the Battle of the Somme. It was written for the 2016 Lichfield Festival as part of the Sound and Music Embedded programme. The concerto begins with a solo trumpet playing expressive, and sometimes explosive, music over a bass pedal to resonate with the first painting.

I. The Grand Mine: a place where several explosions took place, leaving a vast crater. As the harp and upper strings enter the music transforms into II. Trônes Wood through a strong and vigorous passage for strings to remember the fierce battles that took place in the darkness of the woods. The trumpet then re-enters and the music moves to the next painting: III. Pozières: The Moulin, a place where many Australian soldiers lost their lives, as fast moving strings and an elegiac muted solo trumpet depict the moving sails of the windmill. The music then descends and slows down before the next painting: IV. Warlencourt Ridge is marked by the return of the opening solo trumpet idea, transformed and placed against a richer texture. It is also a moment of sadness, remembering all those who lost their lives. The upper strings then heighten in intensity as the next image: V. The Sucrerie: Longueval is introduced and the lower strings play an aggressive passage that suggests both the battle that took place there and the fiery reds of the sky in the painting. The solo trumpet and ensemble eventually becomes as one in an expressive, homophonic statement before moving to the penultimate painting: VI. Flatiron Copse. This is depicted by a gentle, flowing harp that emerges out of the darkness, illuminating the rich golden colours of the painting and the peace of the military cemetery. The movement towards the light continues as the trumpet leads the ensemble in the final section of the work: VII. Guillemont to Ginchy, where the road between these two stopping points is shown stretching out into the distance. The road becomes symbolic of a journey away from the conflict of the past towards hope of a peaceful future.

from notes by Deborah Pritchard © 2017

Recordings

The Art of Dancing
Studio Master: SIGCD513Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
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