Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

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Swinton Jig (on a Nineteenth Century Lancashire Fiddle Tune)

For orchestra

opus number: 197
completion date: 1998
duration: 15 minutes
scoring: Piccolo, flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet in Bb and A, bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon 2 horns, 2 cornets in Bb, 2 trombones (tenor), tuba, timpani, *percussion (2 players), concertina, banjo, out-of-tune piano, strings

*percussion (2 players):
percussion 1: bones

percussion 2: glockenspiel, bell in C [a "rough" bell, with many close overtones rather than a "smooth" tubular bell], flexatone, tam-tam, tambourine, suspended Chinese cymbals
world premiere: 27 November 1998, York University
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Peter Maxwell Davies conductor
publisher: Chester Music
category: Orchestral work
composer’s note: Swinton Jig is one in a series of occasional pieces inspired by my youth in Salford and the surrounding areas.

When I was put in the way of this "Swinton Jig", (composed by a coal miner from Swinton in 1860), it gave me the opportunity to celebrate the very modest place next to Salford where I spent most of my childhood years. These variations on Mr Tildesley's tune are very much imbued with what it was like to be in the communal air-raid shelter in the middle of our street, where concerts were given to pass the long hours spent within. There was an out-of-tune upright piano - people played banjo and bones, concertinas and cornets, they sang songs and they danced. And all of this was seen through the eyes of a very sleepy eight-year-old child.

The slow Cor Anglais tune recalls the song of an extraordinary large Irish lady who would walk around the streets singing, in a bass voice, for pennies. Not only was this the saddest music I have ever heard - you could hear it streets away, and it echoed around them - but when you got near enough to push tuppence into her hand, the air was quite literally vibrating so strongly that it hurt!
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