York Surprise Anthony Gilbert

York Surprise cover
7 mins 35 secs

Solos, Duos & Trios Trios

1 Flute, 1 B-flat Clarinet, 1 Bass Clarinet in B-flat

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Score and part ISMN 57036-010-9 £14.00 Buy now

flute, clarinet and bass clarinet

Programme note

Three times in 2006 I visited Echo, Susie MacMurray’s remarkable installation in York, in which the whole tall nave of a large early-English church was filled, from roof to floor, with suspended columns of balls of bow-hair, glowing in the sun and almost invisible in the shade.  It seemed to me like inaudible plainchant, or silent change-ringing. 

York Surprise is the third in a succession of pieces this vision engendered, using for its melodic generation the very musical change-ringing method of that name, working separately on two six-note diatonic scales.  Here, the primal lines are overlaid and interlocked canonically, creating a succession of chant-like solos and quiet polyphony for the three wind instruments, with a slow, gentle harmonic rhythm moving from clear consonance through moments of buzzing dissonance and back, over an almost inaudible up-beat pulse.  At points of stillness the clarinets enrich the harmony with quiet multiphonics.

The piece was commissioned by James Gardner for Ensemble 175 East, who gave the first performance in Wellington, New Zealand, in March 2008.

Wellington, New Zealand, 29 March 2008