Tingewick, from Concept to Concert


This page tells the story of ‘Tingewick’, how it was composed over the course of a year, and the rehearsal process, culminating in the first performance.

1. Composition

This is the blog I wrote over the months of composition – just exactly as written at the time.

“This page tracks the progress of one particular piece, “Tingewick”, which is probably more a tone-poem than an overture, as it turns out, but would be scheduled at the beginning of either the first or second half of a concert. I’m going to publish my entries in batches of four or five, <em>some time after</em> I have written them.

So, here goes……………..
Day 1
Orchestra committee meeting. Plans for the 100th concert in 2015 or 2016 (can’t remember which) are discussed and the idea of commissioning a piece from a local composer is mooted. Some of the eyes turn to me but I do not rise to the challenge. There are other people who could be asked and my record of finishing pieces is pretty poor at the moment.

Day 3 Suddenly have the idea that I might write a piece around someone connected to the hospital………Ha! Nicholas Tingewick, after whom the hall is named. We have always given our concerts in the Tingewick Hall. It could be a suite……no, an overture!

Onto the internet to research Nicholas Tingewick, who turns out to be physician to Edward 1st. He lived approximately 1277-1339 and did several interesting things in his life, including buying some extremely expensive medicine.

So, which composers were around at that time? I could use some of their music as source material and to inspire composition methods, form , etc.

The main contenders are Adam de la Halle, who died when T. was young, Philippe de Vitry, a near contemporary, and Guillaume de Machaut, a somewhat younger contemporary. Find Vitry’s music on Spotify. Sounds lovely.

He was one of the founders of Ars Nova, and wrote isorhythmic music. The idea of isorhythms is appealing. Think how to make them possible for conventional orchestra, which might be to have regular 2/4 bars, quite fast, but give people different-lengthed phrases. Getting people to read complicated rhythms within a bar is problematic.
Day 4
Get out HAM and have a look. Vitry is not in there. However, there is some nice stuff by Machaut, and also some English dances from T’s time. Machaut is superb. We can use more of his stuff in AMV. *

Thinking I may use a short song by Machaut for a lyrical section and maybe borrow some ideas from the English dances for the faster sections.

Need to pick tunes apart and look for motifs, and also plan macro-structure.

Day 5
Have copied HAM 40c ‘English Dance’ (an estampie) into Sibelius. It’s a really catchy little dance tune, with alternating 16- and 18- pulse sections (ie “puncti’ with the repeat always slightly longer than the original.) Should be able to extract all the melodic material and rhythmic patterns I need from this monophonic dance, so will not need to use Machaut.

Thoughts about structure, etc.

The estampie as it stands can provide a jaunty flute/oboe theme with bouncy accompaniment, maybe some pizzicato.
However, we also need a rich, lush section about the costly medicine obtained for the king by Tingewick. This will be in 3/2 and feature cellos, horn, dark clarinet, some viola, maybe harp and silver violins. Some transformation of this with brass could form the majestic theme which will refer to Tingewick’s status as royal physician.
The estampie tune can be fragmented and used in d minor for a haunting section, probably near the beginning, setting the scene. Woodwind will exchange fragments over a largely static string sound.
The whole piece needs to open with a bang, and the final phrase of the original could be useful here. We also need some pretty strident dischords (brass?) before the opening scene.
The overture will follow a pretty conventional plan, probably sonata form, and be totally accessible both to a good amateur orchestra with very limited rehearsal time and to an audience not completely devoted to classical music concerts. ( ie. this is not the occasion to incorporate improvisation, minimalism, extreme techniques, etc. )
Day 6

Thoughts about key.

Bb would be too high for majestic section, as the cellos could not access the Bb below the bass clef for a very full chord.
F will probably be the key for the final statement of the majestic theme.

G minor may work well for the opening pastoral section.

There is one punctus with repeated jabbing high doh quavers. May use this for trumpets.
Will bring in slow theme under the rushing quaver theme a la Sibelius, gradually changing the focus.

Current problem is – how to introduce an ecclesiastical feel, quite early on , to represent Tingewick’s turn at Reculver.

Day 9
Monday: isolated a plainsong which can be used for the ecclesiastical episode. Number 13 in HAM, an alleluia which has some patterns in common with the English Dance. I’m thinking I can adapt this to the regal theme, too.
Yesterday and today have been thinking about the general shape and key structure. Have been toying with the idea of going above and below tertially rather than just tonic dominant. Yesterday I was thinking of C, with excursions to A for Tingewick’s travels and Eb for the purchase of exotic ingredients. Now, however, have definitely settled on F for the final section, because it isn’t too high for the cellos, yet allows doubling at the octave by the basses, and will also be nice for the brass. This section is a majestic 3/2 with the regal theme counterpointed by the Tingewick theme. The section immediately before that, then, should be in C, a bright key, representing the fully recovered king.

So, the present structure is something like this:
Possibly some loud chords, and then Opening, setting the scene – probably G minor, which becomes the supertonic for F, the first main section. This uses the 2/4 English dance, possibly 3 puncti with a bit of an accelerando and more instruments joining the fray. Melting into a plainsong episode, and gradually moving to another Tingewick section, possibly in A, and first regal theme. Then Tingewick is off again, looking for costly ingredients. Landing in Bb/G minor, where the exotic medicine theme starts to grow. Then the regal theme, as the king recovers, and finally the triumphant finale. Won’t bother with the final part of Tingewick’s life, when he set up educational establishments.

Day 17
During a break on the continent at least came up with a seamless key change in the English Dance (Tingewick theme), from punctus 1 or 2 in F/ D minor to punctus 2 in D major, where I can make great use of the strings. Tried the tune out in D on my fiddle and it works really well.

Still not sure how much of the Alleluia to use for the ‘monk’ bit, ie T’s sojourn in Reculver, but I am thinking I’ll bleed it in over the Tingewick theme, maybe using horns.

Not quite time to open up a score template in Sibelius and start jotting down notes, though!

Nothing like a bit of gardening to get the ideas flowing! I have a rhythm for the first part of the Alleluia that gives a stately theme which can be used by the horns initially and underlie Tingewick’s dance tune. It’s in 3/2 , but actually I think I’ll make it a slowish ¾ and re-write the Estampie as quavers and semiquavers. Another bonus is that this first part of the Alleluia centres on the dominant, but sounds like a tonic until you get further along. That gives a nice ambiguity and possibilities for tonal swerves.
Keeping a steady quaver pizzicato figure (dadada, or equivalent) going throughout helps too. The punctus with the descending 5ths sequence (cfc beb ada g beb ada gcg f) is going to be useful as a filler. As to punctus 4, where the tune changes substantially for the first time, I think that will make a nice contrasting interlude, say for clarinet lightly accompanied with very little movement.
So now we have mechanisms in place for instant key changes in both 5ths and 3rds (plus the usual circle of 5ths routines, of course.) On Sibelius, tried out the first phrase of the alleluia against puntus 2 at various transpositions, and it’s looking hopeful.

Day 19

Internalised much of the Alleluia yesterday and have 2 stately sections, one mainly minor orientated and one firmly major. Today they’ve been going through my head with their respective accompaniment figures. There will be at least 4 bars lead in with the accompaniment (semiquaver ascending scales, separated by different numbers of crotchets) before tune A starts, and I’ll be repeating phrases quite a lot (with different instrumentations/dynamics). When we reach the more heroic theme B it’s quite stirring, really. I am holding back the climax of that theme (the highest note in the whole Alleluia) into the 2nd half of phrase 4. It goes with quite a swing – Thor’s hammer type stuff.
Day 22

Over the weekend, pathways through the piece have become clearer.
The regal theme, King Edward’s theme (K) has several ‘escape routes’ .

Let’s say it’s in C. From the fourth phrase here are elegant shifts to both Eb and E, whilst the climactic fifth phrase can be curtailed and jammed straight into, effectively, C# minor. As the accompaniment swings off into the distance, the little 5ths figure from the opening section comes back on C# and G#, heralding another fragmented section. Little bits of the estampie (Tingewick’s theme – T) are exchanged, as in the introduction, but these are phrases from further into the English Dance. Tingewick is off again, looking for the medicine. The really weird punctus, the one with the high Fs and an ungainly augmented 4th, can be used quite shrilly, with some bells, or a triangle or something , and lots of high pitched jabbing, and then the dance continues swirling down to the low F, which repeats at the end of a punctus. That repeated note can continue through the next jaunty rendition of T.

It’s all falling into shape, and with these escape routes any key scheme becomes possible.

One major thing needs to be sorted before opening up the orchestral score, and that is to effect the transition between T’s early travels and the monk stuff at Reculver (R). (The R theme is, basically, the Alleluia plainsong) After R, there may be a T interlude, or maybe Edward I could employ him straight away, in which case, R will morph into T.

The other thing is to decide whether or not to put something before the introduction, and if so whether or not to have it in Fmaj/Dmin like the first statement of T. What must be avoided is exposing the horns at the very beginning!
Day 25
Over the last couple of days, R has developed 3 escape routes (to dominant, subdominant and, by a semitone switch, to various minor keys.) It’s been running through my head very persistently.

Most likely opening now is a drum roll, then full orch chords on the rhythm of the opening of R. Then R, first full orch, then strings, then tailing off into other keys with clarinets, etc, coming to rest on a fairly distant minor key, where the T theme will tentatively appear, as already envisaged.

So many escape routes now in place that I may well soon start laying out the orchestral score, with gaps for modulations, etc.

Day 31

The main themes are so deeply embedded in my brain that they have been running around in different versions and the whole thing is getting to sound like ‘a piece I know’. It’s possible to hum it through while walking to the bus stop, with the performance lasting about 7 minutes. This will, no doubt, be longer with the appropriate bridge and development passages.

This evening, the Tingewick theme even started dancing around the King theme, decorating its final appearance. Haven’t yet started laying out the score, what with various rehearsals and gigs and getting ready for a week away, but this fermenting process is useful in itself. The more it goes on the more familiar the piece sounds and it will be easier to transcribe into Sibelius without getting distracted. (The mismatch between the time it takes to write a phrase and the time it takes to play it can lead to mistakes in perception, and problems with structural balance, I have found.)

At this stage, of course, competent pianists would be trying things out at the keyboard. But I am not a pianist! Whether it’s a conventionally notated traditional style piece like this, or a song, or a fiddle tune, or an experimental piece such as a text piece, I always need to have a sort of recording (however sketchy) in my mind – something that I listen to, analyse and then notate. For the mental fermentation to get underway it is important to feed in the right ingredients in the first place – to be very strict about the exact turn of a melody or rhythm- because otherwise the brain has a sneaky habit of adapting material to morph into someone else’s music!

Day 43

Back from holiday. Didn’t make much use, if any, of the pdfs and mp3s of themes while we were away, but did get more familiar with the key changes, etc. At the end of the first Tingewick theme section, use the fourth punctus to leave things hanging, and then , somehow, Reculver comes in.

Yesterday had a brainwave about the first appearance of the Reculver theme , other than in the Introduction. A horn will declaim the first three notes, after which the next two phrases continue in Organum, similar to the introduction version rhythmically, but of course shunted on three notes.

Today bought Notion music software for iPad. It’s quite easy to get to grips with and will be very useful. Why didn’t I research and find this before going away? It would have been handy. Tried the new Reculver idea and find that the organum bit works well with a dominant pedal (which becomes tonic as the theme winds downwards.)

Day 45

Thoughts about how the overture will end:-

The first phrase of punctus 2 can be moved up repeatedly, in semitone steps, culminating in phrase 1 of the alleluia – and from there to the final triumphal version of the King theme, with Tingewick skipping around as a countermelody, as previously mentioned. Then I think we could perhaps end with a very majestic couple of phrases of Reculver, almost unison, with a few loud, punctuating chords.

The build up to the section outlined above could start with one of those Sibelian slowly rising scales, hardly noticeable at first, which becomes more prominent till we reach a massive dominant pedal. Tomorrow I’m hoping to have time to lay out some of the orchestral score and maybe get an outline of the first section – that is, unless I’m needed at work.
Day 51
Busy weekend with Fractofusus, plus other rehearsals and planning has meant I haven’t yet got the score out. Researching apps for a song which I’m in the middle of writing and getting rather carried away with the idea of making some apps using the free downloadable tools. Easy, Tiger!

Day 52

Hooray! Managed to avoid distractions for an hour to do the harmony for the main Tingewick theme, and have actually filled in some provisional string parts for the first section, up to the double bar, and ‘pencilled in’ the opening of the next section.

So, what we have so far, in skeleton, is the chorale-like opening theme (based on the alleluia) in a slow 2/2 with its ABA loud/soft/loud structure. There’s a gradual progression from F, where it starts, to what would have been D, but instead has a D# as the final melody note (which is the first note of the next section.) Double bar and change to ¾. There is a pedal B over which the horn (for the moment) introduces the little fanfare-like fifths motif, and then the oboe brings in the very first fragment of the Tingewick theme (English Dance). I tried this section starting in G# but it was too much of a jolt, so have gone for B to start. The section works back through the circle of 5ths, until the main Tingewick theme gets going in F, so there is some work to be done, and in any case I’m not keen on having the horns play in too sharp keys.

It is a relief to have this started, though.


Couldn’t resist playing it through with the volume turned up, and have added the first statement of the Tingewick theme, on the flute with pizz accompaniment. An adjustment has been needed. Definitely had to go with the G# minor at the double bar, so I’ll just have to smooth out that transition later.
The whole thing is just under 3 minutes so far, which is pretty much on track.

Day 53

Later yesterday, drafted in the rest of the Tingewick theme and the ‘monk’ version of the Reculver theme, which is announced by the first three notes of the alleluia, played by a horn. The theme then continues from the fourth note of the alleluia, meaning that it’s closely related to Reculver.This version of R is in parallel fifths , provisionally on trombones , as they have some ecclesiastical history.

Today, drafted in the King theme, which follows the monks. The overture so far is now standing at 6 minutes. However, I realise I forgot to change the time signature from ¾ to 2/4 for the repeat of Tingewick, and that section also has a bit of an accelerando, so it won’t be quite that long when finished.
Probably can’t do much tomorrow, as I’m busy all day.

Day 59
Over the past couple of days, I’ve tightened up the major key part King Edward’s theme, much reducing the boring 3rd phrase and so bringing forward the exciting 4th phrase, and adding the following phrase. This gives the tune a satisfying ending.

I’ve also provisionally harmonised this theme, with attention to the voice-leading, as always, and added the Tingewick theme in counterpoint, to see how it fits when the two themes return at the end of the piece.
I’ve done a bit more harmony on the first part of the King theme.

Structurally, I’ve decided that after the final statement of the King theme, it will return to a very magnificent version of Reculver, and then a sudden p, crescendo with a drum roll, etc., with maybe a reference to the Tingewick theme, but definitely some final chords to signal the end.
Day 60

Pasted King Edward (just strings so far, with the flute countermelody) into the end of the full score and transposed it to F, the final key. Then pasted in the opening Reculver section, also transposed to F, and have put in a tentative last word from Tingewick.
Day 61

Did some tidying up of stray wrong notes and pasted in new correct version of King Edward where it first appears, doing the transposition to A major. Did a bit of fiddling around with the ending. The next major job is to do the development section, where Tingewick goes off looking for medicine. For that I will be using other puncti from the English Dance.
Day 64

Only had 20 minutes, so did some corrections on the Tingewick theme where it goes into 2/4. Some of the harmony hadn’t been adjusted from the preceding ¾ version, and a couple of wrong notes had also slipped in.

Day 65

Yesterday, had the idea of shadowing the trombones, etc, for the Monk section, using sul ponticello strings, tremolo. Tried this today and it is quite good. Also, have muted the trombones.
Day 68

On a trip to London I was able to think through part of the development section, using the Tingewick theme in sequence together with the next part of this theme (puntus 5) to progress flatwards at a leisurely pace . For the moment , this section follows the first King Edward theme. On getting home I went on Sibelius and sketched it in. Quite pleased with the result. However, more work on the development is needed so that it doesn’t come round to the discovery of the expensive medicine too soon. Also, as it stands the modulations have gone ridiculously flat. Who wants to play in Gb?

The medicine theme will be a more luscious version of the monk theme, dripping with harps, flutes and doubled up strings, with rich brass harmonies, and may well be in 12/8, which is potentially a majestic and versatile time signature.
Day 70

In the garden, battling with Russian Vine, the development began to take shape.
At the end of the king theme, where it swerves from E major to F major, there will be a fairly rapid falling away in pitch, dynamic and tonality, so that we end up lower, slower and flatter. This represents Edward falling ill and needing the medicine. The little fifths fanfare motif rouses Tingewick to action and he’s off on his travels, with scraps of his melody gradually introducing more of the English Dance source material. There are points where this melody can overlap with suggestions of the coming medicine theme. The tempo is picking up and eventually the whole medicine theme is heard. Once the medicine is purchased, the highest, most excited punctus of the English Dance kicks off a rush through most of the remaining material and Tingewick heads back to court (possibly over a rising scale )

The question is, whether to feed the medicine to Edward drip by drip, as it were, building up to the climactic cadence onto the final King theme in F, or whether to crash straight in from Tingewick’s (2/4) travels.
Day 71

Experimenting with the end of the King theme, and using the last phrase getting progressively lower, slower and flatter till it almost grinds to a halt. Tingewick is then aroused by the fanfare figure to go off in search of medicine. By not doing the swerve from E to F in the King figure, Tingewick can set off in a more agreeable key, for the moment at any rate.

Sketched in where the 12 /8 (medicine theme) will go, in Eb, but only the melody line is in so far. After that, there will be a build up of 3 note rising scales and bits of Tingewick melody, heading for that big F major final statement of the King theme. The thing is to get the other side of F first so that we can relax onto it. Approaches through G minor or C major may not be sufficient.
Day 77

Over the last few days I’ve been working through the development from the end of the King theme through to the medicine theme in Eb. Didn’t want to waste a lot of time putting things into Sibelius till I had a satisfactory path. Working back from the medicine theme I have now got about 20 bars of this section. Between that and the end of the King theme there has to be a) the King feeling ill (how flat and slow?) and Tingewick getting going on his travels.

Day 81

More or less sorted out the section between the end of the King theme and the medicine theme. The lead in to this is one of those written out rallentandos, I mean where the note values increase, leading us from the 2.4 Tingewick theme into the sumptuous 12/8 Medicine theme.Then, after the medicine theme and Tingewick’s little thrill of discovery (based on a rather curiously exuberant part of the English Dance) the journey from Eb to a big C pedal has to be made before the final statements of the King and Reculver themes, in F. This passage features (for Tingewick) two previously unheard puncti from the English Dance and fragments of the medicine and King themes, building to the full King theme.
These particular puncti are interesting in a way, but rather static, so I might have to fiddle about with them a bit, extending the sequences that they already contain.
As for the King and Medicine themes, of course there is overlap, and that’s what drives this section. A nice feature is that if I select a fragment starting on the supertonic a very different feel is achieved.
It is really looking as if, over the next few days there will be a clear melody line through the whole piece, connecting the points I had decided were to be in certain keys, and then I can start on the detail.

Day 83

I haven’t got into Sibelius for a day or two, having too much else to do , but have thought quite a lot through so that next time I’m in the programme I can get a large chunk down on the score.

Yesterday, suddenly realised that there is a flaw in the monk/medicine theme – 2 notes missing. After some mental juggling this has been corrected, with, I think, quite an interesting result, throwing quite a lot of weight on the 4th from last note.

Today, we were out for the day, and as the material ran through my head a more dynamic version of the next bit of Tingewick (after he buys the medicine) has emerged, with the strong and weak beats reversed relative to what they were for the earlier puncti. This seems to inject the awkwardly trite melody of this part of the theme with more potential.

I have now been in this process for 12 weeks. Just as well I have given myself a long time scale, but the initial layout is nearly complete now, with just a few phrase to sort out between this new section of Tingewick’s theme and the final statement of the King theme. There has to be enough music to get there convincingly and make that final theme really sound final, but not so much as to get boring.
Quite a time since my last post, but things have been moving on. I have worked on the penultimate section of the piece and managed to tunnel through to the final section yesterday. I’ve managed to fit in some slivers of King theme as we go along, representing the gradual effect of the medicine. However, that section still needs a lot of work, including getting the tempo, metre and style right.

Today I have worked further on possible modulations in this sectioin, seeing where each semitone alteration in the melody can lead. ||There has to be a convincing path through from the discovdrty of the medicine to the King’s recovery. Next time I oopen sibelius it will be to try some different time signatures and see how Tingewick’s theme will gradually adapt from the lively 2/4 hurrying back to court to arriving there and administering his medicine to the king.

Once the outline is complete I will know more precisely how long this overture will be, but it’s looking very like the planned 10 minutes. After that, it’s into detailed work on orchestration and style. That’s something that can be done quite methodically over a number of months.

Batch 7
Day 95

Well, I have connected up the bits and got the gradual build up to the final king theme worked out, at least as far as the timing is concerned. There are adjustments to be made with the notes and exact modulations, not to mention the accompaniment style, but at least there is a clear run through the ‘trite’ part of the English Dance to where the King theme returns. We start with a jolly, bouncy 2/2, which gets condensed into a 3/2. Finally the stress changes, so that it is effectively 6/4, from which we approach the ¾ of the fully recovered King theme.
The playback bar on Sibelius is showing total running time at 10’37’’, which, going by past experience, is more likely to be about 12 minutes when played. However, the medicine theme is not yet fully worked out and may take less (or more) time once the lush orchestration is added.

Day 100

Working on the transition from the medicine theme back to court, as it were. I’ve been refining the rhythms and fleshing out the accompaniment a bit, and am trying to smooth over the final modulation before ‘the big build-up’.
Then, earlier in the piece, I’ve done a bit of work on the accompaniment to the original Tingewick theme, adding a few string lines which change from pizz to arco. Also, I’ve streamlined the transition from monk theme to king theme somewhat.
Tried a bit of brass on the medicine theme. I think they could add to the rich mix, certainly, as long as any stridency is avoided.

Day 107

a. It’s been a busy week, and b. the computer has needed fixing, so not a lot has been done.
I’ve been thinking about how to get a rich, exotic sound to the medicine theme.
It seems to go well in the gypsy scale, ie, like two top halves of a harmonic minor piled on top of each other, so that makes the melody itself sound more exotic. Then today I was able to work in Sibelius a bit and laid out an entire new orchestral score just to experiment with the spacing, etc. of the Eb major chord needed for this section.
There is a good full sound from the horns, who will carry the melody, backed up by, so far , cellos and trombones.
Trumpets and oboes are relegated to adding a bite to the beginning of the chord.
Upper strings may do some arpeggios: the harp certainly will. Not sure whether to assign clarinets to arpeggios, possibly picking out the melody, or to backing up the horns.
The top flute may float over everything.
A cymbal and a triangle will probably provide a bit of glitter, while I have to find the right rich bell tone for a golden glow.It may be a question of what is available – I’m using a marimba for now, but there may not be one to be found, so w hat then?

Once I’ve got the recipe right I can transfer it to the main score and make bar to bar changes in harmony (though, actually, it doesn’t sound bad over a nice fruity Eb pedal (tuba, bass trombone, double bass, 4th horn, so ,maybe static is the way to go here).
2013 Day 109

Yesterday I had the idea of a sinuous oboe/sax/clarinet countermelody to the ‘medicine’ theme. This countermelody is simply the main theme in quavers!
I’ve just been trying it out against different sections of the medicine theme, in 3rds or just one line. Everything seems pretty interchangeable. There’s a second version, a step lower, which kicks off when the harmony changes from Eb to Ab minor 6.4. (the whole theme is over a pedal Eb, which gives an impression of stasis. Tingewick comes across this medicine, and in some ways it doesn’t matter exactly where he impacts with this static theme.

This medicine section is sounding quite lush and exotic now, so the next step is to be selective about what to transfer to the main score, and to work out exactly how Tingewick arrives there, when we get the moment of discovery, and how exactly he makes off with some of this medicine- into the travelling-back-to-court section.

Day 110

Have been working in the main score, putting in some of the orchestration of the medicine section. The sinuous countermelody is now shared between oboe and clarinet (one tone lower, for when the chord changes.) The idea is that Tingewick arrives at this exotic location and gazes in wonderment for a while before he suddenly has the idea of purchasing the medicine. (The suddenness is dictated by the English Dance material, with its exuberant upward flourish at this point in the melody.)

I am not now going for the full gypsy scale. In fact it is going to be Ab harmonic minor, but founded on Eb – so, whatever you would call that mode! The transition to discovery and return to court may be easier to manage, as that section starts in Ab major. We shall see. Don’t know what the orchestra will think of having to play in these very flat keys, but the brass and clarinets ought to be OK with it.
The very first appearance of Tingewick, about a minute into the piece, is rather cack-handed, with too many modulations. I have to have a look at this soon, and that may mean slightly adjusting the end of the Reculver theme.

The whole piece is currently coming in at 11 ½ minutes, so that’s quite respectable for a first piece in a concert/first piece after the interval.

Batch 8

Day 113

Computer has been mended this week, and also we’ve been spending a lot of time clearing up in the house, so haven’t been on Sibelius. However, have been working on both the medicine theme and transitions in and out. Also, have tidied up the original appearance of Tingewick’s theme at the beginning.

As well as the quaver movement sinuous theme there is a crotchet version. This may well appear in the cellos.

The quaver and crotchet themes will be set up as loops and play for a while before the slower version of the medicine theme comes in. When it does come in, the rhythm is somewhat adjusted to make it fit over the loops.

I tried the loops on garage band, and just about anything goes. However, it would be best to transpose some of the material a third, just to avoid too many notes in the same region.
It’s possible that Tingewick’s purchase of the medicine, by means of a new punctus of the English Dance, will occur late in the exotic version of the medicine theme, prompting a change to the original major version, with original rhythm. This will work particularly well if there is also a switch to Ab major at this point………and then the return to court section follows straight on in Ab. However, I do want that Eb resonance. So the solution is that the exotic theme has to be in Bb minor. This in turn means that the beginning of the tingewick travel section has to start on the note D# (B major) following the woodwind calls to action. Working back from that D# I find that the call to action has to start with the open fifth A# to D#. From there I have to work backwards to the end of the king theme, which must now finish with the fifth F to Bb. This all gets a bit mind boggling when it has to be done without trying it out.

One thing that’s really difficult to work out mentally is the exact chord sequence moving from the king theme, through the king getting ill, into Tingewick’s travels, trying to get the sinking thirds sequence at the end of that section to end with the right notes for the next section. It all sounds fine in the head till it comes to naming the notes, and then I find I’m out, by different intervals each time.

Anyway, the computer is now fixed and most of the clearing done, so a Sibelius opportunity may emerge soon.

Day 123
Managed to get 2 long sessions on sibelius today and have sorted out all the transitions, at least in skeleton. That is to say, simplified the original lead into Tingewick’s first appearance and shuffled the chord sequences either side of medicine (which is now in Bb minor at first, but after Tingewick’s lightbulb moment goes to Eb major) There was a lot to do making everything flow smoothly and transposing the bits that needed transposing.
For the moment the medicine section contains just about every harmony variant for every version of the theme, repeated . The next step is then to delete the unwanted lines so that it starts quite thin and gets more luxurious. I have just got clarinets on the initial quaver theme and then bring in the oboe for the crotchet theme. Horns then join with the slow , rhythmically adapted version of the theme, in dotted minims. After Tingewick buys the medicine the proper rhythm comes in and the riffs adapt . The transition to the travelling back to court theme now works fairly smoothly, with this section of the English Dance counterpointing with the end of the medicine theme.

All this means that the whole piece can now be played through in skeleton form and most of the rest of the work is orchestration, subtle adjustments to harmony, and voice leading – and of course all the dynamic and articulation markings not yet in.
It takes about 11 ½ minutes on Sibelius, which probably means 12 in performance.

Day 124

Have adjusted the transition from the King falling ill to Tingewick’s travels. King now finishes with the falling fifth c to F and Tingewick takes up with f to Bb, which becomes A#, and thence to the continuing section in B, which starts on D#.
Also trying out some different harp arpeggios in medicine section.

Day 125

Gone back to original key for the first Tingewick call. (G# minor) but with fewer bars, so there is a bit more abrupt change into first main Tingewick theme, but this seems OK.

Did a lot of tidying up of transposition errors and more or less sorted out the lead into the medicine theme. Also did a bit of work on the flute countermelody (English Dance) over the end of the Eb major medicine section. There has been a slight adjustment in the harmonic progression of the return to court section, as one bar felt rather bland, and will now feature A major chord instead of A minor. That whole section moves pretty nicely, and I like the way the build up to the royal theme starts in the lower parts. Extended the King’s illness and slowed it down. Then there are two beats before Tingewick responds, which sounds quite long when the music is that much slower.

Mostly satisfied now with key changes and general harmonic rhythm, so it will be easier to work on orchestration, etc.

Day 126

Some more adjustments to the pre-medicine section, which I think is now better paced and reflects more accurately the version playing in my mind. Also, have added 8 bars to the final King theme, with the melody in the tenor and the semiquaver runs of the previous section continuing over these 8 bars. I had been feeling that this section was a little short, meaning that the piece ended rather abruptly, and it now feels better balanced. The timing on the final bar, according to the playback window, is currently 11’58”
Day 128

Have gone back to previous keys in the first appearance of Tingewick. So after the initial Reculver theme there are scraps of the English Dance starting with B major chord and working through to start the main Tingewick theme in D minor (unchanged). Otherwise, just fixed a couple of wrong notes left over from a transposition later on in the piece.

Day 137
Have sorted the intro to first Tingewick theme OK (by ending the fifths ‘call’ on the C# of an A major chord and dropping to F and thence the D minor/F major tonality of the first Tingewick section) and done some work on the medicine section, trying to sort out how it thickens up gradually. Also tidied up transition to the monk theme.

Day 138

tightened up going into and out of medicine theme, and removed 8 bars (one playthrough of oboe theme) from the medicine section. I have changed the Tingewick countermelody over the Eb major version of this medicine theme into tuplets, or in normal parlance, duplets and upped the tempo a bit , so that the transition to tingewick going home is smoother. So now I think the timing is more reliable, and the balance is better over the whole piece. The total timing is now standing at 11.46 on the playback window, so I can tell the orchestra 12 minutes, for planning purposes.

The whole piece is there as string section, with other instruments where vital. Over the next week or two I want to colour it up a bit and also refine the accompaniments. There are sections where it’s all block chords. So me of these are OK, of course , but others are a bit boring. In any case, it’s in fairly good shape for demonstrating to the committee.
Emailed committee to let them know about the piece.

Day 139
Sent mp3s to 2 committee members who would like to hear the draft.
Recently , I’ve been working on the arrangements of Christmas carols for bassoon quartet. It would be good to get at least one of these out and about for the autumn. Deck the Halls/God Rest Ye Merry is just about OK. I have to check the appearance of the individual parts. Coventry Carol/What is this Goodly Fragrance? Has some harmony parts still to be added in the middle. The parts are not evenly distributed, and there are some nasty (ie. not intentional) consecutives to be sorted out. As we are now on holiday for two weeks I don’t hold out that much hope of getting that arrangement ready before November!
As for the overture – no new music has been added over the last fortnight, but I’ve beefed up the sound of the final section by doubling up the string parts with brass and putting in some timps. This is a temporary, ham-fisted fix just so that it doesn’t sound too feeble when played to interested parties. (My schedule allows for gradual improvement throughout the piece, over the next 10 months.)

DAy 325

Orchestration of Tingewick is nearly complete. I’ve now been working on this for over a month, and am getting close to the stage where I can go through, checking individual parts for playability, layout and appearance.

A major challenge was getting the ‘exotic medicine’ section right, not only in its actual orchestration but in the leads in and out. I also had to rewrite what I did last autumn into 12/8, which took a while. When I discovered that no harp was going to be available I had to rethink how to get that exotic, luxurious feel to this episode. I’ve done it with muted strings, dripping arpeggios on the flutes, and a solo cello doubling with the oboe in the latter part of the section. At present I’m working out whether the horns I can imagine sounding like they do in Romeo and Juliet will work here.

Otherwise, it’s mostly been a question of fleshing out the string quartet format into the brass and woodwind. (The solo passages were there all along, of course.) At this moment, the main bits remaining to be sorted are the end part of Tingewick’s return to court, leading into the recovery of the King, which needs a bit more oomph and certainly more woodwind characterisation, and the triplet ‘filling’ in the King theme, all three times it appears. I had written this roaming over an octave or so of arpeggios in the middle strings, and , at times, clarinets, but the high notes stick out too much. So I’m currently thinking I’ll try just wiggling to and fro over a third or a fourth as the case may be. That could be less obtrusive but give the same textural feel.

Looking online to check a horn note I found this wonderful resource called The Orchestra: a User’s manual, by Andrew Hugill. It has all the information you’d find in a textbook, but with audio clips and videos of actual players from the Philharmonia Orchestra demonstrating and explaining about their instruments. Glad to say there was nothing to shock me or make me think “Oh gosh, I shouldn’t have done that!”, and it is good to have ideas confirmed.

One difference between Tingewick and my previous orchestral piece, Bonn Pictures, is that this time there’s no attempt to make sure people are playing their important passages in nice keys for them. The story of Tingewick and the key plan (F to F via A and Eb) have resulted in some rather horrid keys along the way. The trumpet will have to play a solo in B major, for example. However, the conventional style and straightforward rhythm should placate the players. In my experience, what throws players most is funny time signatures (even more than nasty key signatures.)

Day 335

Tingewick is now nearly finished. Most of my recent work has been filling out parts so that the different sections of the piece balance each other better. For example, the final statements of the King Edward theme (with Tingewick’s countermelody skipping around it) and the Reculver theme, were sufficiently impressive, but the lead up to this final section was rather underwhelming, being too stringy and light. The notes are right, the gradual shift through 2/4 to 3/2 to ¾ and the rising scale over a pedal, a la sibelius works, but it all sounded quite weak in compasrison to earlier passages, so needed beefing up.
Exotic Medicine has been tweaked a bit here and there. It has to sound fairly static, but there was some too prominent rhythmic pulsing coming through from the bass area. I put in some Romeo and Juliet style pulsing horns, and provided they are played quietly enough i think this will add a bit of warmth to the second half of Exotic Medicine.
I think we can live without the side drum in the final strand of Tingewick’s journey to Reculver, as I can’t fit it in later in the piece. The triangle and cymbal (both stroked and clashed) have more to do, though.

The other thing I’m doing is balancing out the wind parts between first and second player and deciding which bits should be in unison. With the violin and viola parts, at least I can play them through to make sure they’re OK. All this needs to be done before parts are extracted.
However, at this point, if we had to print out now to play through it could be done (albeit with a few wrong notes).

So……back to the refining, and let’s hope the next entry in this blog will bring news of completion!

One final thing – it now lasts the best part of 13 minutes.”
2. The Rehearsal Stage  (from round about day 400)

The playthrough went well, with impressive sightreading from the orchestra. We ran through it at the end of a rehearsal for the June concert, with our conductor, Catherine Underwood, also sight-reading, with true genius! Afterwards, people seemed happy with their parts, with one request that I had half expected, from a clarinettist asking for an A clarinet part.  Thanks to Sibelius dual clarinet parts were quickly produced, so that these players will be able to switch clarinets to suit themselves.

Rehearsals for the autumn concert start at the end of September, with conductor Will Orr.

22 September

Rehearsals for the November concert began, and the first piece to be rehearsed under the baton of Will Orr was Tingewick.  We were fortunate to have a very good turn out from the orchestra, with a massive string section, so there was a good sound throughout, with effective crescendos, for example. Most of it worked pretty well first time round, but we will have to do a bit more on the middle section, mostly because of the tempo changes . The oboe theme in the exotic medicine section came through well today, whereas when we tried it out  last term the 12/8 section was  a bit of a muddle. The cellos are sounding particularly good in that section, too.

Will has had a brief listen to the electronic version to get an idea of the tempi, and commented how much better the live players sound than the artificial ones, an opinion I second. Sibelius doesn’t manage sul ponticello, for example, so the ‘religious life at Reculver’ section sounded much more effective today, in real life. As far as I could judge, the piece was well received by the orchestra, with several people expressing interest in the story of Nicholas Tingewick, and I was asked to say a few words about the piece.

The main thing is not to require too much rehearsal time, as the other  pieces on the programme are quite demanding. We went right through The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,   which contains some very high viola writing, and some of Carmina Burana,  so it was a pretty packed rehearsal.

7 November 2014

One day to go to the performance.

This week’s orchestra rehearsal was mostly devoted to Carmina Burana, with a quick run-through of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra after the choir left, so the last rehearsal of Tingewick was last week. All the instruments that were present were playing well, and the overall sound was good. There are still one or two wrong notes in the decorative passages, but nothing too noticeable. It will sound so much better when everything is there tomorrow.   There have been one or two minor corrections of musical typos that crept into the score before printing. The first violins had one wrong note, as did the violas. Also, our viola part had the turns in awkward places. So I made a corrected viola part and my desk partner, Peter, very kindly printed out new copies for the whole section and stapled them with his long-armed stapler. Unfortunately, I still  had a wrong-lengthed rest in our part, but that didn’t prove to be a problem.

We only stopped  a couple of times, to incorporate a trombone solo that wasn’t in front of the player on the first run-through, and later for something else, nothing major. For tomorrow the main things are to make sure Tingewick’s woodwind theme comes through against the King’s theme in the penultimate section and that the final section is just a little more majestic, not quite so fast. Will is going to see to this. I think the orchestra will be pleasantly surprised to hear the percussion parts tomorrow. They will put the icing on the cake. Also, hopefully we’ll have all  the wind players!

In total we’ve had about 2 hours on this piece and got it just about right, so my plans have worked out right.  Now all that remains is the performance!

Concert time

Saturday afternoon arrived, and with it the percussion section. Finally, all the parts were there and the rehearsal went without a hitch – just a second go at a couple of the linking passages where instruments had previously been missing.  The two oboes called me over to say how much they were enjoying their ‘snake-charming muisc’, ie. the exotic medicine section. It was, I think, the first time they ‘d both been there together.

It came as a  bit of a surprise that Tingewick was not to be first item on the programme, with that slot dedicated to The Young Person’s Guide to the  Orchestra. However, the YPG worked very well as a first item, with its stirring tune, etc.

By 7.30 the Town Hall was packed, the stage full of the huge chorus, made up of Headington Singers, EAst Oxford Community  Choir and Youth Choir, and Oxford Collaturum, and the otchestra, with our very impressive, large string section in place on the floor of the Town Hall. Will Orr welcomed everyone and called forward our local MP, Nicola Blackwood, who gave an excellent address about Dr. John Radcliffe and  the two charities we were supporting, BHF and MNDA.  From a medical family and with personal experience of the good work done at the hospital, she is also a musician and so a very suitable person to open (and close) the concert .

We carried off YPG as successfully as could have been expected, and then it was time for Tingewick. The performance was excellent. EVeryone played well, and I did not notice any majoar mistakes. The piece was very well recieved by the audience, some of whom had been a bit nervous about the ‘modern’ piece that they were about to hear. To my surprise and delight, I was presented with a lovely bouquet in the concert colours of red and purple. In fact , after Carmina Burana all the releveant people involved in that also got these bouquets, so the florists did well!


Radio Cherwell, which broadcasts to the hospitals, recorded the whole concert, so there was, fortunately, not need for m to coerce an audience member into holding my RO9 . I’ll eventually get a copyu of that recording. In the meantime, I did record the rehearsal, so I’ll try and find a few good clips to put on the soundcloud website., just to point up how much superior the live sound is to the synthesised version!

Many thanks to the orchestra and to Will for all the hard work!





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