Fiddler’s Hill

Fiddler’s Hill for strings (children with professionals).  Duration 12 minutes.

Fiddler’s Hill was commissioned by Superstrings and the friends of the Wiltshire and Swindon Youth Orchestra supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.  The first performances were given by Superstrings and the Wiltshire and Swindon Youth Orchestra conducted by Timothy Redmond on the 29th August 2014 in the Wiltshire Music Centre, Bradford on Avon and on the 30th August 2014 in Salisbury City Hall.

There are four string groups in the piece.  The Grades indicated for the young players are only intended as a rough guide.

  • DOMINANTS – (approximately Grades 4 to 6)
  • SUBDOMINANTS – (approximately Grades 1 to 4)  
  • TONICS – (beginners.  There is an optional second line for younger players)
  • PROFESSIONAL GROUP – (or the strings of an advanced youth orchestra, as in the first performance)
  • PERCUSSION (three players – optional). Glockenspiel, claves, tambourine, triangle (more than one triangle may be needed), high shaker, finger cymbals, suspended cymbal, snare drum, tenor drum and bass drum.

There are optional 3rd Violin parts in the DOMINANTS and SUBDOMINANTS, in place of violas.  The viola parts are very often doubled in the violin and cello parts, so only a few players are needed.

Programme note:

Folk tales, poetry and landscape are frequent starting points for my pieces, but often the music takes over and leads me to different and unexpected places.  This was the case with Fiddler’s Hill, named after an easily missed bump in the landscape (actually a prehistoric burial mound) in North Norfolk.  The story goes that a certain Jimmy Griggs and his dog Trap, on the hunt for a ghost, entered a tunnel that is said to have run from Binham Priory to Walsingham.  Jimmy played his fiddle all the way so that the nervous locals could follow his progress from above ground, until the music suddenly stopped (at the place now called Fiddler’s Hill) and Jimmy was never seen again.  When Superstrings asked me to write another piece for them after the success of The Gypsy’s Violin, this tale seemed to be the perfect excuse for some spirited folky fiddling.  However, my fiddle tunes took over and the story was gradually forgotten, leaving just a couple of distant calls from an offstage violinist near the beginning and the end of the piece as a reminder of poor Jimmy’s fate.