Forest Dances for solo violin, strings (children with professionals) and optional percussion. Duration 20 minutes.
Forest Dances was co-commissioned by Wiltshire Music Centre and The Superstrings Club and was premiered on the 25th and 26th August 2017 at Wiltshire Music Centre. The first performances were given by Simon Blendis, Superstrings, and the West of England Youth Orchestra, conducted by Timothy Redmond.
In addition to the solo violin part (intended to be played by a professional player), there are four string groups in the piece. The Grades indicated here for the young players are only a rough guide.
- SOLO VIOLIN
- DOMINANTS – (approximately Grades 4 to 6)
- SUBDOMINANTS – (approximately Grades 1 to 4)
- TONICS – (an optional part for beginners. There is sometimes a second line which is exclusively open strings)
- PROFESSIONAL GROUP – (or the strings of an advanced youth orchestra, as in the first performance)
- PERCUSSION (three players – optional) – Suspended Cymbal, Sizzle Cymbal, Tubular Bells, Snare Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum, Glockenspiel, Ceramic or Glass Windchimes, Claves, Triangle, Egg Shaker, Maracas, Tambourine, High Woodblock, Guiro, Whip.
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.
The idea to write a violin concerto came a couple of years ago, soon after a performance of my piece Fiddler’s Hill in Cheltenham Town Hall. I was attracted to the concept of adding my own experience as a violinist to the sort of multi-tiered string pieces that I’ve been working on, and when Superstrings and the West of England Youth Orchestra enthusiastically came on board, I started work. Like many of my pieces, the initial inspiration came from my love of walking, folk tales and poetry. Forests and woodlands have a mystery and atmosphere of their own, and it’s hardly surprising that the forests of folklore are full of magical and often dark happenings. The mischievous fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the sinister outcasts from Grimm, and Wagner’s terrifying dragon in the Ring; they all come from the forests where things often aren’t as they seem. I’d planned to write my own dark Grimm-inspired piece, but the music seemed to have other ideas and became brighter and more dance-like as it developed (even if it’s quite an un-square dance in the last movement!).