The Sea and the Sky

The Sea and the Sky was commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra for Take a Bow in LSO St. Luke’s (June 2011) and Paris (November 2011) conducted by François-Xavier Roth.

There are numerous string groups (and an optional percussion group) in the piece.  The Grades indicated for the young players are intended as a rough guide.  Also as a guide, the numbers of players in the first performances are listed. 

  • Solos (College level) – Solo Violin and Cello
  • Group A (Grade 7-8) – Around 10-15 Violins (Viola and Cello parts are optional)
  • Group B (Grade 5-7) – Around 15-20 Violins, 6-8 Cellos (Viola and Cello parts are optional)
  • Group C (Grade 1-4) – Around 20 Violins, 4-6 Violas, 4-6 Cellos
  • Group D (Beginners) – Around 20 Violins, 4-6 Violas, 4-6 Cellos
  • Professional Strings (or Advanced Students) – 10,8,6,4,3
  • Percussion (3 players, optional). Crotales, Glockenspiel, Triangle, Tambourine, Wood Blocks, Claves, Whip, Suspended Cymbal, Snare Drum, Tenor Drum, Bass Drum


Programme Note

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky…” (from Sea-Fever by John Masefield)

I’m not a sailor myself (not counting a handful of short stints working as a musician on cruise ships) although many of my forebears were.  My appreciation of the sea is as a walker, never happier than when striding along the cliff tops in Dorset.  I love the ever-present roar of the waves, the clean, blustery air, and the vast expanses of sky, bigger even than the fenland skies of Cambridgeshire where I live. This piece reflects all those feelings and more about the sea.  The piece is in two sections: a slow passacaglia, where everything seems to shift around a constantly repeating simple tune first heard on a solo cello; and a faster section, based on what Percy Grainger might have called a “humlet” – a tiny insistent little tune that you might hum to yourself as you’re walking along the cliffs.