A Village Wedding combines two different conceptual approaches; that of the program piece wherein images or activity is described by music; and that of the concerto grosso, a Baroque form which both collectively and individually showcases the players of an ensemble. In the latter case, the piece would seem to fulfill many if not all of the 18th-century requirements. After an overture, movements based on dance rhythms ensue, including the Pavane, March, Gigue, and Rigadoon. Yet the material is cast in a mold that is necessarily programmatic. The Overture, with its opening solemnity, birdsong trills, and developing energy, is intended to describe the bright Sunday morning of a country village, along with the excitement and bustle of wedding preparations. The _Meditation_’s searching cadenza and pensive sweetness exhorts the attendants to send out their blessings to the bride and groom, while the Processional calls the wedding party to the altar. The Dance at the end paints a fiddler’s paradise of flying knees and elbows to jigs and reels as the whole village joins in the revelry.
The piece is dedicated to the composer’s fiancée Erica, and acknowledges with gratitude and appreciation the dedication and excellence of the members of the YPCO.
Using the baroque concerto as a model, this work is designed to feature a baritone voice, of which bassoon, baritone saxophone, and even bass clarinet would work effectively as soloists. The key of B minor was chosen for its ease of playing and dark yet resonant qualities in the string ensemble. The first movement is a deviation from the traditional form of theme-and-variations, in which the theme is expressed with ever-accelerating note values while maintaining the same steady tempo. First, a somber statement in quarter-note octaves arcs across the landscape of strings, from basses and cellos to the first violins and back, then picked up and transformed by the cello solo with an edge of longing. The icy second statement of the theme in eighth notes allows the cello to push against the ensemble a little in the contrast of the solo string tone, while the warm triplets of the third statement give the ensemble a chance to work out. The brief cadenza that follows pushes the theme from quarter notes to eighths to triplets, finally settling on the 16th notes that drive the theme to a bustling conclusion.
The second movement relies on simplicity in its use of the ABA aria form. The cello’s gentle but indulgent melody floats over a cushion of pulsing chords. The strings introduce a countermelody in triplets that leads up to a solemn chordal statement, and then becomes a factor in the development of the original melody.
The concluding rondo blends both the modern and baroque concepts of the “hook,” a catchy phrase that sticks in the mind because of some unusual note. In this case, the snag is a diminished 5th, more common to the blues than to the baroque concerto. Here it is explored using all of the opportunities that the freedom of the rondo form allows, boldly stated at the beginning, punctuating episodes of development, sneaking in at times where it is least expected, then bringing the movement to a close with a feeling of unsettled finality.
This musical analogy to the physical phenomenon of light breaking up is written in a pointillistic style, with sinuous melodic fragments leaping across the piano keyboard in jagged cross-rhythmic dancing. Angular counter- melodies are provided by a chamber orchestra of single winds and brass with 14 strings in this single movement.
The idea of diffractions is represented in sound by the piano, central and prominent, exploiting an aspect of its technique to which it is ideally suited: rapid changes of direction and wide intervallic leaps with extreme dynamics. The orchestra provides bands of coloured spectra forming an integrated texture. The melody, oscillating and colourful is sometimes pointillistic and at other times it flows into longer continuous phrases.
Diffractions is essentially an abstract work in one continuous movement.
Composed in March 1992 and dedicated to the memory of Gavin Saunders. The first two movements comprise simple canons at the unison, with interludes, while the third is a chorale. Commissioned by Gary Bowler with funding from Creative New Zealand for the Hastings Youth Orchestra, who gave the first performance later that year.