Piece of the Week 70: Six Dances for Small Orchestra

I have always had a slightly secret love for what used to be called ‘British Light Music’ – composers like Eric Coates, Ronald Binge, Robert Farnon, etc. These were pieces designed for sheer enjoyment, penned by composers who knew how to orchestrate and had a convincing harmonic command.

I suppose that musical influence has sometimes appeared in my own pieces, perhaps most obviously in Recipes for recorder, particularly in the arrangement for recorder and strings that I did for a John Turner CD some years ago. Much more recently I was able to re-publish my set of piano duets, Six Dances for Four Hands (see Piece of the Week 35), and a few weeks ago I thought it would be rather fun to rearrange these pieces for small orchestra, now titled Six Dances for Small Orchestra.

The process of writing and arranging music for orchestra has changed considerably during my composing career, though of course the basics remain the same – so today, with my trusty laptop, I can sit on the sofa and arrange away, produce the orchestral score and parts, and also – and this is a wonderful experience for composers who don’t have easy access to an orchestra – produce a reasonable sounding recording.  Some composers and producers, of course, have thousands of pounds worth of computer software, sampling the best orchestras of the world – I just have £100-worth of software called ‘NotePerformer’ which runs in tandem with the Sibelius notation programme and produces a surprisingly good result out of the box, and even better with a little tweaking. Of course it’s not quite like a proper orchestra in a concert hall, but it’s considerably better than nothing!

When I looked again at the piano duet version when I was writing ‘Piece of the Week 35’, I commented on how I must have been influenced by the French piano duet tradition of Fauré and others – but now I listen to them in orchestral clothing, it seems that they are perhaps closer to the British light music tradition. So, chameleon-like, perhaps there’s little originality in them at all – but I hope you enjoy them!

Here’s a link to a scrolling score on YouTube (you need good eyesight or a large screen to see the music), and here is a link to the music on Soundcloud. And if by any chance you happen to have an orchestra at your command, you can get the score and parts here, or by contacting me direct. (They are scored for 2 Flutes, 1 Oboe, 2 Clarinets, 1 Bassoon, 2 Horns, 1 Trumpet, and Strings.)