Piece of the Week: London Landscapes

I was born in London, but haven’t lived there since the 1970s – so when I got a commission in 2015 for a piece for the London Youth Wind Band (director Geoffrey Harniess) it seemed a great opportunity to revisit aspects of London musically. I chose to focus on things that hadn’t been built when I lived in London.

I grew up in Blackheath in South East London and to get to school near Tower Bridge I got the train to London Bridge station every day. The landscape in that part of London is now totally different – my school was in the middle of Dockland, with dockers queuing for work lining the streets. Now it is all swept away by shopping malls and apartments – and today the massive Shard points to the sky and shadows London Bridge station.

From where I lived, you could walk through Greenwich Park and through the foot-tunnel into the Isle of Dogs, which felt like a quite different country with its various docks with large ships bound for all over the world. Today the foot-tunnel is still there – but now it leads to a massive business area – Canary Wharf – built over the old docks, with the Docklands Light Railway snaking between the tower blocks and the remaining stretches of water.

And further up the Thames from my school, past Southwark Cathedral, the Thames today has an extra crossing – the Millennium Bridge linking the Tate Modern (formerly Bankside Power Station) and St. Paul’s Cathedral.

So the three movements of my London Landscapes – written for standard wind orchestra or concert band – celebrate the London of today rather than of the past.

The three movements are
Millennium Bridge – a steady procession of pedestrian sight-seers, with the occasional wobble
The Shard – firmly on the ground, yet piercing the sky
Canary Wharf – a vibrant business centre, with a hint of the watery docks on which it is built

More details here, including a recording and how to get scores.

Image: © User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0