Piece of the week: ‘The White Peak’

As we move into May, many of us start to anticipate holidays, and a visit to Derbyshire often comes to the top of my wish-list. I was introduced to the Peak District as a child on family holidays, and later on we took our own young family on many Peak District Holidays too.  In my youth I remember the steam trains puffing across the viaducts and along the river valleys – today the same routes have become cycle paths and walking tracks, but somehow the charm of nature co-existing with industrialisation has not completely evaporated.

For many years my friend from student days at the RCM, Andrew Hodkinson, has lived in the Peak District, and it was he who commissioned this work for the North-West Derbyshire Youth String Orchestra in 1989, who first performed it in Buxton. It was a lovely request, because it enabled me to reflect many aspects of that part of Derbyshire of which I have become so fond.

The White Peak is a suite in five movements for string orchestra, and paints a picture of Derbyshire’s scenic beauty. In the first movement, Dovedale, the river Dove winds its way through various dales and under the striking rock formations of Dovedale itself – all a bit like an English and less grand ‘Vltava’.  The second movement Tissington Trail portrays what is now a cycle path, where you can hire a bike for an afternoon ride, but as the cycles bowl along smoothly you can hear echoes of the steam trains from the track’s former life.  For the third movement we move back several thousand years, to the mysterious prehistoric stone circle known as Arbor Low, at the top of a wind-swept and often misty ridge. A few miles away from Arbor Low is Chatsworth, and the fourth movement – The Duchess of Devonshire’s Minuet – suggests an eighteenth-century time of spaciousness and elegance enjoyed by the Devonshire family in their stately home. And finally the last movement, Bakewell Market, brings us into our own times as the busy town gears up for the Monday market.

So, in anticipation of holiday mode, I hope you enjoy this unashamedly pictorial piece!

Here’s a link to a digital recording with scrolling score. 

And here’s a link to details of the piece (with a link to a live recording)