Elegy for Strings

Eccles Center

The Eccles Center, Park City, Utah
26th July 2010
for Martin, Jenny, Ian, Jayne and their families

What is it?

Elegy is a single-movement piece for a conventional string orchestra, lasting about ten-and-a-half minutes. It has been compared favourably with such well-known works as Samuel Barber’s 'Adagio for Strings' and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 'Fantasia on a theme of Thomas Tallis'.

From a technical point of view it is within the capabilities of a reasonably proficient high school chamber orchestra (as was demonstrated in April 2015 by the chamber orchestra of Park City High School, Utah), although its frequent changes of time signature require careful attention.


For the purposes of this video I have attempted to reconstruct as accurately as possible the sound of the performance given on 16th April 2015 in the George S. & Dolores Dore Eccles Centre Theatre, Park City, Utah by the Chamber Orchestra of Park City High School, rehearsed under the baton of Scott Tanner and conducted on the night by myself.

My sincere thanks to the Park City Education Foundation for providing the grant that paid for my visit to Park City and to the Stein Eriksen Lodge, Deer Valley, for accommodating me free of charge.


South Wales

South Wales:
Swansea valley, looking towards Cribarth

Elegy is the result of an improvisation. One could say that it was composed in the ten-and-a-half minutes that it took me to play it. I have made minor adjustments subsequently but it remains essentially as I first played it. In the early summer of 2010 two friends of mine lost their mothers. Jenny's mum had been ill for a long time and while distressing for the family, her death was not entirely unexpected. Jayne's mum died in a road accident near the city of Bath in the south of England. That was a tremendous shock for her family. Coincidentally the two funerals were scheduled to take place at the same time: one in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, in the south of England; the other in Swansea, Wales. It seemed right to pray for the two families, but no words came to me. So I sat at my keyboard and started to play. It is not normally my habit to record what I play, but for whatever reason I did on this occasion.

I'm not sure what I expected to hear when I listened to the recording, but I found myself listening to music that seemed to have come fully formed out of nowhere. I sent it to a few people whose musical judgement I trust. The responses that I received compared the piece to works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Tavener, Samuel Barber and George Butterworth.

As a child I had dreamed of becoming a composer. Elegy made me realise - finally - that I had achieved that ambition.


The composer, with leader Madeline Knauer and
other players who performed 'Elegy' in Park City

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