Wind Orchestra, 5'
Held for an entire week during December, the festival of Saturnalia was one of the most anticipated events in the calendars of ancient Rome. When Emperor Augustus tried to limit the festivities to only three days, the people took to rioting in the streets. It is that sense of wild merriment that I wanted to capture in this, my first work for wind orchestra. Written in honour of the BBC Elstree Concert Band's 25th anniversary, Saturnalia is a dynamic showpiece for the whole ensemble, focussing upon the theme of celebration and commemoration.
The French horns, as much the backbone of the wind orchestra as its symphonic counterpart, are at the centre of this work and are responsible for heralding the beginning of new sections. The grandiose chorale and fanfare with which they open the piece reappears at the start of the allegro (the passage that forms the bulk of Saturnalia), re-imagined in playful syncopation. Traditionally, during the festival, the Roman slaves were allowed time off and the rare opportunity to poke fun at their masters by seeming to assume a higher social status: Throughout the piece, the bulk of the music lies in a steady, stately 2/2, while musical lines in 3 continuously and mischievously propel themselves across the bar-line, undermining the solid, simple-time pulse. The festivities become ever wilder as the piece unfolds, leading to a climactic restatement of the opening music, as Rome concludes its revelries with tremendous ceremony and a restoration of its social order.
Saturnalia was commissioned by Andrew Morley and Georgina Hajdu for the BBC Elstree Concert Band. The piece received its world premiere as part of the orchestra's 25th Anniversary Concert on 3rd December 2011 at the Parish Church of St Pancras, London.