Fenella's Homemade Concert #14

12 June 2020, Llandyssil

Tuesday 2 June was a warm day. It had been warm for a while and I had gotten quite used to being in the garden. The only time I’m really capable of doing nothing is when the sun is out. Despite that, it was coming up for evening time, I had just cracked a beer and was in need of some mental stimulation. (Garden conversation tends to be limited to bird calls, sheep cries and the odd rhythmical intervention from a woodpecker, none of which am I particularly adept at conversing in.)

It must have only been two weeks since I’d received an email from Fenella, asking if I happened to have any unaccompanied violin pieces hiding away (I didn’t). So, I thought, “go and get that lovely hardback Moleskine book you have and you can write something for Fenella right here, in the sunshine.” I’m not usually very good at working outside but, this felt different. I wanted to write something short and brisk, and I already had a suitable motif circling. Fast forward half an hour or so, and the piece was finished. What was on the page was a direct transcription of an improvisation that had taken place in my head, albeit in slow motion. Why not just leave it at that then? 

The following morning, I typed it out and sent it to Fenella. She replied just a few hours later with one of the best responses a composer could hope for: “This has made me actually want to get my violin out for the first time in days.” Well, mission complete! 

Before even a week had passed, Fenella got in touch to say she would be programming the new piece in her next Homemade Concert. This is by far the quickest turn around I have ever experienced (a Coronavirus positive, perhaps?). Fenella has been very active since Lockdown began, as I’m sure many of you already know, putting out concerts every Wednesday and Sunday from the comfort of her own living room. These concerts are a wonderful opportunity for audiences to experience Fenella’s exquisite versatility and enthusiasm, as well as to discover new works by a whole range of composers. I felt honoured to be asked to be a part of it. 

This particular concert – number fourteen in the series – was to feature music by Ben Gaunt, Richard Alan Searle and myself. Ben had written a piece called Nostalgic Spellsphere, an inherently circular piece of music that uses repetition to realise hypnotic effects. Meanwhile, Richard had written a piece called Variation After Variation, which is a reaction to Fenella’s recent Paganini project. You can hear more about that here (scroll down to watch the video). And last but not least then, my piece: One, Two, Bakerloo… 

Intended as an encore piece, this bagatelle is a minimalist collision of additive melody and metamorphosis techniques. The title is derived from an unfinished (sixteenth century) poem that’s featured in The Little Book of Mornington Crescent. It reads:

One, two, Bakerloo
Three, four