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John Harle

Publisher: Chester Music

City Solstice: a song for London Bridge (2009),
Work Notes
commissioned by The City of London Corporation for The City of London Festival 2009, and is dedicated, with thanks, to Ian Ritchie
Text Writer
Tom Pickard
Publisher
Chester Music Ltd
Category
Chorus and Orchestra/Ensemble
Year Composed
2009
Duration
18 Minutes
Chorus
SATB
Solo Instrument(s)
treble, alto, soprano saxophone
Orchestration
Availability


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Programme Note
John Harle City Solstice: a song for London Bridge (2009),
City Solstice celebrates the 800th anniversary of the construction of various bridges on
the site of the current London Bridge. The difficulty of erecting sturdy constructions on
this bend in the Thames, where the currents are particularly strong, has led to a rich seam
of stories about the bridges, passed on through history, myth and folklore.

What are thought to be the original words of 'London Bridge is falling down' carry much
of the references to materials used in building the original bridges - wood and stone,
gravel and stone, and then later, iron and steel. The lines my fair lady, dance over my lady
lea (or lee ) and with a gay lady , are thought to refer to Matilda of Scotland (c.1080-
1118), consort of Henry I, and who was responsible for building the series of bridges that
carried the London to Colchester road across the River Lea.

King (Saint) Olaf II of Norway figures prominently in the destruction of the bridge after
its occupation by the Danes around 1013. Coming to the assistance of Aethelred, Olaf
is thought to have pulled the bridge down into the Thames, along with its occupying
Danes, rather than fight on the bridge itself. There is a line in the Norse saga The
Heimskringla that refers to London Bridge being broken down.


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Performances
Date
Title
Reviews
... lushly harmonised and ecstatically passionate...
Richard Morrison, The Times,6/24/2009
There is much cleverness in Harle's setting, especially in the interweaving of traditional London folksongs (especially "London Bridge is falling down") and the entwining of Sebastian Johns's commendable steady treble voice...
Guy Dammann, The Guardian,6/24/2009
Harle's City Solstice (text by Tom Pickard), an affectionate tribute to London Bridge, just around the corner from the concert venue, springs some clever suprises: the high note of a treble (the assured Sebastian Johns) morphs into the keening lament of the alto saxophone (Harle himself), while the final bars play tricks with on- and off-stage voices.
Barry Millington, The Evening Standard,6/23/2009
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