A percussion concerto in six movements, with five brief instrumental 'ghosts' interspersed.
During the percussion concerto, 'a table of noises', the percussionist will, for the most part, be seated on a cajon (a box-like instrument most often used in flamenco). At other times he will play the xylophone and finally the glockenspiel, but all the other instruments will be laid out on a table in front of the soloist; hence the title. The piece is based on my memories of my great uncle Ash (Ashworth Hutton, from my father's side of the family) who was, amongst many other things, a taxidermist. The movements are as follows:
1] 'Jute' is a rough material with which my great uncle Ash would stuff the animal skins. This movement is essentially full of the material used throughout the entire concerto.
'ghost one' is a brief orchestral interlude (the soloist remains silent throughout all the ghost interludes), and is scored for alto flute and cellos. The ghosts are visitors to the scene. Who they are is open to question.
2] 'fly' was the name of Ash's dog who used to fall asleep stood up, staring into the fire, hypnotised by the flames. This movement involves a virtuoso xylophone part for the percussion soloist.
'ghost two' is a brief, purely orchestral interlude, scored for oboe, contra bassoon and violas.
3] 'a drawer full of eyes' (often when we would visit Ash, his bed would have to be changed and on one particular occasion, in searching for fresh bedding, my mother opened a drawer in Ash's bedroom tallboy and discovered thousands of false eyes for foxes, kingfishers, stoats, etc. staring back at her).
'ghost three' is the next orchestral interlude, scored for brass and the 2 orchestral percussionists on glockenspiels.
4] 'Skennin' Mary' (this lady was one of my great uncle's neighbours. She had a glass eye which would spin when she got angry. The percussionist is again on xylophone only. It comprises a wild, swirling scherzo of manic intensity.
'ghost four' is scored for the two piccolos and the double basses playing only harmonics.
5] cadenza: 'table top'. Ash's parlour table was covered with items essential for his existence. He was severely crippled in one leg and walked everywhere on a crutch swinging his gammy leg about him and so needed everything to hand. This is an extended solo for the percussionist but the fifth 'ghost' pays a visit in the form of a bass clarinet.
6] 'under glass'. A lot of his stuffed animals would end up displayed under a glass dome, usually with photos of loved ones propped up against them. He once gave me a stoat with a grass snake wrapped round it, which I kept on my bedside table for years through my early teens.
c. 28 minutes
© Simon Holt
Click here to listen to Colin Currie talk to Edward Seckerson about his percussion commissions including 'a table of noises'