This work was written for and dedicated to Kathryn Tickell, in admiration and respect for her work in making her home county come alive with a reawakened awareness of its own musical heritage, and of inexhaustible developments and transformations of its traditions.
Its inspiration was an event at the Kettletoft Inn, Sanday, Orkney – the island where I live – in the late summer of 2005. On a Sunday afternoon, after a long spate of horrible weather, the sun suddenly appeared, and everyone rushed out of the pub, musical instruments appeared, and spontaneous dancing broke out in the street – from sheer joy, relief and pleasure at the presence of bright light after such prolonged glower.
It was a challenging work to write. I have kept the traditional tonic-dominant drones, and meticulously respected the pipes’ established range and register, resulting in tonal-modal music in which the Northumbrian pipes probably take on something of any Orcadian accent.
A slow introduction on the strings leads into a dancing ‘allegro moderato’ in which the pipes and cor anglais alternate as soloist. An adagio follows without a break, which has something of the character of a Scottish lament. Next, a scherzo, which emphasises the augmented fourth of the scale where the melody rises, and the perfect fourth in descent. The work closes with a valedictory epilogue, slow and measured.
(c) Peter Maxwell Davies, 2006