Dances and Alleluias

Dances and Alleluias was commissioned by the British Federation of Brass Bands for the inaugural English National Brass Band Championships, held in the Lyric Theatre at The Lowry, Salford Quays, on July 1st 2006. 


My chief concern when writing Dances and Alleluias was that I knew I couldn’t continue the line of thought that had led to Music of the Spheres, a piece which had taken me about as far as I currently could (or wanted to) go in terms of scale and virtuosity. In addition, I wanted to write ‘absolute’ music rather than a programmatic piece but keep the same emotional journey which is for me the most important aspect of Spheres. 

My first idea for the new piece was a final ‘alleluia’ - I didn’t imagine any specific religious connection but wanted the slow music to be vocal in nature and ecstatic in mood, as that word implies. It was then logical to intersperse the slow music with faster dances. 

The work opens with a very quiet unison passage, leading to the first alleluia, which is intoned by horns and trombones. It’s not clear here whether the music is fast or slow and this ambiguity continues until the first dance is reached at bar 51. This reaches a climax but is interrupted by a euphonium cadenza which leads to the second alleluia, sung first by trombone and then euphonium and soprano cornet. This again reaches an emotional peak which dissolves into a second dance, in the form of a nimble and delicate scherzo. Despite a turbulent central section the scherzo ends quietly before a baritone introduces a chorale-like episode for the lower half of the band. A solo cornet then begins the final alleluia section which builds to a passionate close.