Concert Overtures
and Symphonic Fanfare

Poster for the premiere of Andrew Downes' Overture, In The Cotswolds, commissioned by the Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra, to perform at the opening concert of the Three Choirs Festival under Mark Foster in 1986




PREMIERES:


Festival Overture for St Céré

24th February 1976

Birmingham School of Music Recital Hall
Birmingham School of Music Symphony Orchestra
Conductor - Frank Downes


Overture: In the Cotswolds

16th August 1986
Gloucester Cathedral, Three Choirs Festival
Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra
Conductor - Mark Foster


Overture: Towards a New Age
28th January 1997
Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor - Andrew Constantine


Symphonic Fanfare: In a Modern City
November 1976
Recorded on cassette
Birmingham School of Music
BSM Symphony Orchestra
Conductor - Harold Grey
28th January 2024 First public performance
Bradshaw Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Central England Ensemble
Conductor - Anthony Bradbury

More information and sheet music

Have you performed in any of these works or come to watch? Please share below!

Follow Cynthia Downes on Instagram to keep up-to-date with her blog posts.


An account by Andrew's wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on September 29th, 2021


FESTIVAL OVERTURE FOR ST CERE Opus 8 (1975)
 

flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, timpani, strings
More info

In August 1976 the Symphony Orchestra of the Birmingham School of Music (now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) went to St Céré in the Dordogne, France, to play in the celebrated International Music Festival there.  The trip was organised by Andrew’s father, Frank Downes, the Director of the Orchestra (and also Head of Orchestral Studies at the college).  Frank asked Andrew to compose an Overture for the opening concert of the Festival.
 
In preparation, the exciting Overture which Andrew composed was first performed by the Birmingham School of Music Symphony Orchestra, directed by Frank, on February 24th 1976 in the Recital Hall of the School of Music.  These performers then broadcast the work live on BBC Radio from the Centre for the Arts at Aston University on March 10th 1976.  They gave the French premiere at the Château de Montal, St Céré, on August 5th 1976.

Andrew and I, as well as Andrew’s mother Iris, went on the trip. That was the year England experienced the worst and longest heatwave ever recorded.  The Dordogne area of France was cooler, to our great relief!  I had plenty of opportunities to speak French, not least when interpreting in the local hospital when students got ill…

Right to left: Frank Downes, Cynthia Downes, Iris Downes

Château de Montal

Frank conducting the orchestra in rehearsal

We had a lovely time at the Festival. I sang in the choir for the performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Andrew sang as soloist in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms!

The Overture opened the Festival in an open air concert outside the Château de Montal and was a great success.  I was in the early stages of pregnancy and suffered sickness during the performance, so I had to run out of the concert, scrunching on the pebbles of the Château’s outdoor venue as I went.  I had to silence protesting audience members by whispering, “je vais vomir!” (I’m going to be sick!)  My exit didn’t detract from the audience’s appreciation of the music, fortunately.  The following article appeared in the newspaper next day:

'La musique en est détendue, agréable, comme il sied pour un soir de vacances. L'auteur ne s'écarte jamais d'un évident parti-pris de simplicité et de clarté. Sa musique s'écoute donc sans effort.
'

'The music is relaxed, pleasant, as befits a holiday evening. The composer never moves away from an obvious preference for simplicity and clarity. His music is therefore listened to without effort.' 


LA DEPECHE DU MIDI

Advertising before the concert:


Programme for the Festival Concert including Andrew's Overture:


Programme for the Festival Concert including Bernstein's Chichester Psalms:


Review of the Overture:



In those days Andrew wrote his music out by hand, often in blue biro, and so it sat in a trunk in our music room until eventually, benefiting from the wondrous advances in technology, we asked Paul Trippett, our daughter Paula's cousin-in-law, to typeset it, and I proofread it.

Paula then created a multitrack recording of the work, mixing her violin and viola playing with synthesised sounds, in May 2020, releasing it on souncloud as part of #andrewdownes70.  It was very exciting to hear this work come to life again after all those years!

In April 2021, Anna’s professional Orchestra, Central England Camerata, socially distanced, recorded the Overture in the Countess of Huntington Hall, Worcester.  The players were delighted to be booked for the recording, having had few opportunities for work due to Covid-19.  The recording was launched on YouTube one month later, put together with films of the Château de Montal and the St Céré area by Paula.



SYMPHONIC FANFARE: IN A MODERN CITY Opus 8a (1976) 
For large scale symphony orchestra: 3 flutes (flute 3 doubling piccolo), 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, harp, strings

In the autumn following the performance of the Overture for St Céré, Andrew composed his Symphonic Fanfare as a tribute to the City of Birmingham UK.  I was really taken with the Fanfare, especially by Andrew's use of unrelated chords in the brass and woodwind at the beginning of the work.  Andrew was very excited to take his carefully handwritten score and parts to the Birmingham School of Music to hear it performed.

It was rehearsed and recorded on cassette tape at the School of Music (now Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) by the Birmingham School of Music Symphony Orchestra, directed by CBSO Associate Conductor, Harold Grey.  Andrew was very disappointed by the reaction of his Dad, Frank Downes (who was Head of Orchestral studies at the BSM) and that of the Vice Principal.  He felt that the work wouldn't go any further without their backing, and he went on to other compositions.  The handwritten score went into our trunk containing earlier compositions by Andrew.  Interestingly, Harold Grey kept his copy of the score.

The cassette recording was rediscovered by our daughter Paula in 2022!  She was transferring Andrew's Sonata for 13 Brass from cassette tape to mp3.  When the piece finished, the cassette switched to some music which had been recorded over.  Paula was convinced the music sounded like Andrew Downes.  She asked Andrew and myself what it was and we recognised it immediately as the Symphonic Fanfare.  Paula asked her cousin-in-law Paul Trippett to typeset the original pencil score, and I proof-read it. 

memorialconcertflyer.jpg

Following Andrew's devastating and untimely death on 2nd January 2023, our daughter Anna organised a Memorial Concert for him.  She too was taken with In a Modern City and decided to start the Memorial Concert with the first public performance of the Symphonic Fanfare. The Memorial Concert took place in the Bradshaw Hall of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire on 28th January 2024.  Anna's orchestra, Central England Ensemble, which Anna founded and leads, conducted by Anthony Bradbury, were the performers.  I played in the concert.  We also performed Andrew's Centenary Firedances, Piano Concerto, with soloist Duncan Honebourne, and Celtic Rhapsody, with Paula the soprano soloist.  It was magical and full of emotion for everyone there, performers and audience alike.

Paula's account of her discovery of Symphonic Fanfare: In a Modern City can be read in the following programme:

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Memorialconcertprog2.jpg

After the concert, Anna wrote to all the performers on social media: "Dad, I think we did you proud tonight. Central England Ensemble, Paula Downes and Duncan Honeybourne played out of their socks, directed so expertly by my gorgeous Partner in crime Anthony Bradbury - we had such a fabulous time playing your amazing music.  You are so missed, but your music lives on."

Paula wrote: "I loved singing in Andrew Downes' Celtic Rhapsody with Central England Ensemble for my Dad's Memorial Concert last night.  Thank you so much to Anna Downes for organising such a wonderful event.  My Dad was definitely there and I am missing him a lot today." 

I wrote to the performers: "Andrew would have been overwhelmed by your wonderful performances of his music last night!  I'm sure he was there.  Every one involved gave your all and performed absolutely brilliantly.  I can't thank you all enough.  You are all stars"

Here are just a few of the messages we received on social media, from audience members and performers:

"Bravo... hugely emotional evening. Your fabulous Dad was and still is a 'legend' in my world."

"It was brilliant."

"I loved playing every second.  He's incredibly missed, but we could feel him beaming with pride tonight."

"What a day/evening... Feeling a bit emotional after a beautiful concert.  Was tearing up, because of the feeling of unity and the gorgeous sounds emanating from all corners of the orchestra within Andrew's music."

"Fantastic concert, Anna. A privilege to have heard it."

"What an evening! Thank you so much."

"It was a wonderful concert, all beautiful pieces. Congratulations everyone!"

"Fantastic! Andrew would be so thrilled. Well done everyone!"

"It was such an honour to play Andrew's music last night. Thank you Anna and Anthony."

"Bravo Andrew! Your incredible musical soul lives on in all our lives."

"You did do him proud Anna. It was lovely to hear so much of Andrew's music."

"A brilliant occasion - enjoyed by all of the Aldridge Grammar School contingent."

"Super concert of wonderful music. Thank you to everyone involved."

"It is always a huge privilege and pleasure to play in CEE, and even more so to play an entire concert dedicated to Andrew and his music which was just fantastic.  Anna, Paula and Cynthia, I am full of admiration for you all on what must have been a very emotional occasion."

"I had an absolute ball!"

"It was fabulous... it's such a spectacular repertoire! You did Andrew proud!"

"It was so wonderful to play.  I felt very honoured to be playing Andrew's music for an entire concert.  My 14 year old daughter has not stopped raving about it!"


Central England Camerata, founder and leader Anna Downes, musical director Anthony Bradbury, are due to re-record the work in 2024.



OVERTURE: IN THE COTSWOLDS Opus 36 (1986)   

4 flutes, 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, percussion (4 players), strings


More info

One of my early ambitions for Andrew was a performance of his music in the Three Choirs Festival.  My wish was fulfilled in 1986.  A colleague of Andrew’s at the Birmingham School of Music, Mark Foster, was also  Director of the Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra, who were due to perform at the opening concert of the Three Choirs Festival.  Mark asked Andrew to compose an overture for it.  
The cathedral was packed for the occasion and there was a real buzz in the air before the orchestra struck up.

'Downes talent is unquestionably a lyrical one, as is immediately demonstrated in the work's evocation of the Cotswold landscape in the song-like opening melody for strings...it stilled Gloucester Cathedral before the first bar-line had been reached. But as if fully aware of this picture postcard world, Downes soon clouds his musical vocabulary with more jagged, strident, wholly 20th century utterances depicting the modern world of the town. The climax comes when the two sound worlds are set against each other, with the enduring beauty of the Cotswold landscape triumphing over all assaults. Instrumentation is lavishly bold and technicoloured...'   CLASSICAL MUSIC FORTNIGHTLY.


Advertisement in The Musical Times:


Preview in the Birmingham Post:


Communication from Andrew to Louis Carus, Principal of Birmingham School of Music:


Correspondence with the conductor, Mark Foster:


Three Choirs Festival brochure, programme, and letter:


Invitation to pre-concert reception:


Review:


Letter to Andrew from an orchestral player:


Letter from conductor Mark Foster about another performance at the Stroud Festival:


In July 1996, the Overture was chosen by the conductors of our daughters’ Youth Orchestra, the Dudley Schools Symphony Orchestra, for their concert in the National Festival of Music for Youth in the Royal Festival Hall, London.  We were all very excited to go down to London for the event.  Our daughters were in the first violins and Anna led the orchestra. They played wonderfully.


In 2001, Anna founded her own orchestra, Central England Ensemble, which still exists today.  I have played in most of its concerts and was thrilled to take part in their performance of In The Cotswolds, conducted by Lee Armstrong, in Carrs Lane Centre, Birmingham, in June 2012. The critic, Maggie Cotton, really liked the work:

‘…our imaginations were teased by Andrew Downes’ overture In the Cotswolds: Gloucestershire lyricism, deliciously user-friendly.  Sunny pastoral scenes, horn solos, then diminishing pianissimos disappearing to delightful oblivion: smiles all round.’   BIRMINGHAM POST


Poster for a performance by the Central England Ensemble:


Programme for the performance by Central England Ensemble:


Review in the Birmingham Post of a performance by Central England Ensemble:


In 2013 Andrew received a large sum of money by way of compensation for the clinical negligence he had suffered at Russells Hall Hospital, where doctors failed to recognise over many hours that he had broken his back, leaving him paralysed.  When the compensation came, I suggested to Andrew that we should use some of it to hire the services of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to record Andrew’s Symphonies 1-4 and 2 Overtures.  At the time Ondrej Vrabec, Principal Horn of the Orchestra and great friend of Andrew’s, had become Associate Conductor of the Orchestra.  He was thrilled to be asked to conduct Andrew’s works and booked the best recording engineer and producer, as well as the best extra players required.

So, in February 2015, this Overture was recorded in the Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Ondrej Vrabec, as part of a 2 CDs set of 4 symphonies and 2 overtures by Andrew Downes, all recorded in the spring of 2015 on the Artesmon label.  We weren’t able to go to the recording because of Andrew’s paraplegia, but the engineers in Prague and our computer repair man here set up streaming and skype for us to watch the recording and make comments.  The set of 2 CDs and one Documentary DVD were launched in the Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, on 1st December 2015.  The CDs were launched on iTunes on March 18th 2016 and voted CD of the Month of March 2016 by Czech Music Direct.  The UK launch, organised by Laurence Lewis of Czech Music Direct, took place on 17th April 2016 at the National Film Theatre, London, where excerpts were played and the Documentary DVD was shown, together with Paula’s films portraying Andrews' Songs from Spoon River and also an excerpt from the DVD of Andrew's opera, Far from the Madding Crowd.  Paula and her husband David Trippett were interviewed by Laurence Lewis about the songs, which David had accompanied, and the opera, which David had conducted and in which Paula sang the part of Bathsheba.  Anna also gave a talk about the up-coming Andrew Downes 65th Birthday concert which she was organising in Birmingham Cathedral, featuring Symphony no 1.  It was a thrilling day for us all and a great success!





Photos of the launch by Caroline Carsky:

Laurence Lewis of Czech Music Direct

Paula being interviewed by Lawrence

After the Launch: Left to right: Anna Downes, Andrew Downes, Cynthia Downes

Left to right: Anna Downes, Andrew Downes, Cynthia Downes, David Trippett, Paula Downes


Display of Copies and CDs by Cynthia Downes

After-Party in the bar

Press:

ffmcnft1.jpg
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'Symphonies and Overtures by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.'  CZECH MUSIC DIRECT

'...the Cotswolds Overture.. is earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway.


'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions.  There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   


'This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.'
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL



‘… a real find  …  rarely can contemporary music deserve more exposure than these colourful characterful pieces … uses percussion and seductive Arnoldian tunes in the most beguiling of fashions … these discs will persuade the receptive listener that Downes has a truly individual voice … a solid addition to the canon of such works. 

cdchoice.co.uk


On January 2nd 2023, Andrew tragically died.  The following day, Anna Joubert, daughter of composer Jean Joubert, contacted Petroc Trelawny at BBC Radio 3.  He announced the sad news and played In the Cotswolds from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra CD as a tribute to Andrew.



CONCERT OVERTURE 'TOWARDS A NEW AGE' Opus 60 (1996) 

full Symphony Orchestra
More info and sheet music

In 1997 the Institution of Mechanical Engineers celebrated their 150th anniversary with a grand concert in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.  For the event they asked Andrew to compose an overture.  Andrew was absolutely delighted.  Since we were so close to the Millennium I suggested the title to Andrew, to point to the inventions to come by the engineers.  Andrew filled the overture with hope for the future and sounds of machines, creating a really exciting result.  

I had prepared all the scores and parts from Andrew’s original, which he composed on the newly invented computer program, Sibelius 7.  Andrew was very nervous in case there were mistakes in the computer extracted parts.  The orchestra only rehearsed the work half an hour before curtain up!  The first run-through was virtually unrecognisable.  Andrew was terrified.  The second play through was recognisable, so Andrew breathed a sigh of relief.  Andrew Constantine did not want to rehearse any more, but leave the best performance until the concert.  Both Andrew and I were on tenterhooks.  But we did not need to be.  The performance was stunning and the capacity Symphony Hall audience loved it.


Advertising beforehand:

ISM Journal article, July 1996


Classic FM Magazine


Symphony Hall brochures:


Booking form:


Tickets and Programme:


Following the performance:

St John's College, Cambridge Alumni News


As a result of the success of this work Andrew was awarded a commemorative gold medal for his "outstanding contribution" to the anniversary celebrations of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.  Andrew and I went down to London to their Headquarters, which were in a beautiful building overlooking St James’ Park, for the ceremony. We had a lovely day and stopped off at the Ritz Hotel for tea just before the ceremony!

Commemorative gold medal awarded to Andrew Downes by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers



In November 2004, I was thrilled to play in a performance of the Towards a New Age by the Central England Ensemble, conducted by Anthony Bradbury and led by our daughter Anna, in the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham.


Advertising for a performance by Central England Ensemble, Birmingham 2004:


Poster and programme:


Then in May 2009, I prepared and conducted a performance with my Haybridge Community Orchestra in St John's Church, Hagley, Worcestershire, as part of the 2009 Hagley Music Festival.  We only had strings and woodwind in the orchestra, so Andrew himself covered all the brass parts on his keyboard!  The wonderful composition came across brilliantly.

Email about a radio interview:


expressandstar.com:


Hagley Festival brochure and programme:


In 2013, Andrew received a large sum of money by way of compensation for the clinical negligence he had suffered at Russells Hall Hospital, where doctors failed to recognise over many hours that he had broken his back, leaving him paralysed.  When the compensation came, I suggested to Andrew that we should use some of it to hire the services of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra to record Andrew’s Symphonies 1-4 and 2 Overtures.  At the time Ondrej Vrabec, Principal Horn of the Orchestra and great friend of Andrew’s, had become Associate Conductor of the Orchestra.  He was thrilled to be asked to conduct Andrew’s works and booked the best recording engineer and producer, as well as the best extra players required.

So, in February 2015, this Overture was recorded in the Dvorak Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Ondrej Vrabec, as part of a 2 CDs set of 4 symphonies and 2 overtures by Andrew Downes, all recorded in the spring of 2015 on the Artesmon label.  We weren’t able to go to the recording because of Andrew’s paraplegia, but the engineers in Prague and our computer repair man here set up streaming and skype for us to watch the recording and make comments.  The set of 2 CDs and one Documentary DVD were launched in the Suk Hall of the Rudolfinum, Prague, on 1st December 2015.

The CDs were launched on iTunes on March 18th 2016 and voted CD of the Month of March 2016 by Czech Music Direct.  The UK launch, organised by Czech Music Direct, took place on 17th April 2016 at the National Film Theatre, London, where excerpts were played and the Documentary DVD was shown, together with Paula’s films portraying Andrews' Songs from Spoon River and also an excerpt from the DVD of Andrew's opera, Far from the Madding Crowd.  Paula and her husband David Trippett were interviewed by Laurence Lewis of Czech Music Direct about the songs, which David had accompanied, and the opera, which David had conducted and in which Paula sang the part of Bathsheba.  Anna also gave a talk about the up-coming Andrew Downes 65th birthday concert which she was organising in Birmingham Cathedral, featuring Symphony no 1.  It was a thrilling day for us all and a great success!





'Symphonies (and Overtures) by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.'  CZECH MUSIC DIRECT

'...the overture flickers into life like a willing machine, broad chorales soaring proudly over energetic rhythms.'

THE BIRMINGHAM POST


'...an incredible score. Among its many qualities is a marvellous understanding and control of the orchestra.  The music is very loud and dramatic at times and almost unbearably exciting and yet the texture of the writing is absolutely faultless.' Dr David Wright MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

'Symphonies and Overtures by Andrew Downes, released by Czech label Artesmon, is destined to be one of the most important orchestral recordings of 2016.  They are played by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Ondrej Vrabec, who deliver one of their greatest recorded performances since the days of Karel Ancerl, in sound of vast depth and power.' CZECH MUSIC DIRECT

'Some of the orchestral players are heard remarking on how much they enjoyed playing the scores, and their enthusiasm is infectious; there is no sense here of bored instrumentalists going dutifully through the motions.  There is also a startlingly interventionist producer, who seems to be acting as a persistent critic dedicated to the detection of the slightest error or pitch or rhythm.   


'...earnestly recommended to those listeners who are willing to make the acquaintance of an attractive composer who is prepared to meet them halfway.  This is a thoroughly worthwhile release; and the presentation, with three discs in a gatefold sleeve including a substantial booklet of forty pages (English with Czech translation), is a model of what such things should be.' 
MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL



'… a real find  …  rarely can comtemporary music deserve more exposure than these colourful characterful pieces … uses percussion and seductive Arnoldian tunes in the most beguiling of fashions … these discs will persuade the receptive listener that Downes has a truly individual voice … a solid addition to the canon of such works.' 

cdchoice.co.uk



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