'Saxtet' - Nigel Wood (soprano sax), Gerard McChrystal (alto sax), Andrew Tweed (tenor sax) and Lionel Ferer (baritone sax)
21st November 1991
Birmingham and Midland Institute
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An account by Andrew's wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on January 23rd, 2022
EARTH DANCES Opus 47 (1991)
for Saxophone Quartet
In 1991 a colleague of Andrew’s, brilliant Saxophonist Nigel Wood, asked Andrew for a new work for his group Saxtet (Nigel Wood - soprano sax, Gerard McChrystal - alto sax, Andrew Tweed tenor sax - and Lionel Ferer – baritone sax). The group got funding from West Midlands Arts and the Peter Whittingham Award for the commission.
I loved what Andrew was writing at the piano, and suggested the title of the work because of the gutsy effects he was creating, but when Saxtet started playing at the premiere at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, on 21st November 1991, I was bowled over by the excitement of this dynamic work performed by these four fantastic saxophonists.
Numerous performances by Saxtet followed: in Birmingham (Adrian Boult Hall, December 1991), Redditch (Music Society, December 1991), London (Royal Festival Hall foyer, extracts, January 1992), and on Saxtet's 1992 world tour, in Bombay, Los Angeles, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Wellington, New Zealand, Perth and many other venues.
A note from Saxtet about a performance at the Royal Festival Hall:
The quartet was performed in the Recital Hall of Birmingham Conservatoire, in the final of the 2015 Andrew Downes Performance Prize competition, by the Nuance Quartet: Chloe Percy-Smith - soprano sax, Emma Jones - alto sax, Rachael Kendall - tenor sax and Chalcedony Williams - baritone sax.
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In October 2015 the work was played by the Flotilla Saxophone Ensemble in the National Portrait Gallery London, and then in the Adrian Boult Hall Birmingham, at a special Saxophone Day at Birmingham Conservatoire directed by Andy Tweed.
In October 2019, Nigel Wood created a video to go with the recording of the premiere and released it on youtube:
In March 2022, the Yugen Saxophone Quartet won first prize with another stunning performance of this work in the Andrew Downes Performance Prize competition, at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
In the Andrew Downes Performance Prize competition of March 2023, Earth Dances was chosen by 2 Saxophone Quartets: Junction Saxophone Quartet and Aza Saxophone Quartet. Aza Saxophone Quartet, with their dynamic and engaging performance, were overall winners of the 2023 competition.
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Me and the Aza Saxophone Quartet entered the Andrew Downes Prize at RBC this year (2023). We set to learning the incredibly demanding Earth Dances, and …
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