Downes' Symphony No. 6, "Nature fights back"
29th November 2020
Facebook Watch Party for #andrewdownes70
Recorded at Countess of Huntingdon Hall, Worcester
Central England Camerata
Conductor - Anthony Bradbury
An account by Andrew's wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on January 2nd, 2022
SYMPHONY No.6 'NATURE FIGHTS BACK!'- scored for Small Orchestra Opus 111 (2019)
1. Nature Fights Back!
2. Dawn over the Clent Hills
3. Les Oiseaux du Jardin
4. Les Insectes du Jardin
5. The Beautiful Wye
Andrew composed his Symphony No 6 for Central England Camerata, the professional orchestra which our daughter Anna founded and leads, for #andrewdownes70, a year of concerts to celebrate Andrew’s 70th Birthday, raising money for Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research.
The work was supposed to be premiered at Hagley Hall on October 4th, 2020, but the Covid-19 pandemic meant we had to rethink the whole thing.
Andrew Downes outside Hagley Hall on the day we decided to do the 70th Birthday concert there
The World Premiere of Symphony no 6 was actually recorded in the Countess of Huntingdon Hall, Worcester, on October 4th, and broadcast online on November 29th 2020, together with films by Paula Downes in a ‘Facebook Watch Party!’ The players were very glad to be involved in this exciting project which took place during the Coronavirus lockdown. Social distancing was necessary. Paul Baker was our excellent recording engineer.
Paula asked me to take part in the introductory presentation of her film of the symphony. I wrote the following for it.
“Hello, I'm Cynthia Downes, wife of Andrew Downes and have been publisher of his music since 1978. I am always the first person to hear Andrew's music as he is composing it.
“When he first started composing his Symphony no 6, I heard an introduction of serene beauty, moving to darkness and aggression, and back to moments of hope. I straight away imagined the destruction of the world by mankind and the green shoots of nature refusing to be beaten. The title, Nature fights back, seemed ideal to me. Andrew liked it too and found a perfect picture to use on the front cover of the score. (see the picture at the top of this blog post)
“The second movement, Dawn over the Clent Hills, immediately conjured up in my mind dawn and the lovely hill-climbing in our area.
“For the third movement I felt inspired to use French: Les Oiseaux du Jardin. Andrew loves birds and constantly draws my attention to their activities in our garden. It was as though he was communing with the garden birds as he wrote this movement. Putting the title in French seemed to add the Romantic feel which the beautiful music called for.
“At the time of year when Andrew was writing movement 4, beautiful insects were in abundance in our garden. The music again suggested a title in French, to convey its exquisite beauty: Les Insectes du Jardin seemed to follow on naturally.
“To continue with his theme of nature on our doorstep, Andrew felt inspired to describe his favourite river in his last movement, hence the title The Beautiful Wye. Andrew created lots of multi-time passages to convey the eddying and swirling of the river.
“So, after Andrew had created his score and the parts on Sibelius, it was my turn to put the finishing touches to them, print them out and bind them, ready for Anthony Bradbury and the excellent Central England Camerata.”
The online concert featuring the Symphony was watched and enjoyed by a large number of people, very glad to have a concert to attend during the lockdown. Andrew received a lot of complimentary messages and emails during and after the screening which can be read below.
Emails and letters:
Review in Musical Opinion:
Watch the premiere:
The first public performance of Andrew's Symphony No.6 took place as part of the Hagley Music Festival, Worcestershire, on 15th May 2022 in the beautiful St John's Church, Hagley. Central England Camerata, Leader Anna Downes, Musical Director Anthony Bradbury, gave an absolutely stunning performance, which Andrew and I were thrilled to be able to attend, after the covid pandemic.
Hagley Festival performance memorabilia:
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