Works Composed during the Pandemic: 2020-21

Have you performed in this work or come to watch? Please share below!

Kinver Edge, one of Andrew Downes' favourite places to walk before he was wheelchair-bound.



PREMIERES:

Two Songs of William Shakespeare
15th February 2020
St Paul's Church, Hills Road, Cambridge
#andrewdownes70
Paula Downes Soprano, Victoria Royce, Piano


'Une Promenade' for Piano
30th April 2020
Contemporary Piano Soundbites: Facebook
#andrewdownes70
Duncan Honeybourne Piano

Kinver Landscape: Tone Poem for Solo Piano
September 6th 2020 (postponed due to Covid-19)
St Peter's Church, Kinver
Michael Jones Piano

Songs of Persephone
September 30th, 2020
Youtube, Facebook
#NationalPoetryDay
#andrewdownes70
Paula Downes Soprano, David Trippett Piano

Sonata No 2 for Violin and Piano
November 24th 2021
St Alphege Church, Solihull
Anna Downes Violin, Tony Bridgewater Piano

"Trees" - Partsongs for SSATTBB
January 22nd 2022
YouTube
Paula Downes and the Trippett Chorale

Concerto for Violin and Small Orchestra
Recorded August 2022
Rupert Marshall-Luck Violinist
Central England Camerata
Conductor Anthony Bradbury
Leader Anna Downes

Brass Quintet No 3

July 10th 2022
St John's Church, Hagley, Worcestershire
Sennet Brass


An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on May 10th, 2022

For a long time I didn’t remember much about Andrew’s compositions during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, but I have thoroughly enjoyed re-discovering them:

In 2019 I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.  The good news is that I didn't have this terrible, incurable illness, but was suffering from a condition with similar symptoms: 'normal pressure hydrocephalus'.  For the first half of 2021, I deteriorated very badly.  I ended up needing 24 hour care.  My state was brought about partly by the unsuitable Parkinson's medication which I was taking, but mainly by the hydrocephalus.  Andrew and our daughters, Anna & Paula, were marvellous.  Anna scoured the country to find a neurosurgeon and managed to get me a consultation with Mr Hussain at University Hospital, Coventry.   By the time Anna took me to see the surgeon, I couldn't walk or talk.  Mr Hussain got me in to the hospital for a brain shunt operation within 4 days and told Anna it might be too late.  I thank God that he is a genius and I began to recover immediately.  I can now fully function again and remember things.  I have felt a little better each day.  I just need to be careful and pray that the shunt carries on working.   Everyone marvels at the transformation in me.  Anna, Mr Hussain and his wonderful team saved my life.

Andrew coped not too badly during my 3 weeks in hospital, well looked after by his Philippino carer, Viktoria.  Andrew’s paraplegia, however, causes him constant discomfort, and he always suffers from pain from his spasms.  I am so grateful to have gradually regained my energy levels, so that I can do my share of caring for Andrew with Viktoria and also return to lots of other activities which I missed.  One of my favourite projects is writing my ‘blog’ posts about the background to Andrew’s works and our exciting and often very funny adventures on our travels to his performances over the years.  I send my text and memorabilia to Paula and she presents them beautifully on this special page of andrewdownes.com



2019

KINVER LANDSCAPE - Tone Poem for Solo Piano Opus 112 (2019)

St Peter's Church, Kinver, where Kinver Landscape was due to be premiered


This work was commissioned and composed before my illness got too bad, so I remember it quite well.

Michael Jones, a well-known pianist living and working in the Stourbridge area and a good friend of Andrew’s, wrote to Andrew in 2019 asking him to compose a work for his special recital celebrating his 50 years as a professional musician. 

Letter from Michael Jones:


Michael Jones' life:


ISM Journal article:


Andrew entitled his piece Kinver Landscape, because of Michael’s connections with Kinver Church and because Andrew absolutely loves the area.  Whenever I went to rehearsals for Anna’s orchestra, Central England Ensemble, or other events, Andrew used to drive out to Kinver and walk over Kinver Edge.  The piece is a beautiful representation of his memories of being there.  Michael loved the work.  You have a real feeling of being in that part of the world.  The following extract (from the file on the music notation programme Sibelius) from the ending of the work illustrates this perfectly:

The premiere was due to take place on September 6th 2020, but had to be postponed because of the Coronavirus pandemic.




THREE SONGS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE Opus 113 (2019) 
for soprano and piano

More info

1. Madrigal
2. Blind Love
3. Sonnet

These songs were composed by Andrew for our daughter Paula, who gave the first performance of the first two songs with accompanist Victoria Royce in a Valentine's Concert at St Paul's, Hills Road, Cambridge, on February 15th 2020, celebrating Andrew ‘s 70th Birthday year and in aid of Stoke Mandeville Spinal Injuries Research.  Andrew wrote a third song for the cycle - 'Sonnet' - in 2022.


Paula gave a repeat performance, this time with accompanist, David Trippett, as part of Andrew’s online 70th Birthday concert in August 2020, again raising funds for Stoke Mandeville Spinal Research.  I have recently rediscovered the videos of their online performance.  Andrew’s ability to express the difficult Shakespeare lines and give them total and emotional clarity is phenomenal.  Andrew’s setting of the sonnets, performed by Paula with accompanist, David Trippett can be heard below.

The words:

From Measure for Measure:
Take, oh take those lips away,

That so sweetly were forsworn,

And those eyes: at break of day,

Lights that do mislead the morn;

But my kisses bring again, bring again,

Seals of love, but sealed in vain, sealed in vain.

Sonnet 148:
O me! What eyes hath Love put in my head,

Which have no correspondence with true sight;

Or, if they have, where is my judgement fled,

That censures falsely what they see aright?

If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,

What means the world to say it is not so?

If it be not, then love doth well denote

Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s: no,

How can it? 
O! how can Love’s eye be true,

That is so vexed with watching and with tears?

No marvel, then, though I mistake my view;

The sun itself sees not till heaven clears.

O cunning Love! with tears thou keep’st me blind,

Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find.




2020
'UNE PROMENADE' for Piano Opus 114a (2020)
More info

During the coronavirus lockdowns, musicians had to face life without concerts and income.  The brilliant pianist, Duncan Honeybourne, came up with the idea of moving his recitals online.  He gave a piano recital every lunchtime, calling his concerts ‘Piano Soundbites’, and raised funds for struggling musicians.  People loved the recitals and he had a lot of followers.  Duncan’s huge repertoire lasted many weeks.  After that, Duncan asked his composer friends to contribute works for his series which he called ‘Contemporary Piano Soundbites’.  Andrew composed his delightful piece Une Promenade (I remember suggesting the title to describe Andrew’s evocative music).  Duncan loved it and performed it on April 30th 2020.
 
Duncan’s performance can be watched below.  He first of all talks about his long association with Andrew and Andrew’s career as a composer.  Then he summarises the work, which he refers to as “delicious” and a perfect description of the only time we are allowed out during the lockdown, the highlight of our day.  

So this short work, composed at the request of Duncan Honeybourne for his online Contemporary Piano Soundbites series during the Coronavirus lockdown, was first performed by Duncan Honeybourne from his home on April 30th 2020.




SONGS OF PERSEPHONE Opus 114b (2020) for soprano and piano
More info


Three poems written by our granddaughter, Persephone (Penny for short), set to music by her grandfather.  Our daughter Paula and her husband David Trippett recorded these songs, and Paula created a video using a mixture of film and images, including artwork by Penny.  The songs were released for #NationalPoetryDay on September 30th, 2020.
Penny is extremely creative.  She has obviously lots of creativity in her family!  As for her artwork, there is also a lot of talent in Penny’s family on both sides.  Her paternal grandma, who herself has an exhibition of her embroidery in Durham Cathedral, had a cousin who was a professional artist living and working on the Island of Jersey.  (During the German occupation of Jersey in World War II, he was forced by the Nazis to work as the official designer of the stamps on the island, and secretly incorporated anti-Nazi propaganda into his pieces.)  Penny herself has already won two art competitions.  She won her school art contest with this painting at the age of 6. 

Painting by Persephone Trippett: winner of St Philip's Primary School Painting competition, 2017

Edmund Blampied's stamps. Read more here


We were amazed when Paula sent us Penny’s poem Happy Clouds.  Andrew was immediately inspired to set it to music:


Penny’s second poem, set to music by Andrew, was brought to the attention of her form teacher at school by Paula and played to her class at school:


Here is the email exchange with the teacher:

Dear all,

My daughter Persephone Trippett has a poem she would like to share in the Library at lunchtime tomorrow for National Poetry Day, but she thinks her harp lesson is at the same time. The reason she is keen to share the poem is because her Grandad liked her poem so much he set it to music and we have made a video of it.  If it is true that her harp lesson is at the same time as the poetry sharing, is there a chance she could share this at another point tomorrow?  Here is the link to the video: https://youtu.be/Rcw2WJxbTvI

Best wishes,

Paula (Persephone's Mum)


Dear Paula,

Thank you so much for sending this in through, clearly a great deal of hard work has gone into the poem.
I took the opportunity first thing this morning, with Persephone’s approval, to show the poem to her form. They enjoyed the poem very much, particularly the line about the “fellow in yellow”.  What a great way to kick off National Poetry Day!

Best wishes,

David

Finally, here is Song 3:




CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN AND SMALL ORCHESTRA Opus 115 (2020)

When I checked through Andrew’s most recent works on his website (‘Works on Opus Number Order', which I found had been kept up to date by our daughter Paula), I was amazed to see that Andrew had written a Violin Concerto.  I could not recall Andrew writing such a work, let alone how it sounded.  I immediately asked Andrew to play the Sibelius sound files of the concerto to me.  I was thrilled to hear this exciting piece as if I was discovering it for the first time.  Here are the final few bars of the last movement of the work, to give a flavour of the thrilling music which I discovered:


I went to our emails and found the following email exchange between Andrew and Rupert Marshal-Luck, superb violinist, who has recorded on CD all of Andrew’s violin and viola music to date.  Rupert was asking Andrew for the violin concerto:

September 30th 2019

Dear Andrew,
It was a great privilege and a real joy to appear on Paula's podcast a few weeks ago - I hope you enjoyed the interview!
I was wondering if you'd ever had any thoughts of writing a violin concerto?  If this is a project that you'd consider in the future, I'd be absolutely delighted to play it - as you know, I was thrilled to perform and record your violin-and-piano and solo-violin works, and I hugely enjoy your writing for the instrument!
All very best wishes,
Rupert


Dear Rupert
Thank you for your email.  I am horrified that I haven't emailed you about the podcast!  I honestly thought I had.  I think I'm going quite gaga!!  I am profoundly sorry, because I thought your interview was superb, delivered in great depth but with complete comprehensibility.  I was also most flattered by some of the things you said about my writing.  You really are very kind!

I would absolutely love to write a violin concerto for you.  At the moment I am completing a tone poem for piano.  It is a commission from a local pianist who is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his becoming a professional pianist, so I must finish it in time for next year!  He wants to play it in all his recitals next year.  I could start the concerto early in the new year, and I envisage it taking about 12 months to write.  Let me know what you think.
I am thrilled to be asked for a concerto by such an amazing exponent!  Thank you!!
Best wishes,
Andrew


Dear Andrew,
I'm absolutely delighted that you'd like to write a violin concerto for me.  The timescale you suggest sounds fine; and it will give us enough time to approach orchestras regarding its programming.


Dear Rupert
I would much rather compose for a more contemporary-style ensemble than Romantic, much smaller and more focused than traditional.  My 6th Symphony, recently composed, was in this style, and more satisfying to write.  I hope that you are still interested in this project, more exciting for me.  I would be interested in asking Anna's orchestra, Central England Camerata, maybe conducted by Anthony Bradbury, to record the new work.  You can hear them at www.andrewdownes.com  Go to Celtic Rhapsody, for a larger orchestra, and The Ballad of St Kenelm for an Ensemble similar in size to the one I envisage for the new concerto.

Please let me know your thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from you,

Best wishes,

Andrew



July 30th 2020

Dear Rupert
I attach (I hope) the solo part and the sound files (and score) of the Violin Concerto, as it stands at the moment.  What I like to do with a large work is to keep listening to it, and make a few adjustments if I feel it necessary.  This will probably take a couple or three months, and if you like the idea, I'll start thinking about raising funds to record it with the Central England Camerata


Dear Andrew,
Thank you so much for this - I've had an extremely enjoyable time over the weekend looking through the score and listening to the performance realisation through Sibelius.  It's a really marvellous work and I feel very moved and honoured to be its dedicaté.  I was especially struck by your very effective use of orchestral colours which themselves present the solo violin in different "shades" (to take just one example that stood out: bb.65-66 of the first movement, compared with bb.67-68); and I very much enjoyed the inclusion of synthesised timpani - not an instrument I'd encountered before, I must confess, but they produce a most telling effect.  I also very much appreciate the chamber-music-like texture that so often prevails, and which requires a very particular approach in respect, for instance, of unity of articulations: this is an aspect of performance which (in my view) is very often neglected in the performance of concertos, so it's excellent that your work demands consideration of such matters!
As I say, I'm really thrilled with the Concerto, and I'm hugely looking forward to further discussion and, of course, to performing and recording it!
All warmest wishes,
Rupert


Text message from me to our daughter Anna, on 11th December 2021:

Bit of good news.  In 2020 Dad wrote a fantastic Concerto for Violin and Small Orchestra at the request of Rupert Marshall-Luck.  I have just discovered it from my nph haze.  Dad is going to write to Rupert to ask him if he's ready to record it yet.  If so we'll be approaching you to book CEC.  A lot less hassle for you I think(?) ... xxx

Reply from Anna

Oooh yes please! Pro bands are so much easier to fix


How relieved I am to be on the other side of my nph and enjoying this work, which is to be recorded by Rupert with Anna’s professional orchestra, Central England Camerata, in August 2022.




2021
SUITE FOR BRASS QUINTET NO 3 Opus 116 (2021)

Another piece which Andrew wrote during my illness was his Brass Quintet No 3.  I didn’t remember that Andrew had written a third brass quintet, for Sennet Brass, and I certainly could not recall how it sounded.  Andrew played the Sibelius sound files to me about six months after my brain shunt operation.  I found it absolutely stunning and a perfect sequel to his first two brass quintets, which I know extremely well, having adapted movements for wind and strings for my concerts with my music groups in the past.

I found the following email exchange between Andrew and Steve Lee, first trumpeter of Sennet Brass, who asked for the piece.  Again I had no recollection of it.


Jan 9th 2021

Hi Steve,

I hope things are OK for you.  In these present dreadful times, life is an absolute bugger for everyone, but for musicians it's their livelihoods and passions which have been suspended - absolutely dreadful for you all!


I've got one bit of news - the Suite for Brass Quintet no 3 for Sennet Brass is nearly finished! Do you have a picture of Sennet Brass to go on the front of the copies, please?

Very best wishes,

Andrew


Hi Andrew, lovely to hear from you... it’s depressing times all round at the minute but your message has lifted the spirits and certainly given us something to look forward to!  Please find a photo below. Can't wait to see/ hear/play it!

Many many thanks from all of us.  

Steve.


January 20th 2021

Hi Steve,

Here’s the Quintet as requested.  I hope you all like it.  Please check it for howling mistakes like pages in the wrong place etc

Take care,

Andrew


Wow Andrew! Thank you so very much- what an honour…. as soon as we can we will get together and hopefully record a run through so you can hear it played. 

Best wishes, Steve.


Thanks Steve.  That would be brilliant!!
Andrew


Here are two extracts illustrating the delightful music which I heard on listening to Andrew’s Sibelius sound files:

Movement 3:


Movement 4:

Sennet Brass gave the first performance of the work in St John's Church, Hagley, Worcestershire, as part of their recital raising over £200 for 'Music for Sanctuary', the charity set up by our daughter Anna for the homeless.

Andrew had the following email exchange wit Steve Lee after the concert:

Hi Steve,

The concert today was superb! All the pieces were beautifully played, and I was thrilled with the way you all interpreted my new Brass Quintet.  

Please pass this email to the other Sennet players. 

With very best wishes


Andrew


Thanks for your kind words Andrew! It was an absolute pleasure and thank you so much for writing it for us. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to perform it many more times!

Many thanks, Steve.





SONATA No 2 FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO Opus 117 (2021)
3 movements
More info

This Sonata was specially composed for our daughter, Anna.  The dedication at the top of the copy reads:'For our wonderful daughter, Anna, superb violinist and musician, with a heart of gold.'
Anna's first performance, with accompanist Tony Bridgewater, took place in St Alphège Church, Solihull, on November 24th 2021.  Here is a transcription of Anna's opening words to the performance:

"It's an absolute pleasure for us to be here again this afternoon.  I think we did our first post-pandemic recital in June(?)  We always love coming here.  It’s always a very welcoming place, and a lovely place to play in.
 

“The second piece that we are going to play this afternoon is Sonata No 2 for Violin and Piano by Andrew Downes, who is my father!   If you’ve come to these concerts before, you may well have heard us play his Sonata No 1 and also a tone poem called The God Marduk.  My Dad, who is internationally renowned as a composer, was formerly Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire.   During the pandemic my Dad was pretty much confined to the house.  He is paraplegic, and also obviously Covid has rendered him virtually housebound.  He doesn’t have the confidence to go out now, so I’m recording it.  That’s what I’m doing with my phone in that rather bizarre contraption there.
  

“During the pandemic, my Dad didn’t stop composing, which was lovely.  I didn’t realise that he was writing a Sonata for myself and Tony and he actually says (I’m just going to read this, although it’s a bit embarrassing!):
'For our wonderful daughter, Anna, superb violinist and musician, with a heart of gold.'  
I had to share that with you, as it’s lovely!

“It’s in 3 movements.  It’s extremely jazzy and fun.  The first movement is actually entitled ‘Groovy’!  My Dad has always been a bit of a rebel, and likes to push the boundaries and go beyond convention.  The 2nd movement is much more lyrical and the 3rd movement is again quite full of fireworks really and lots of rhythmic challenges.

“So we look forward to playing for you now, for the first time ever, the Sonata No 2 for Violin and Piano by Andrew Downes.”

Anna recorded their second performance, which took place in March 2022 in St Andrew's Church, Rugby, and I was by this time well enough to enjoy it and remember it:

Here is an extract from letter to Anna and Tony (The Himley Duo) from the St Andrew's, Rugby, recitals series:

"Thank you so much for coming to play for us the other day. It was a fascinating programme, beautifully presented and was really appreciated by our audience. Please let your Dad know, Anna, how much his Sonata was enjoyed."

Anna and Tony (The Himley Duo) gave further performances of Violin Sonata No.2 as part of their recitals in St Saviour's Church, Hagley, in March 2022;  in Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge, in May 2022; and in Downing Place URC, Cambridge, in July 2022.

Email exchange with Tony Bridgewater after the Hagley recital, which we were delighted to be able to attend:

"Hi Tony, just to say again, your concert today was fabulous and incredibly enjoyable!! I loved the Ukrainian piece, and yours and Anna's performance of my Sonata was out of this world!!! Thank you!!! Andrew"

"Hi Andrew, Thanks for your kind comments. It is always a pleasure to perform your music and it has been so well received in my concerts with Anna. I’m very glad you were able to be there in person and see how much the audience enjoyed your work for yourself. Every good wish, Tony"




“Trees” Opus 118 (2021)
1.THE PLANTING OF THE APPLE TREE Opus 118(i) (2021) 
Unaccompanied SSATBB

Composed in response to the Queen's Green Canopy for her Platinum Jubilee in 2022.  Words by William Cullen Bryant (1794 – 1878).
More info

When Her Majesty introduced the Queen’s Green Canopy for her Platinum Jubilee, our daughter Paula, who is Chairperson of the Residents’ Association of her road, Coldhams Lane, Cambridge, immediately applied for fifteen trees to line the road.  The trees duly arrived in November 2021.  Paula suggested Andrew should write a song to promote the planting of trees to save the planet.  Andrew loved the idea and Paula found an immensely suitable poem, The Planting of the Apple Tree, written in the nineteenth century by the American poet William Cullen Bryant, who was also known as “The man who planted trees”.

Our daughter Paula straight away created a multitrack video recording of the song, with her husband, David Trippett, which can be viewed here:


Andrew went on to compose two more songs to form his “Trees” trilogy:-

2.BINSEY POPLARS Opus 118(ii) (2021)

Unaccompanied SSATB
B setting of the poem by Welsh poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), who was also known as ‘poet of Nature’.  This poem laments the felling of trees.  Paula again created a multitrack video recording singing the soprano and alto parts, with David Trippett on the tenor and bass parts.



3.THE HEART OF THE TREE Opus 118(iii) (2021)

Unaccompanied SSATBB
This third song is a setting of the poem by American poet, Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896).  The poem describes the beauty and benefits of planting a tree and our emotions when we have planted one.
 


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