The commission brief asked for ‘several short sound pictures that described the area around the village of Child Okeford, Dorset’. Written for the Hambledon Ensemble in 2005, the work centres around Hambledon Hill and its ancient Iron Age hill fort. From the ridges you can see each of the five places explored in the work.
The A357, a road I know well, winds around the base of the hill, tractors often bringing the early morning rush hour to a crawling pace. The frustration of the driver and odd horn blast comes out in the music.
The River Stour at dawn with the mist billowing across the landscape on a cold morning, ethereal, yet can be deadly to the traveller.
Shillingstone Station Ghosts
The disused yet well preserved Shillingstone Railway Station. At one time, the empty buildings and track bed would echo to the sounds of a busy station once used by the King. Now the site is being brought back to life with locomotives once again running past the platform.
At St. Nicholas’ Gate
The church of St. Nicholas oversees the village. The gate opens on to a path that winds up to the church and the gardens beyond. It is a place of tranquillity and peace at the foot of the hill.
Finally, the active village primary school, full of energy, playfulness and learning. The shifting time signatures represent the variety of games at playtime, until the final bell brings the children back into lessons once more.
These five short pieces were first performed at the same concert as the world première of the late Sir John Tavener’s Little Troika in 2006 at the church of St. Nicholas, beneath Hambledon Hill. John’s wife Maryanna, played clarinet in the ensemble. Though present for the first performance, I later discovered that the piece was performed on a number of other occasions; one being a party at the Tavener house to celebrate their 10th anniversary in the village of Child Okeford.