Originally conceived as a solo piano piece, Tomlinson wrote Passepied during his teenage years to play to the girl he was in love with, whom he would later marry. It was the first of his orchestral compositions to be broadcast – serendipitously, during the couple’s honeymoon in the Lake District in October 1949. The strong melody and the rhythmic arpeggiated harmonies lend themselves very well to instrumental solo with piano accompaniment.
Composed for a BBC radio play called The King and the Mermaid in 1956, Pastorella was broadcast many times in its orchestral form during the 1950s and 60s, but has not yet been commercially recorded. Of all his pieces, this charming, lilting melody was always Tomlinson’s own favourite. He also arranged the piece for a piano quintet, especially for the Rhapsody Quintet of Nova Scotia.
Tomlinson’s most well-known piece was written as the Prince’s love serenade for Cinderella, in a 1955 BBC radio play called The Story of Cinderella. Unusually for the composer, inspiration came immediately; within less than an hour of receiving the commission phone call, the piece that would become Little Serenade was already complete. Later released as an orchestral miniature and part of the Cinderella Suite, it was used as a radio signature tune on several occasions and is still played regularly on Classic FM. Tomlinson also arranged an enduringly popular brass band version of the piece, as well as versions for piano, organ, vocal duet and piano, and clarinet and piano.
Nocturne was, like Pastorella, written for the King and the Mermaid radio play and later published as part of Tomlinson’s Lyrical Suite. And like Little Serenade, Nocturne, started life as a love song – this time a duet. There is a bitter-sweet feel to this beautiful melody, perhaps because there is no happy-ever-after for this love story. A King falls in love with a mermaid whom he persuades to leave the sea and become his wife. She, however, is unhappy on land and eventually returns home to the sea, leaving the King grieving.