Celebrations Book 8

Six Pieces for Unaccompanied Double Bass
Composer: Peter Byrom-Smith
Code: RMD1239

Celebrations Book 8 brings together six exciting, evocative and inventive works for unaccompanied double bass by the English composer Peter Byrom-Smith. Composed over the past few years, each piece celebrates a specific bassist, commemoration or anniversary, and all are aimed at the adventurous intermediate bassist.

“I write music because I have to; sharing my personal thoughts, reflections and emotions in music, it is my life’s passion.” [Peter Byrom-Smith]

ENCORE – composed for Teppo & Frank @ 89 to celebrate the 80th birthdays of Frank Proto (USA) and Teppo Hauta-aho (Finland) in 2021.
How do you write something in honour to such established, and respected artists as both Teppo Hauta-aho, and Frank Proto? Well, that was a thought which occurred to me straight away after agreeing to compose something in celebration, and honouring both these Maestros on the occasion of their 80th birthday’s? So, I thought both long, and hard about this. Whilst exploring their individual, amazing musically creative careers, with a vast experience as both composers, and performers, also listening to their music, a few things then struck me! With such great works written by both composers, from orchestral through chamber, to jazz music, and also their vast musical expertise, in performing too, what could I possibly write as a true musical tribute?

With that in mind I decided to avoid that altogether in fact. Instead, I chose to focus on how I felt, and understood about them as both humans, as well as creative artists, and deciding to write something inspired by them, a solo bass work with a number of twists, and turns, but always moving forward. Knowing too of course that they have influenced this small piece of mine, which is a heartfelt tribute to their true musicianship, but also at the same time it is also a big thank you from all of us, musicians, audiences, and listeners alike, for all the wonderful work they’ve produced over their careers.

I hope that this short piece works, shows true respect, and acknowledgement of all their achievements, and also works as a tribute from me to my esteemed colleagues! The title ‘Encore’ I hear you ask? Well, this is because whilst we are all wishing them both a very happy birthday in 2021, we also wish to hear much more of their music too! Happy Birthday Teppo and Frank!!

TWO-WAY MIRROR – composed for Self-Portrait 2021
When David Heyes, and Recital Music suggested the fabulous idea of inviting a group of composers to write a short piece for solo bass, a little like painters have done, I was immediately interested, and of course intrigued at the same time, so jumped at the chance to try this. So, how could I do this, but not only how I suppose, but also would the finished musical portrait be a true reflection of me, and what does it say about me as a person, and composer?

Maybe the finished piece should really have a subtitle of ’Self Reflection’ as I imagined looking through some sort of ‘magical’ mirror, in which you can look deeper than skin, and physical features, seeing the workings of a creative mind at work possibly. With this in mind I produced this short portrait, and hope it captures just a little, at least, of how I actually write music using all the ingredients, rhythm, melody, harmony, as a microcosm of my larger, and personal musical voice – plus, anyone who knows me, will be able to spot a few bits of my personality in here too, maybe!

THE PURSUIT OF PAN – composed for The Syrinx Project in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
In mythology Syrinx was a nymph known for her chastity. Pursued by the amorous god Pan, she ran away seeking help from the river nymphs who helped as she was transformed into hollow water reeds. When the god’s breath blew across these they produced an ethereal sound. Pan cut these reeds and from them fashioned the first set of Pan pipes, which became forever known as Syrinx.

Debussy’s piece, Syrinx, reflected on the sadness of Pan’s lost love; I too have tried to paint a sonic painting reflecting his amorous pursuit of Syrinx. A simple, but evocative and seductive theme begins the work making appearances throughout the piece, as Pan tries to entice Syrinx to join him.

Following this, the hectic and frantic running, hiding, pursuit in rapid articulations of the player, the music weaves around the images of both nymph and god, before a reflective resolution of Pan, brings the return of the main melodic theme, although changed in mood in this final refrain.

LIGHTING OUR DARKNESS – composed for Da Vinci 500 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) in 2019
You only have to look through the numerous publications, or better still, visit an exhibition of Da Vinci’s work. Whatever type you choose, art, scientific, technical, you see, and feel what a true genius this human being really was. Not only was he a painter, but also an inventor, and great thinker, who sought out everything around him, things he could see, and things he only imagined. He tried to understand it all, and with this knowledge develop new ideas, and creations, which for all of us are certainly as relevant now as in his lifetime, maybe more so. Through his art, biological drawings, scientific and technological ideas, astounding at that point in European history, which was pretty scary I would imagine to people around him, he truly led us from darkness into the light, helping the development of humanity from total control of church, state, and other powers. He continued his striving for knowledge throughout his life, thus encouraging us all to choose our own paths, develop our own thoughts, and free to explore the universe through our own creative imaginations – indeed ‘Lighting Our Darkness’.

The actual piece starts with a recurring expressive theme, building up and dying away, as light struggles to gain an opening in our ears. Then enters a more relaxed, although slightly dark melodic theme, bouncing around your head, and the soloist’s fingers, which being continuously interspersed by the ‘light’ theme, before the sun bursts through with a final reprise and the piece finishes’.

EVER TURNING – THE PAINTED WHEEL – composed for A Tribute to Tony, a celebration of the life and work of the composer-bassist Tony Osborne (1947-2019)
It was such an honour for me to be invited to write a new work for this project, as a tribute to composer Tony Osborne. He said his music could be light-hearted, jazzy, even occasionally ‘funky- rock’, so as a musician who regards music with no boundaries at all, he developed a unique voice of his own.

Writing in many styles, and for numerous combinations of musicians, brass, choral and songs, as well as many for his beloved instrument the double bass, he has left all musicians, and audiences with a legacy that endures.

So, how to pay a tribute to such a wonderful musician I asked myself? Well, listening to his music, and thinking of his many comments about music, I thought, yes, absorb all these elements of his approach to music – I realised at this time we were of the same mind set as these thoughts actually reflect my approach to music too. I also indeed love how he described his own compositions: ‘I cook with different colours….’; ‘Paint scenes….’; ‘The Great wheel of music, and expression of its origins – ever turning….’; all fabulous expressions of his creative work, and personal thoughts about what he does. With all this in mind, I then set about trying to capture a little of his musical spirited environment, using a recurring melodic figure, with changing harmonic colour, interspersed with a more spirited theme.

As these two ideas come together, mix, and stir into a complete shape, I hope I have captured something of the true impression of Tony’s work, and his musical spirit. At the end of the work the reflecting theme reappears for the final time, again slightly changed, and like Tony’s ideal works, thus leaving us with a healing for the human spirit and a positive reflection. As a composer, double bassist, and teacher he shared his musical, and creative spirit with us all, so it’s a pleasure to try and return something here to his memory.

PRAGUE BY NIGHT composed for Pošta100, a project to celebrate the 100th birthday of the Czech double bass virtuoso František Pošta
Written for the Pošta 100 Project, which celebrates the centenary of the birth of František Pošta. My work is a series of short pieces which depict the images of Prague as seen at night; the river, the buildings and the unique atmosphere of the city where Pošta was Principal Bass of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. By utilizing the various techniques available to the soloist, I have tried to paint a collection of short sketches depicting both musician and city.

Programme notes by Peter Byrom-Smith


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