The listener does not usually associate composer Frank Bridge (1879-1941) with the dance-hall. From his early days as an exponent of Edwardian romanticism, through a period dabbling with impressionism and on towards the modernism of his latter years, we are not really prepared for cheerful little The Turtle’s Retort (One-Step).
It is difficult to assign an exact date of composition to this piece: Paul Hindmarsh in his E-Catalogue (PHM Publishing, 2016) simply provides the date of publication, 1919. The holograph is missing. Hindmarsh explains that Bridge composed this one-step under the pseudonym of John L. Moore. This was derived from his wife’s middle name: Elmore. The work was included in series of ‘American Dance Tunes’ published by Winthrop Rogers. The series included a foxtrot, one and two steps and waltzes. Hindmarsh suggests that it a best-seller for Frank Bridge.
For information, a one-step was an early 20th-century ballroom dance with long quick steps and was the forerunner of the foxtrot. It was characterised by a ²/₄ time signature and marked by quick walking steps backward and forward.
The main tune of The Turtle’s Retort was introduced in the opening bars. The composer indicated at the ‘appropriate’ point in the score, the words of the ‘song:
‘This is,’ said the turtle as he waddled away,
‘Wot is?’ said the lady as she sat down to play,
‘That is,’ said the turtle with a grin, ‘Why can’t you see,
That is the tune, that is the tune, for you and for me!’
The Turtle’s Retort has been arranged for band and for orchestra.
Eric Wetherell’s orchestral transcription of The Turtle’s Retort has been uploaded to YouTube. It is coupled with a lovely performance of the piano piece Heart’s Ease arranged for orchestra by Robert Cornford. It is played by the Chelsea Opera Group Orchestra conducted by Howard Williams. The upload is derived from the Pearl LP (SHE 600) issued in 1987.