Sunday, 16 May 2010

Charles Williams: Trolley Bus

I first remember seeing a trolley bus in Ashton-under-Lyne in about 1960. It was outside a Methodist Church where my uncle was choirmaster and organist. I watched in amazement as the trolley head slipped off the wire as the tram was reversing. The conductor then reached for a pole from under the bus and with considerable difficulty replaced the head back onto the wire. Although they are long gone, I have always had a great affection for these vehicles which seemed to promise so much- a Green Revolution really.
Charles Williams has always had a reputation for writing music that is ‘busy’ – perhaps the best example of this is Melody on the Move. The present piece is another fine example of the genre.
The piece opens with a short drum roll which is immediately followed by a chipper tune for the strings. This is quite definitely a bus travelling at speed and not struck in traffic. The ‘trio’ is a fantastic march tune that suggests a trip along Knightsbridge on a summer’s evening. The main theme returns before a short brass fanfare leads to a reprise of the march. The work is well orchestrated and is certainly equal to better known London marches by Haydn Wood and Eric Coates.
Of course transport buffs will criticise my lack of historical knowledge: neither trams nor trolleybuses ever went along Knightsbridge. So I will have to think of some other romantic location for my allusion. Perhaps the north side of Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester fits the bill? Or a speedy run past Crystal Palace? But perhaps the most appropriate location for this particular piece of music is the old 607 service which ran past Hampton Court. A trip to that great historical park on a lovely hot summer’s day is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.
Trolley Bus can be heard on Dutton Vocalion CDEA 6021


Webrarian said...

This is going to sound impossibly geeky, but it was the 667 which went to Hampton Court.

When the trolleybuses were withdrawn, it became the 267.

I grew up not far from the route and used it as a child. It was their quietness that I remember.

John France said...

Thanks for that!!!