Thursday, 6 May 2010

Walter Carroll: Four Country Dances for Pianoforte

I have always had a soft spot for Walter Carroll. For one thing I learnt to play some of his pieces as a youngster and still enjoy giving them an airing more that forty years later. For another, my late father told me that Carroll was a friend (or was it an acquaintance) of my grandfather. And lastly most of Carroll’s music was published by Forsyth’s music shop in Manchester: that emporium is still a favourite haunt of mine.
Four Country Dances was published by Carroll some 16 years after his previous work, Four Gypsies.
There are four short pieces that combine playability with a sense of style that transcends being simply ‘teaching music.’ This was a quality of virtually all Carroll’s educational pieces.
Each piece is prefaced by a quotation from the poets. These are not meant to be the basis of a programme - they are simply there to act as a stimulus to the player. It has the additional advantage of introducing the child (or adult) to some interesting lines from English literature. And finally I do love the cover cartoon. It is so full of life and fun. Just look at the faces of the little Elves at the bottom of the page.

"He piped, I sang; and when he sung I piped,
By change of turns each making other merry." Edmund Spenser

The Fairy Ring
"By the moon we sport and play,
With the night begins our day." – John Lyly

"His limbs are all antic- he skips like a flea;
His body is brown as the bark of a tree." – R.H. Horne

"Tender as a harper’s string
Is the low wind’s lute-playing." – Philip Dayre

At the end of the sheet music Walter Carroll has penned a short ‘afterword’ to any children (or others) who may choose to play his music. It was to be his last published work before his death in 1955 (although there was a posthumous work of piano duets issued in 1973)
Carroll wrote:-
‘Many years ago the writer decided to make a tour in Southern Scotland and so to test the condition of Music in that region which had been the inspiration of so many of his compositions. The result was pleasing and valuable, especially in regard to children and young people, many of them occupants of caravans, and of the dry and accessible cliffs provided by nature. Music, dancing and poetry were the most perfect features, presented with confidence and by memory. Asked to name poet or composer brought no response. A few bits of paper, hardly readable, were offered, but seldom accepted by the visitor, who tried to catch the words as they came. The composer of the music had to make new tunes to fit the poetry and rhythm presented. Thus ends the little note to the pupil from...Walter Carroll’

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