I have always enjoyed the music of Trevor Duncan. Best-known for his A Little Suite from which the well-known ‘March’ was used as the theme tune of the original Dr. Finlay’s Casebook, starring Andrew Cruikshank and Bill Simpson. However Duncan’s catalogue is vast. He specialised in ‘mood music’ that could be used for newsreels and documentaries. Yet he produced scores for the movies –Joe Macbeth, The Intimate Strangers. Duncan could rise to an almost impressionistic height with his St. Boniface Down. His deeply romantic The Girl from Corsica is one of the loveliest musical portraits in the genre.
Children in the Park was composed in 1954 and features the composer writing innocent music with the backward glance from man for whom these activities are but a pleasant but ever present memory. However there is nothing innocent or childish about the quality of the music. They are diminutive masterpieces.
The first movement is ‘Dancing for Joy.’ Perhaps for ‘dancing’ we can read ‘running wild.’ There are echoes of half-remembered tunes in this short musical portrait that sounds like something that could have been written for a chase scene in a Carry On film. The second movement is a wistful little mediation about being ‘At the Pool.’ For those of us who were alive in the fifties and sixties we can still recall model yachts launched by retired naval gentlemen making their way across the water in the lakes in Regents Park in London or Heaton Park in Manchester. So rare to see these days: I wonder where all the model boats have gone? And then there is the opportunity to watch the duck and drakes feeding in the shallows. Lasting just over two minutes this delicious piece is a complete portrait of this magical location. The last movement reflects all the hustle and bustle of a traditional game of hide and seek. Duncan makes characteristic use of woodwind to suggest chases in and out of the trees.
One cannot listen to this music without being aware that simple as these three pieces may appear, there is a poise that is largely classical: there is no doubt that a master’s hand is at work in these miniatures. They achieve what ‘light music’ does best. They are enjoyable, but also encourage the listener to sentimentalise about a lost way of life. What chance model yachts in the age of xbox, Twitter and iPhones?
Trevor Duncan’s Suite: Children in the Park can be heard only on Marco Polo 8.223517.