Saturday, 30 November 2013

Charles Williams: Seaford Head.

Charles Williams has written a delightful miniature tone-poem describing one of the most romantic places in the South of England. Seaford Head is located between Brighton and Eastbourne. From the Head there is a great view of the South Downs, the famous Seven Sisters and unsurpassed vistas of the English Channel. Tennyson stayed here and revised his ‘Ode to Wellington’. The house has gone, but the garden is (I believe) still there, with cedar trees that the poet would have known. Smugglers were rife about here many years ago and the nearby Seaford College was built on the site of the old Corsica Hall, which belonged to a smuggler. 
The musical image opens with a nautical flourish supported by a musical representation of waves gently washing onto the beach. There is a big tune introduced which is quickly built up into a climax, before dying down. The woodwind takes over and slowly brings this piece to an end.
The raison d’être of this piece was not as concert piece: it was designed to be used as an accompaniment to a documentary film. It was a library piece probably filed under ‘seascapes’ which would be used by film directors to underscore their scenes. It is just a pity that this beautiful music was not developed beyond the 1 minute 47 second duration. Yet there is enough to convince me that Charles Williams had captured the mood and view of this most exciting part of the South Coast. It is easy to imagine yachts or even a cross-channel ferry heading out mid-channel as the visitor stares out to sea. Perhaps he has his arm wrapped round a girl’s waist? There is all the romance of the sea wrapped up in these few precious bars.
Seaford Head is available on Guild The Golden Age of Light Music GLCD5107 played by the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by the composer. The recording was made in 1942 and was catalogued as Chappell Music Library No. C189.

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