Saturday, 21 December 2013

Angela Morley: Snowride

Last year I posted about ‘four musical winter journeys': Leroy Anderson’s ‘Sleigh Ride’, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ‘Troika’,  Sergei Prokifiev ‘Troika’, from Lieutenant Kije and Fred. Delius’ uncharacteristic ‘Sleigh Ride’. To these can be added Angela Morley’s attractive ‘Snowride.’ This work is included as a part of Naxos’ collection of Christmas music entitled ‘Another Night before Christmas.’ 
Angela Morley’s (1923-2009) Snowride began life as a piece of library music for Chappell’s, which would have been used by film and documentary makers as a suitable background to shots of a leisurely winter journey. As I understand it, the score was lost in the Chappell fire of 1964. However according to the Angela Morley webpages the score was cleverly reconstructed from the original recording.
Snowride opens with a musical representation of jingling bells. Soon a catchy tune begins to establish itself on the horns which will be repeated throughout the work by various instruments. A woodwind figure tries to introduce a Christmas carol-like tune but is soon pushed aside by the main theme.  A sweep of strings suggests that this journey has a romantic interest at its heart – perhaps two lovers are taking a late night journey? The piece is really episodic with lots of little melodies being tossed about many of which never seem to reappear. Percussion plays its part with xylophone and sleigh bells supplying a seasonal mood. The work closes quietly with a cheeky little woodwind phrase.  The pace of this music suggests that there is no particular hurry about this journey: the aim seems to be to enjoy the night air.
Finally I could not resist using the cover of Leroy Anderson’s well-known work as an illustration. It perfectly sums up Morley’s music too.
Angela Morley’s Snowride is available on Naxos 8.572744 with the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland. 

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