Saturday, 1 November 2014

Bill Worland: Scottish Power for orchestra

When I first heard Bill Worland’s Scottish Power I was convinced that it was a forgotten score for a film documentary about hydro-electricity in that country: I had not read the liner notes written by the composer. Worland also denies that it has anything to do with the commercial company of that name.  In fact, it is a piece dedicated to a certain Miss Power, who was a Scottish lassie that the composer admits to ‘know[ing] so well’ and with whom there was a ‘magnetic attraction.’
The music of this short suite was pieced together for the Marco Polo recording of Worland’s works. The composer had resuscitated some old manuscript sketches with a ‘Scottish flavour’, one of which was a ‘march’. This short ‘sixteen bar theme’ was then worked up into a ‘mini-suite’ which explored a number of moods awakened by the landscape and his lady-friend. It is in four sections which continue without a break. The work opens with the brisk march theme accompanied by brass and drums. There is a short bridge passage before the tune is reprised. Soon the mood changes to the dance floor and Worland presents what is really a restrained reel. After a ‘lunga pausa’ the harp quietly introduces a lovely ‘adagio’ tune that the composer has called ‘By the Loch.’ This given all the romantic treatment including fluttering flutes and sweeping strings. A brass chorale crowns the climax of this calm movement before a rising harp arpeggio leads to a reprise of the ‘March’. Scottish Power concludes with a broad restatement of the ‘love’ tune before the brass ushers in the closing chords.
There is precious little about Bill Worland available in print or online. Even Philip Scowcroft, the doyen of light music, manages only a few words. Worland was born in 1921 and later became a pianist working with dance bands before, during and after World War 2.  Scowcroft notes that Worland’s heyday for musical composition was around 1960 at a time when ‘light music’ was in serious decline as a result of the burgeoning pop and rock culture as well as a downer on the genre by classical music cognoscenti.  
Worland’s music would appear to have been written for the ‘music library’ rather than the concert hall. Many of the titles are suggestive of ‘mood music’ such as ‘Happy Hacienda’, ‘In the Shadow of Vesuvius’ and ‘Midnight in Manhattan’. On the other hand, Neil Horner on MusicWeb International has suggested that much of Worland’s music sounds as if it has been written for the ballroom.
Bill Worland’s Scottish Power may not have the sheer dynamism and invention of Malcolm Arnold’s Scottish Dances, nor the exuberance of Ronald Binge’s ‘Scottish Rhapsody’, but it is a delightful work that gives full credit to Miss Power from a composer ‘furth o’ the border.’

The only performance of Bill Worland’s Scottish Power can be heard on Marco Polo 8.225161

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