Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Anthony Hedges: Overture – Heigham Sound

In 1968, the Hull-born composer penned a short orchestral piece – Holiday Overture. The work was premiered on the BBC Home Service by the London Studio Orchestra and was subsequently broadcast several times. The composer considered that the overture was too short, and did not make sufficient use of the musical ideas he had created. Ten years later, Hedges completely revised the work and changed the title to ‘Heigham Sound.’ This was partly to avoid confusion with the original work, but also reflected the fact that the composer had recently holidayed in the Norfolk Broads.

Heigham Sound is a well-loved beauty spot that depending on the time of day or season can be ‘bustling or tranquil.’ Anthony Hedges has taken this dichotomy and used it in his overture. The work is conceived in three sections – a slow, thoughtful central trio is framed by two lively sections reflecting the ‘holiday mood.’  The work is really based on a single tune that is developed and varied throughout the entire work. The composer is at pains to point out that this is not programme music as such, but simply reflects the mood of the landscape and riverside at various times of the season. He concedes that the title itself contains a ‘pun’ – it is the musical ‘sound’ that matters most. In fact, the bustling music is probably more appropriate to the popular village of Potter Heigham than the Sound itself.
Paul Conway has noted that the premiere of the Overture was given on 20th January 1979, by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Ashley Lawrence.

To my knowledge, the work has been recorded only once. It was released on the Marco Polo survey of the composer’s music issued on the British Light Music series. (8.223886). Anthony Hedges conducted the RTE Sinfonietta. Other works included on the CD were the Humber Suite, Four Breton Sketches, the Kingston Sketches, a Cantilena, and Four Miniature Dances. The Gramophone reviewed the disc in their April 1998 issue. Andrew Lamb suggested that ‘the lively overture Heigham Sound. This last, commemorating an East Anglia beauty spot, is perhaps the most impressive item here, engagingly contrasting its bustling and tranquil aspects.’

Paul Conway has suggested that the work is the equal to of such British overtures as Portsmouth Point (Walton), Derby Day (Alwyn), Beckus the Dandipratt, (Arnold) and Street Corner (Rawsthorne). If only it had the opportunity of being heard a little more often. 

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