Charade for Orchestra

Year of composition
Difficult (Grades 7+)
11 minutes
Modern classical music

“On Ilkley Moor Baht’at” is the adopted anthem of Yorkshire folk. It’s a call-and-response song which asks the question (in Yorkshire dialect) “Where ‘as tha bin since I saw thee?” and goes on to suggest that the person to whom the song is addressed will catch their death of cold as a result of amorous adventures on “Ilkley Moor without a hat” (a rough translation of the title). Ilkley Moor is a real geographical location, situated at the elbow of Wharfedale - one of the Yorkshire Dales, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

In the party game "charades", one person tries (through mime) to give to the remainder of the assembled company, clues relating to a title or name of something. “Charade for Orchestra” uses the melody of the song as a source for its thematic material but never in its entirety. The melody is fragmented, re-shaped and, through several on-going transformations, a programmatic, evocative description of a walk up onto the moor emerges.

The opening is about anticipation, then there’s a stiff climb to reach the first ridge where the views for miles around are simply stunning. As the walk continues steadily upwards and momentum picks up, one passes waterfalls, huge rock formations and, eventually, ancient signs of moor dwellers from thousands of years in the past. Towards the end of the walk the subject can almost feel the presence of the early population of the moors as they danced at one of their festivals. Finally, the music leaves the listener with a warm glow, replete with golden memories of the journey.

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