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The Devil's Punch Bowl Programme Notes
Movement One depicts the area at the dawn of time. I have attempted to depict an ethereal sort of place.
Movement Two: The Devil is angry at all the churches being built in Sussex, so he digs a ditch from the English Channel, intending to flood the county. He interrupts a church service (a hymn interspersed with a broad motif representing St Dunstan’s presence) with a spectacular raspberry. Being a night owl, the Devil is upset by St Dunstan’s praying causing cocks to crow in the middle of the day. The Devil runs away and makes good progress for a while until he sees St Dunstan chasing him. St Dunstan’s theme gets stronger as he catches up and trips the Devil. The Swannee Whistle depicts the fall from the apogee of the Devil’s unscheduled flight through the air, and the percussive thump is him landing and causing the formation of Punch Bowl.
Movement Three: ‘The Death of a Sailor’ is based on a real incident at Gibbet Hill on the edge of The Devil’s Punch Bowl. It starts with a drinking song, with everyone happy as the sailor buys drinks. The song gets darker, until a request if made of the sailor, first nicely, then forcefully; nicely again, then forcefully. Two bars in the major key depicts the sailor and three drinking buddies walking off together happily enough, but swiftly, the sailor is murdered. A lament follows, and the Devil’s theme returns in a coda showing that his presence is felt in the murderous heart of man.
Notes for the soloist. The Swannee Whistle is obligatory and may not be delegated to a percussion player. The Flutter/Whoop in bar 62 in the second movement can be whatever noise you can make depicting a raspberry being blown. Pitch is not important, impact is. The “High F” at bar 86 need not be taken literally. it is meant to depict an indeterminate starting point from where the soloist slides down to the F on the stave.
Will Elsom October 2014