In Praise of London (2000)

Overture for Orchestra   7 minutes

When I moved to Bethnal Green in 1994, I suddenly found myself surrounded by places I had previously only known in song: Stepney, Whitechapel, Shoreditch and Bow – all names that ‘rang a bell’ from the old nursery-rhyme:

‘Two sticks and an apple’ say the bells of Whitechapel,
‘When I grow rich’ say the bells of Shoreditch,
‘When will that be’ say the bells of Stepney,
‘I do not know’ says the great bell at Bow
.

(I only recently discovered that the Bow in question is actually St. Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside.)

Walking around the East End and the City, I’d often find this tune running through my head, almost as if the city itself were singing to me. I liked the idea that this song, which is over 250 years old, is still being sung today; like the old churches of the City of London that still stand, nestling among the modern cathedrals to Finance. So I have used Oranges and Lemons to make a celebratory portrait of the City of London: by slowing the tune down, speeding it up, turning it upside-down and sometimes using just its first two notes, I hope I have managed to suggest the City waking up and coming to life – and, of course, the sound of all those church bells.

Commissioned by Christopher Everett for the Millenium Charity Concert of the Schools of the Worshipful Company of Skinners

First performance: 13th March 2000, Massed Schools of the Skinners' Company, conducted by Hilary Davan Wetton, Barbican Centre, London.

Instrumentation

3(III=Pic.).3.3.3.Cbsn—4.3.3.1—Timp—4Perc—Str