During Holst's earlier years as a composer, he took interest, as did many other English composers at the time, in writing pieces based on folk music. His contemporary Ralph Vaughan Williams had written his English Folk Song Suite, all based on English folk tunes. Holst followed suit and composed the Second Suite as a result. Six tunes are compressed into the four movements of the suite, each with their own character.
The Second Suite consists of movements based on specific English folk songs
The great British brass band tradition has been fostered since 1860 by an annual competition for bands. Held in the Crystal Palace until that edifice burned in the 1930s, it is a major event at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Each year there is a new test piece, required of all bands and in 1957, Ralph Vaughan Williams (by then a revered, grandfatherly figure in British music) was finally persuaded to write a composition for that purpose.
The 12-minute composition comprises a theme and 11 variations. The brief variations are in a variety of moods and styles, including a waltz, a polonaise, a chorale, a canon, an arabesque, and a fugue. It tests ensemble coordination, command of and flexibility concerning styles, and richness of sound.
A sequel to the much celebrated 'Shine as the light', Peter Graham felt the dawning of a new millennium was an appropriate back-drop against which to feature Joy Webb's song 'Come into our world', with its plea for revival or Renaissance in the form of Christ's promised return.
The highlight of Cory’s centenary celebrations throughout 1984 was a concert held in St. David’s Hall, Cardiff, in March. The band, with the aid of funds provided by the Welsh Arts Council, commissioned Philip Sparke to write a work for first performance at this concert. The result was “The Year of the Dragon” of which the composer writes:
“At the time I wrote The Year of the Dragon, Cory had won two successive National Finals and I set out to write a virtuoso piece to display the talents of this remarkable band to the full.”
The work is in three movements:
TOCCATA opens with an arresting side drum figure and snatches of themes from various sections of the band, which try to develop until a broad and powerful theme from the middle of the band asserts itself. A central dance-like section soon gives way to the return of this theme, which subsides until faint echoes of the opening material fade to a close.
INTERLUDE takes the form of a sad and languid solo for trombone. A chorale for the whole band introduces a brief spell of optimism but the trombone solo returns to close the movement quietly.
FINALE is a real tour-de-force for the band with a stream of rapid semi-quavers running throughout the movement. The main theme is heroic and march-like but this is interspersed with lighter, more playful episodes. A distant fanfare to the sound of bells is introduced and this eventually returns to bring the work to a stirring close.
Heaton's most celebrated brass band work was re-worked from three composition 'exercises' (according to the composer) written in the early 1950s. The finished work was commissioned for the 1973 National Brass Band Championship finals, but not used for the event until 1982.