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Discovery of the Month - Guy Woolfenden - Divertimento for Band

Tim Reynish and Guy Woolfenden, serenading Richard Wagner on the lake near Luzern, WASBE 2001 Tim Reynish and Guy Woolfenden, serenading Richard Wagner on the lake near Luzern, WASBE 2001

Divertimento for Band is strictly not a Discovery of the Month, since I first heard it at its premiere, conducted by Guy, at the WASBE Conference in 2007. I thought then that it was a particularly strong piece, and I was delighted to hear it again played by the Birmingham Symphonic Winds in their concert at the CBSO Centre on 9th April. It is through composed but falls into three sections, inevitably fast - slow - fast but with Guy the melodic invention is perennially fresh, phrase lengths are often not what you expect, and there are harmonic quirks, rhythmic subtleties and felicitous scoring which make the work as attractive as any other piece he has written.

His own descriptions of each section cannot be bettered:

1 Toccata - The Toccata pits a four-note motif (which always appears with its mirror image) against several other derived ideas, including a sour horn (later trumpet) figure, a tiny lyrical passage initiated by a solo alto saxophone, and a more gentle, but still staccato episode. Many polytonal devices keep the four-note motif active.

11 Aubade - The Aubade contrasts a lyrical pastorale with a more intensive central section on the brass.

111 Scherzo - The Scherzo finale has three main ideas; a tune for principal bassoon and euphonium of a playful child-like nature, a rushing figure for the woodwinds later developed by the full band. And na solo for trumpet and clarinet, involving a descending scale and a lyrical wide-leaping recovery. The exuberant coda is derived from themes from the previous two movements.

Many of the principal musical ideas for Divertimento for Band are derived from music I composed for a documentary film called Country Camera, which celebrated the work of the earliest photographers who recorded a way of life which vanished at the outset of the First World War. The three movements are played without a break.

The world premiere of Divertimento for Band was given by Birmingham Symphonic Winds at the conference of the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles in Killarney, Ireland, on 13th July 2007 conducted by the composer. Divertimento for Band is affectionately dedicated to Keith Allen, Jayne Rollason and Birmingham Symphonic Winds.