The Lonely Woodpecker

26/3/03 for four alto saxes

Composer’s note

‘The Lonely Woodpecker’ was composed at great speed during my residency at the Banff Centre in the winter of 2003; in fact, the central movement was started at half past eight on the morning of Friday 7 March, and given its first performance a scant twelve hours later! As well as being a suitably cod-Bulgarian title for a cod-Bulgarian piece, one might detect references to both my birdwatching experiences in Canada and to a certain loneliness which I was experiencing at the time.

All the tunes in the piece are original. The ‘Ruchenitsa’ has very little in common with the traditional form, apart from being mostly in 7/8; this tune comes from an earlier work for flute & bassoon. ‘The Lonely Woodpecker’ was consciously inspired by Peter Liomdev’s arrangement of ‘Kaval Sviri’ on Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares Vol 2. The paidûshka is traditionally a dance in quintuple meter with five-bar sections; this particular melody was part of an extended piece of the same title for Invention Ensemble. It is modelled fairly closely on a tune called ‘Ot dólu ide lûdata Iána’, or ‘Here Comes Silly Iana’ taken from ‘Bulgarian – Macedonian Folk Music’ by Boris A. Kremenliev.


The first performance took place, as noted, at the Banff Centre on Friday 7 March 2003, the players being Jeremy Brown, Charlotte Bradburn, Brian Christensen and Floor Wittink; to whom I dedicate the piece.

Unlike perhaps most of my work, an attracvtive, conventional, and easily performable piece, eminently suitable for sax quartets in search of repertoire.

Duration ~9 mins