A couple of weeks ago, I made a short detour from writing about music to arranging it. Well, all my song-collectors did it, so it's not so surprising that I should join in the fun.
Our eldest son, besides studying computer science, is also a cellist. His cello quartet needed music for the forthcoming Cambridge May Balls. (He's the designer of http://whichmayball.co.uk/, as it happens.) I was asked for Spanish and Scottish song arrangements. I needed a suitable book of Spanish songs - it had to be old enough to be completely copyright-clear, so there was nothing for it but to take the librarian approach to the problem - find the classmark for Spanish songs, and go look at the shelves!
And there she was! A Victorian lady arranger of Spanish songs - Mrs S G C Middlemore published her collection in 1887, and they were absolutely perfect for rearranging.*
Songs of the Pyrenees with Spanish, French & English words; Book 2; collected and arranged from traditional Pyrenean melodies with accompaniments by Mrs. S.G.C. Middlemore; translated by W.P. Blake and Miss Constance Bache
I arranged four of her songs:-
Next came the question as to what I should do in the way of Scottish songs. I like to arrange songs into suites, so the ensemble can
play a batch of songs which retain the flavour of
the original arranger or compiler. That's how I came to write Alexander
Campbell's Hebridean Suite for Saxophone Trio, and Alexander Campell's
Saxophone Quartet - all from his Albyn's Anthology. (Here's the first movement of the Sax Quartet, played by Saxual Healing Quartet. I'll blog about the sax ensemble pieces in my next posting, so watch this space.)
I'd done enough Alexander Campbell for now, so instead, I found a piano version of 'The Eriskay Love Lilt', by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser. It was eased into a four-cello setting with no difficulty at all. I must confess I didn't think I had time to do a whole set of Kennedy-Fraser settings, but maybe I might have a go another day.
Anyway, my final offering to the May Ball project was my own setting of 'My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose'. I was quite pleased with the outcome; Finale NotePad played it back to me nicely enough, but I needed 'real cellists' to play it before I would really know if it worked. Cello-Man phoned me this evening, and paid me one of his own idiosyncratic compliments. 'It worked very well .... I didn't know you had it in you.'
Well, there you are then. Not only a musicologist but a fully-fledged arranger, too. What shall I arrange next?!
* Mrs Middlemore also published two books of legends, called Round a Posada Fire: Spanish Legends (1883); and Spanish Legendary Tales (1885). In the latter's preface she explains that she spent some years living in the Pyrenees. Sounds a fascinating woman! I like to think that such a versatile woman would appreciate what I did to her Spanish song settings!