There have been various pieces of music inspired by sport over the decades, and by football (soccer) in particular. This short concert overture is another one, and is particularly inspired by the local teams in East Ayrshire in Scotland where I grew up. In fact the work is dedicated to the supporters of five teams in the area.
Eleven is the number of players in a team and is the number which shapes a lot of the musical choices here: themes made up of eleven notes, chords consisting of eleven pitches, durations of eleven units and so on. The piece begins with the sound of a referee’s whistle before two eleven-note themes are thrown around between wind and strings, as if they are two opposing teams. Gradually melodies which have been appropriated as archetypal football chants start to appear, always underpinned by a restless physical energy.
One of these (which has its origin in Auld Lang Syne) eventually establishes itself as a slow-moving chorale over which the violins swirl around and up and down. The central section becomes an energetic moto perpetua before the whole orchestra blare out eleven violent repeated chords.
The referee’s whistle heralds a brief recapitulation of the opening duel between the sections of the orchestra before the music eventually settles to a calm codetta, marked serene and warm.