Into the Ferment(1988)
Boosey & Hawkes
Magnum Centre, Irvine
Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Ayr Schools Orchestra / James MacMillan
Into the Ferment was written for two orchestras – the Ayr Division Schools Symphony Orchestra and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the latter having the role of a concertante group of 14 soloists. The work is based on Robert Burns’ poem "Willie brewed a peck o’ maut", about three friends who get together for a session of whisky tasting. The music is written in nine short interlocking sections and attempts to capture the humour and sense of conviviality in the Burns original.
"The Storm" (orchestra and soloists)
I imagined Rob and Allan fighting their way through an Ayrshire winter’s night to reach Willie’s house for their drams.
"Here are we met three merry boys" (3 orchestral trombones and soloists)
Willie, Rob and Allan as trombones.
"In dispraise of whisky" (orchestra only)
I use an old slip-jig tune here to give the impression of a party in full swing!
"We are na’ fou!" (soloists only)
Despite the men’s protestation so innocence, we know better! The music attempts to capture the erratic swing of a drink man’s conversation – convivial one minute, grumpy the next, maudlin the next.
"It is the moon I ken her horn" (orchestra and soloists)
"Three merry boys again (sometime later") (orchestra only)
"Wha’ first shall rise to gang awa" (soloists only)
The boasting has now started – horn, trumpet and trombone try to outshine each other in intoxicated virtuosity!
"Man to man…shall brithers be…" (orchestra only)
For a few minutes we step back and view the scene in a different light. Behind the frivolity there is a serious message – that friendship and brotherhood are being strengthened by this occasion. Another Burns tune is used here played very slowly and solemnly.
Finale (orchestra and soloists)
A lively, rhythmic, pulsating celebration of life and human energy.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer