From Hills and Valleys is the second of two War Memorials for brass band. It was commissioned by the London Borough of Brent in association with the Guinness Composition Prize for 1983.
The score is headed with lines from a poem by Charles Sorley who was killed in action in 1915 at the age of 20. (The same poem, ‘All the hills and vales along’, also provides the epigraph for Men Marching, the first of the two War Memorials). They are:
From the hills and valleys earth
Shouts back the sound of mirth,
Tramp of feet and lilt of song
Ringing all the road along.
All the music of their going,
Ringing, swinging, glad song-throwing,
Earth will echo still when foot
Lies numb and voice mute.
From Hills and Valleys is an Introduction and Allegro. The Introduction indeed introduces all the themes, family by family; the first is on muted, the second on unmuted cornets, the third on the three saxhorns, and then the music comes to a half-close. The next sentence begins with a further new theme on three trombones, then another on tubas, followed by a further half-close. A return to the opening builds up to a climax which as it descends introduces still more new material, and links into the allegro.
The Allegro is built upon all these themes. The first section is one long crescendo culminating in a big climax. The second turns into a kind of squash-game that hits sharp hard chords around between different groups of instruments. This works up to the third section, a stormy episode that uses a melody from Men Marching. It dies away via a soft transition into section four, a waltz-sequence. At first soft and slow, this gradually comes to life, turning first grandiose then graceful and lilting. It fades out into the fifth and final section, which begins by bouncing chords and motifs around like tennis-balls, before settling into the final stretch of gradual crescendo up to a grand chorale (built out of the very opening of the Introduction), followed by a brief clinching Coda.
This programme note can be reproduced free of charge in concert programmes with a credit to the composer