Opera blog: ‘Riders to the Sea’

A Brief Analysis of Vaugham Williams Use of Quartal Harmony

Ralph Vaughan Williams composed Riders to the Sea in 1927, although it was not officially premiered until 1st December 1937 at the Royal College of Music in London. The work is a short opera in one act and is widely regarded as the composer’s most successful opera. Furthermore, Vaughan Williams wrote this composition at a time when he was really branching out as a composer and beginning to use less traditional harmony, such as voicing chords in fourths.

In Riders to the Sea, Vaughan Williams uses quartal harmony throughout the music, particularly from 16 to 22. At two measures after 16, the composer voices a chord, which from the bass upwards contains a B-F sharp-C sharp-F sharp and G-sharp. If this is rewritten with G sharp as the root, then this chord can be simply seen as a collection of perfect fourths, with Vaughan Williams using it in a different inversion. This chord is repeated three more times at the beginning of the next three measures. A similar example is on the first and third beats in the fourth measure of 17, where the notes F-C-F-G-C and D can be easily perceived as quartal harmony if D is considered as the root. At 18, a more obvious example can be seen where the composer utilizes a chord containing F sharp-B and E, which is repeated five times leading up to 19, before returning in the few measures leading up to 21.

This work is just one example of Vaughan Williams’s use of less traditional harmony in his music, showing his maturity and development as a composer. It is quite feasible that his lessons with Ravel could have led to his decision to start experimenting with techniques such as quartal harmony, which the French impressionists were using some years earlier, or it could have been simply a personal choice to just try out new ideas in composition. Moreover, it is interesting to see how Vaughan Williams chose to voice some of these chords in Riders to the Sea; a three-note voicing superimposed over a perfect fifth, which could well have been the composer’s attempt to disguise his use of the technique.

Martyn Croston is a music teacher, composer/arranger and a jazz pianist. He has performed throughout the UK, Russia and the USA, both as a soloist and with numerous jazz ensembles.
Please visit his site for wedding music in Kent with a wedding pianist

The Unusual Sport of Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire, England

This sport spans back two hundred years or maybe even thousands of years ago

Perhaps it was a pagan healing ritual, ancient fertility rite, or a celebration of the return of spring. There are many theories surrounding the ancient civilizations that inhabited the area that may have given birth to the unusual event of cheese rolling. At any rate, cheese rolling is a sport that takes place on Coopers Hill, Gloucestershire, England, once and a year on the last Monday of May coinciding with the Bank Holiday.

Men and women alike chase after a seven pound Double Gloucester cheese roll that speeds down Cooper’s Hill at a rate of 100 km/hr (60 m/hr)! Spectators numbering in the thousands plus the media, watch as these fearless athletes risk serious injury to try and capture the cheese. The course is 200 yards on a hill’s whose gradient ranges from 1 in 2 for part of the course to 1 in 1 on uneven turf.

Entry is free and there are 15 people to participate in each run

The number of participants has been reduced from past events due to limited paramedic personnel available to attend in case (in all likelihood) of injuries. There are 3 downhill races for men, 1 for women. There are also 3 uphill races that are for boys and girls under 12 and one that is open to all comers. The first race begins at noon. Informing the Master of Ceremonies (the official in white overall and top hat) of your intention to run in the sport is how many enter. Just getting there early enough is the trick, because it is a sought after event with no preregistration requirements.

Quality footwear and appropriate clothing is all you need to get you through to the end

The traction needed to help with sure footing and the clothing covering will help to minimize, to some extent, injuries and bruising. At the bottom of the hill, there are men dressed in yellow vests. Their job is to help slow down racers so that they do not run into the buildings at the bottom.

The winner of the race wins the cheese, second place receives 10£, and third place receives 5£. In the children’s race, the winner again receives the cheese, while both second and third receives 5£. There are sites that are dedicated to this weird yet locally loved event. Ranging from strategies, possible historical background, diaries from past participants, to video footage of the most recent event held May 25, 2009. Publications in paperback and e-book format are available for purchase. This event celebrates tradition and the adventuresome spirit, and is gaining in popularity with each passing year.

Gloucestershire biking

Mountain Biking Trails in the Gloucestershire

Royal Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire

The Royal Forest of Dean lies on the border between England and South Wales in the UK, less than 3 hours west of London, and provides 30,000 acres of ancient woodland full of waymarked and open route cycling tracks. Throughout the RFOD there is free access to the natural landscape.

The area offers a wide variety of terrain, so there’s a huge choice of easy to difficult rides to choose from, depending on your experience and preferences.

The forest is a haven for wildlife

Its including squirrels, badgers, foxes, fallow deer and free-roaming sheep. Seasonal variations make this a stunning landscape to visit at any time of the year – see the carpets of bluebells in the spring, the magnificent golden foliage in the autumn.

Location: A trail that is a favourite with locals and visitors alike is the route through the Sculpture Trail, which begins and ends at Beechenhurst Lodge in the heart of the forest. Beechenhurst is found on the Speech House Road between the two market towns of Cinderford and Coleford. More extensive directions can be found on the Sculpture Trail’s. Beechenhurst is open from dawn to dusk daily, all year round. There is no admission fee but there’s a car parking charge of £3.50.

Difficulty: The full Sculpture Trail is around 3.5 miles long but shorter distance routes are available. The ride is an easy one and waymarked, but look out here and there for those tree roots. Collect an up-to-date leaflet -containing a map and information about the artworks – from the lodge, then follow the direction arrows on the blue-ringed posts.

What You’ll Find There

The Trail offers rides through a magical woodland environment, with 17 permanent artworks and regular temporary exhibits on open show. The artworks have been designed, by international artists, to reflect the forest and its communities. Sculptures include a Giant’s Chair, a shimmering metal swing suspended in a tree and a huge stained-glass window.

Beechenhurst Lodge itself is a popular picnic site and contains a Forestry Commission Visitor Centre, children’s playground, café, gift shop, bbq facilities and toilets. A great base for rides.

Bike Hire: should you need it, this service is available at Pedalabikeaway Cycle Centre, adjacent to the Sculpture Trail. For hire charges and details of equipment – including bikes for special needs.