Ha’n mor-tyd morlenow

'As the sea-tide flows' for solo piano

Ian Stephens

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‘As the sea-tide flows’ for solo piano

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Composer Ian Stephens
Year of Composition 2020
Duration ca.11'

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-is1hmtm1


Commissioned by Truro Three Arts in remembrance of  Lorna Blewett, whose life was always filled with music.

The first performance is also dedicated to Catharine English and Guy Dodd, who were inspired by the Carrick Roads and in turn inspired so many others.

I’ve loved the Fal since early childhood, with long summer holidays throughout the 1980s spent journeying around the Carrick Roads and the upper reaches of the Fal and the Truro River, as well as out into Falmouth Bay, in our family’s trusty Wayfarer sailing dinghy. When I was commissioned to write this piece I decided to revisit these childhood haunts, and have based my music on the melodic and rhythmic qualities of 30 place-names along the river from Truro downstream to St Anthony Head. I’ve split these into five groups of six names each:

Truro – Boscawen – Newham – St Clement – Trethowell – Penpoll
Malpas – Old Kea – Trevean – Tolverne – Trelissick – Tolcarne

Penperth – Turnaware – Pill – Feock – Restronguet – Greatwood

Mylor – Penarrow – Messack – St Just in Roseland – Carclase – Trefusis
Falmouth – St Mawes – Carricknath – Pendennis – Black Rock – St Anthony Head

Arfie Treneer, much of whose working life has been spent on the Fal and the Truro River, kindly made an audio recording of this list, and I then transcribed his pronunciation into musical notation. This transcription forms the basis for the whole composition.

The piece is in ten linked sections. Sections 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, all marked Maestoso (majestic) are harmonisations of the original transcription, with Section 1 covering Truro to Penpoll, Section 3 Malpas to Tolcarne, and so on. Each section is lower in pitch, more ornamented and more spaced out than the last, to suggest the broadening and deepening of the river as it runs seawards.

Sections 2, 4, 6 and 8 are more lyrical, dramatic, and varied in expression and emotion; they are freely based on the qualities of individual place-names, and on explorations of the harmony of the Maestoso section. The final section is a broad, calm summing-up.

Thanks to Arfie Treneer for recording the place-names, and to his daughter Mary for getting the recording to me. Thanks also to Cornish scholar Russell Trevear Bennett for his generous help with the title of the piece; the title is roughly pronounced ‘Han mor-teed mor-len-oh’. Finally, thanks to my parents Nick and Helen Stephens for their help in finding Arfie and Russell, and in taking me on all those wonderful, vividly remembered sailing expeditions as a child.

Ha’n mor-tyd morlenow was commissioned to celebrate the purchase of a new piano – a Yamaha C7X – for Truro Three Arts at Mylor Theatre, Truro College. The premiere will be given by Phillip Leslie; the scheduled concert has been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. I wrote the piece in April and May 2020 during the lockdown. It was a pleasure to work on it, casting my mind to the beautiful waters between Truro and the sea even while unable to be there in person.

The premiere is dedicated to Catharine English and Guy Dodd, both close friends and neighbours of my parents in their Cornish village, and both people with close ties with the river, and with music. Tragically, Catherine and Guy both lost their lives – separately – in the spring of 2020.