Tunnel Vision

suite for brass band

--- Ian Stephens

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suite for brass band

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Composer Ian Stephens
Year of Composition 2017
Duration ca.12'

Instrumentation Brass Band
Categories (all composers) , ,
Catalogue ID ce-is1tv1


Tunnel Vision is a 12-minute suite drawn from the large-scale piece I wrote in 2016 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the completion of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. Tunnel Vision was commissioned by the Brass Band Heritage Trust for the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, for performance at the RNCM Brass Band Festival on 28 January 2018.

The original piece, a mammoth 85-minute multi-movement work, is titled Super Slow Way: A Rhapsody to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. In it I set a series of original poems exploring the history, stories and current life of the canal by Ian McMillan. As well as Brighouse and Rastrick, the massed performing forces were made up of three narrators (Lisa Parry, Farmeen Akhtar and Ian McMillan himself), 3 soloists (soprano Amanda Roocroft, cellist Jonathan Aasgaard, and tabla player Kuljit Bhamra), and 3 choirs (Blackburn People’s Choir, Children’s Voices of Blackburn, and a specially-formed Super Slow Way Chamber Choir). It was commissioned by the Canal and River Trust, and performed on 16 October 2016 in King George’s Hall, Blackburn, under the baton of Clark Rundell. Special thanks to Ian Brownbill for his help and support in its creation.

In Tunnel Vision I have rescored to integrate choral, solo vocal and cello lines into the brass band texture. Each section is linked without pause to the next.

The Suite opens with Fantasy on Canal Ballads, which draws on tunes introduced to me by the Manchester ballad-singer Jennifer Reid. Then Narrative No.1: Plan, which tells of the ideas behind the canal, leads into Sunset Over the Canal, a meditation on what the canal means to the people who live along its banks. Canal Dream, with its mock-Handelian language, explores the mind of an 18th-century capitalist, and his dreams of the huge wealth to be made from canals. Then the work begins, in Narrative No.2: Dig. In The Week Held in Water we explore the life of working people on the canals, and the final Rhapsody on Boat Names grows from the whimsical names of the boats themselves.