Composers Edition is proud to be newly publishing Martin Bussey’s Shocklach Diary. Shocklach Diary is a set of six short pieces for piano, born of a move by the composer to a converted Methodist Chapel in Shocklach, on the borders of Cheshire and Wales in 2015.
Border lands have long been a strong interest for Bussey. Connections between place and music are hard to define and seldom absolute, but they form a common strand in much music that has influenced him. History reflected in music is another significant interest, present particularly in works such as Mary’s Hand, his monodrama about Mary I, and his work exploring the life and poetry of Ivor Gurney, Severn Meadows.
These are not descriptive pieces, more reflections of place, mood or moment, most often exploring a musical idea which came to mind while in a particular place. In that sense they form a musical diary, reflecting a new and stimulating chapter in Martin’s life. Venues reflected in the diary include the magnificent Redwoods in Bodnant Gardens, Conwy Castle, Bickerton Hill in Cheshire and the night sky in Shocklach itself. Here Bussey recalls the particular moments and places which inspired each work;
Shocklach Stars was born of a clear, dark night soon after moving to Shocklach. Returning from taking a choir rehearsal, I was struck by the darkness of the night sky which enabled stars to be seen so clearly in a very small village with no significant external lighting, and by the complete silence that prevails.
Deganwy/Conwy reflects the contrast between the sturdy, intact remains of Conwy Castle and the barely evident ruins of Deganwy Castle, on opposite sides of the estuary.
Bodnant Redwoods began life in a summer walk through the towering redwoods in the gardens at Bodnant Castle. Immensely tall by British norms they are reflected in the space and expanse of keyboard used in the piece.
The Scherzetto is the exception in the set, being a miniature picture of Barb, a lovely if slightly mercurial cat whose time was sadly cut short on the road outside.
Maiden Castle sits on top of the nearest hill in Cheshire on the Sandstone Ridge, site of early dwellers, and is a hill-top fort. Being one of few elevations nearby it gives views across to the Welsh Hills and, on a clear day the cathedrals in Liverpool are visible. The sense of time is strong there, heightened by the view of a broad, imposing landscape.
Greening Hedgerows is an unpretentious piece which explores a musical idea that appeared while driving back from a day on the Wirral coast at West Kirby. Its cheerful optimism owes much to the Spring music of Frank Bridge and to the views from West Kirby across the Dee estuary to the North Wales coast.
Pieces from the set may be performed individually or in groups. While the order set out for the complete set is the composer’s favourite, players may wish to vary this and should feel free to do so.
To accompany the upload of Shocklach Diary to Composers Edition Martin has recorded all six pieces on video:
All pieces of Shocklach Diary are available for perusal and purchase through Composers Edition website, as well as other works by Martin Bussey.