Traditional song and softening regular rhythm

I am writing a composition for strings. It is called 'Flint' and is for the Corelli Ensemble.

While thinking about the culture of Sussex and its people, as well as Sussex's natural and environmental features, I was browsing around for examples of traditional song. I noticed a volume called "Folk Songs from Sussex" published by Augener Ltd in 1912, and edited by George Butterworth with original musical arrangements. The fourth of eleven songs is entitled 'A Lawyer he went out'. It was noted by Francis Jekyll who, according to Butterworth's preface, had been collaborating with the composer for six years. There is a touching enthusiasm of the collector in Butterworth's cheerful introductory words and no sense of the utter catastrophe that was to come in the 1914-18 War. The tune was given to Jekyll by Mrs Verral, Horsham; the words partly by her 'but chiefly by Mrs Cranstone, Billingshurst'. The song is in a beautifully lilting compound metre with subtle exchanges between 6/8 and 9/8 to reflect the way the regular rhythm is softened up here and there by the addition of a beat. The song is about a young woman from the country, who is courted by a smart city lawyer with the offer of a silken gown, Gold rings and gold chains and laces; she opts for a husband who loves her and 'no lady in town above her'. The song mildly registers the sense of difference between town and country values, and having a sense of what makes you happy. Butterworth set the tune with a delicate, mainly two-part accompaniment. In the second movement of 'Flint' the tune laces its way through more layered textures, so that it is sometimes foreground and sometimes background, and sometimes not there at all. But the essence of the tune shapes the movement overall.

Ed HughesFlintComment