Chair Foss Foster pens another diary entry on Aberdeenshire Saxophone Orchestra’s Adopt a Music Creator journey, with a special look at the wonder that is harmonic minor mode five.
We recently enjoyed our first rehearsal of 2021, and as we’re still in lockdown we Zoomed in in what has now become the usual way.
Bass and baritone saxophonists hone their skills in a Zoom breakout room
ASO is rehearsing Ben Lunn’s A Small Suite for Saxes. This is a very generous gift from Ben, given to us before he started work on the magnum opus of his collaboration composition for ASO and Ugie Voices. It’s a hugely kind gesture and has been a lovely way of getting to know Ben! On asking him about the suite, this was his response:
"As has been true for centuries, the suite has been a useful form for composers, as it can allow a disparate collection of melodies to fall under one unified banner. Much like with Bach, and the other Baroque giants, this one takes a lot of its inspiration from the forms vaguely familiar to the period. So passacaglia, gigue, fugue are matched with the much older hoquet. The four movements are loosely based on the same material, which is heard initially in the bass saxophone, but each movement uses the forms to bring out their own character and shape, allowing the saxes to explore various qualities – be it lively bouncing, hymnal roar, or just a rich communicative landscape."
To begin with, we were a bit puzzled by the unusual sound. However, the erudite Richard Ingham, our MD, came to the rescue and explained that the predominant scale throughout is a harmonic minor, often in the fifth mode. The jazz-educated members of the orchestra were able to revel in the wonders of this atmospheric scale. Richard told us that one of the most iconic recorded saxophone solos is by Kenny Garrett playing his 'Sing a Song of Song', which is entirely on harmonic minor mode five.
Richard also enlightened us that 'hocket' (hoquet), is a kind of interrupted style. The name comes from medieval Dutch/French for hiccups, and he added his own inimitable playing instructions, such as “Hang on to your hats and don’t rely on anyone else!” for fugue.
By adding these gift pieces to Ben's major collaboration piece, the groups will be able to programme a joint concert, including selections from our respective repertoires and, most importantly, the premiere of the new pieces – so exciting!
So, lots of work needed. Our Ben has provided everyone with a digital audio of their own part, and of the full orchestra for use at home. We are also holding a Zoom session one evening a week for those wanting more practice. Everyone is thoroughly engaged and we’re actually daring to look forward to a performance.
Similarly, Ben has recently gifted a composition to Ugie Voices. By adding these gift pieces to Ben's major collaboration piece, the groups will be able to programme a joint concert, including selections from our respective repertoires and, most importantly, the premiere of the new pieces – so exciting!
We feel incredibly lucky to have been paired with Ben for this project. Thanks, Making Music!
The Adopt a Music Creator project matches vocal and instrumental leisure-time music groups with some of the UK’s most promising music creators to collaborate on creating a new piece of music. The project leads to a premiere performance and possible broadcast. If you’re a music group or music creator and you’d like to take part, find out more