Monthly Archives: June 2015

French Carousel

In 2013, on holiday in France, we had a couple of travel stopovers in the city of Troyes. On the journey back to England, we arrived in Troyes tired, and left the hotel in the early evening in search of something to eat.

In a backstreet on the way into town there was a small pizza takeaway with a couple of tables outside. Inside, the owner was a genial French man with a ready smile and a bottle of Pastis, and a parrot on his shoulder. This was a good start. We had a hilarious meal with great food, good wine and fantastic entertainment from the combination of the owner and Harry his green feathered friend, whom, so the story goes, had been rescued from a bar where he was being mistreated – or was it that he had won it in a bet – I think both stories came out at different times.

Anyway, giddy from the hilarity of the evening, we strolled into town and as the sun went down and the moon hung silently above the cobbled streets, my wife and daughter rode on a carousel in the town square.

Here they are on the way to the ride.


french carousel



I was thinking about that night whilst improvising and called the piece that emerged I called ‘French Carousel’.
It’s in three time which, as a time signature has a ‘circular’ feel about it and it is often used on old fairground rides.

The left hand opening chords turn around on themselves.

The melody has, I think, something of an old fashioned quality to it – distinctly European – the regularity of the phrasing, helps with this and the harmonies don’t stray far from the original root.

In the middle section the right hand embellishes the melody with the addition of an arpeggio figuration which attempts to represent a little of the giddy excitement of the ride as well as the bonhomie of the evening with the parrot and his owner.

In The Evening By The River

This is another track inspired by the countryside of Northumberland. The river in question in the Coquet – pronounced “Kohk-ut” which is about 40 miles long and flows from the Cheviot Hills to the North Sea. I tried to construct the piece to represent the gently flowing river passing a fixed point – the first note you hear is ‘G’ in the right hand, and later, lower in the left. This note acts as the constant reference point , while the music moves around it – it disappears for the odd bar or two, only to reappear again soon after. The left hand ‘ripples’ as the right hand plays the melody.

Folk Dance (Dreaming With Your Feet)

The county of Northumberland is only a few miles from my house. It is extremely beautiful and I enjoy regular trips there to experience the sense of space and serenity that its sparse population and ruggedly magnificent countryside gives rise to. It has a rich history and vibrant cultural tradition including many types of folk music.

A good friend, and fine musician, Jim Hornsby, let us stay in his holiday home in the village of Alwinton in the summer of 2012. Long walks and bike rides were the order of the day with plenty of time for unwinding, relaxing and reflecting – the perfect’getting away from it all’ experience.That was where the idea for this piece first appeared.

In my late teens the only Northumbrian folk music I remember listening to was an album called ‘On Kielder Side’ by Kathryn Tickell which I borrowed on cassette from the local library and would listen to on my Sony walkman. Although I never knew her, Kathryn was about two years ahead of me at the same school in Gosforth and when I think about it now, I suppose her success at an early age may well have sown the seed that it may be possible to earn a living as a musician, even if I never remotely considered that prospect at the time. Sometimes you need role models in your community to help you to see what is possible.

The music of Northumberland betrays a lot of Celtic influences. Some use of the five notes that make up the pentatonic scale, relatively simple harmonies and the triple time signature contribute a lilting cascading feel to this piece which has its roots in Northumberland. Sometimes it feels like the music of the local area gets into your bones without you even being aware of it.