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Cabaret Concerto

For Solo Piano and Brass Band

Duration: c. 21 minutes








Programme Notes:

My CABARET CONCERTO was commissioned with funds made available by the Centre for Research into Contemporary Music Practices at the London College of Music & Media and The Holst Foundation by Philip Mead to whom the work is dedicated. It is cast in 8 brief movements or vignettes. The title is an important element in the structure of the work as the solo pianist represents a soloist engaged in an entertainment, or floor show, that could constitute one half of a concert. The unusual accompaniment of a brass band was a key part of the commissioning concept and they in no way play second fiddle (or cornet!) to the solo piano line. I have attempted to integrate both elements so that the centre of attention is moved around though without losing sight of the fact that the pianist is sat in the limelight. The form of a cabaret also enables a work in several contrasting movements engaging many styles of light music including three ‘rags’ and a solo cornet feature. In order to bind the work together as a convincing whole I have taken eight paintings with musically suggestive titles by James Abbott McNeill Whistler. However it is important to understand that I am not always representing the visual images, though some are more aligned than others. The various subtitles are:


1. Harmony in Green and Rose

A Lazy Rag in the manner of Scott Joplin in which the solo piano opens proceedings and the band creep in section by section. Whistler’s painting is conveniently subtitled The Music Room.


2. Variations in Pink and Grey

A brief theme is subjected to ten variations and a finale, all in 2 minutes!


3. Nocturne in Blue and Silver

Whistler’s subtitle of The Lagoon, Venice enables a reflective, dreamy nightscape, though not without moments of passion.


4. An Orange Note

A scene de ballet (Funky Rag) based on Whistler’s Sweet Shop painting. There is an obvious quotation in here to add to the fun as the soloist and band raid the confectionary.


5. Arrangement in White and Black

Is literally a creative arrangement of an existing work recast in a popular contemporary idiom. The movement features a solo cornet from within the band who steps out and performs alongside the pianist as a duo. The original source is the poco allegretto from Brahms’ 3rd Symphony to whom I humbly apologise!


6. Caprice in Purple and Gold

Subtitled by Whistler as The Golden Screen this glittering scherzo is a fleeting race between soloist and band.


7. Symphony in White

The soloist engages in a quasi oriental recitative and only plays on the white notes of the keyboard, the band eventually taking centre stage with a symphonic chorale theme (alluding to a famous predecessor’s 9th Symphony) before the opening mood is returned to.


8. Harmony in Blue

The Crazy Rag finale is a wild duel between soloist and band (Whistler’s own subtitle is The Duet) after which all combatants can retire to the safety of the bar!



Solo Piano

Eb Soprano Cornet, Bb Solo Cornets, Bb Repiano Cornet,  Bb Cornets 2 (2 players), Bb Cornets 3 (2 players),

Bb Flugel Horn, Eb Horns Solo.1.2, Bb Baritone Horns 1.2,

Bb Trombones 1.2, Bass Trombone,

Bb Euphoniums 1.2, Eb Bass 1.2, Bb Bass 1.2,

Timpani, Percussion 1.2


Percussion Requirements:


Performance Notes:


Available Recordings:



Terra Australis - The Music of Martin Ellerby - Vol. 3

Grimethorpe Colliery Band

Cond.  James Gourlay


Polyphonic Reproductions Ltd.


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