Commissioned by the BBC

  • 1+pic.1+ca.1+bcl.1+cbn/2.2cnt.2.1/timp.2perc/concertina.bjo.out-of-tune pf/str
  • 15 min

Programme Note

Swinton Jig is one in a series of occasional pieces inspired by my youth in Salford and the surrounding areas.

When I was put in the way of this “Swinton Jig”, (composed by a coal miner from Swinton in 1860), it gave me the opportunity to celebrate the very modest place next to Salford where I spent most of my childhood years. These variations on Mr Tildesley’s tune are very much imbued with what it was like to be in the communal air-raid shelter in the middle of our street, where concerts were given to pass the long hours spent within. There was an out-of-tune upright piano – people played banjo and bones, concertinas and cornets, they sang songs and they danced. And all of this was seen through the eyes of a very sleepy eight-year-old child.

The slow Cor Anglais tune recalls the song of an extraordinary large Irish lady who would walk around the streets singing, in a bass voice, for pennies. Not only was this the saddest music I have ever heard – you could hear it streets away, and it echoed around them – but when you got near enough to push tuppence into her hand, the air was quite literally vibrating so strongly that it hurt!