• Simon Holt
  • The Coroner's Report (2004)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the BBC

  • fl.cbn/hn.tpt/hp.pf(cel)/2vn.va
  • 18 min

Programme Note

The Coroner’s Report is the second of three satellite pieces connected with my 2003 music-theatre piece Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?, which concerns a woman’s body found stuffed in a wych elm in the early 1940s by four boys out bird’s nesting. To this day, nobody knows who she was or why she was killed; it is still an open case.

This ensemble work, composed in 2004, is scored for alto flute (doubling piccolo), contrabassoon, horn, trumpet in Bb, harp, piano (doubling celesta), 2 violins and viola. It lasts approximately 18 minutes and comprises 8 exhibits: exhibits A to H.

Exhibit A is ‘a blue shoe’ (a blue crepe shoe was found near to the murder scene) and is a strange, slow moving dirge of 3 or 4 disjointed chords scored for the two wind and the two brass. Exhibit B is ‘gold ring’; scored for piano and celesta (one player); it is a wild and unleashed toccata; a gold ring was found in Bella’s mouth. Exhibit C is ‘buried hand’, scored for the wind and brass with a harp adding interjections; a hand was found buried close to the tree, which could be evidence of a black magic ritual. Exhibit D is ‘a scrap of taffeta’; there was a scrap of taffeta found in Bella’s mouth along with the gold ring. It is scored for both violins and harp. Exhibit E is ‘knife’; two thirds of the way through it, exhibit F, ‘throat’ for alto flute, begins. Exhibit G, ‘unmarked videotape’, is far and away the most complex and involved of the eight pieces and is scored for all the players. Exhibit H, ‘a sprig of belladonna’ is scored for solo harp, and emerges out of the residue of exhibit G.

The Coroner’s Report is dedicated to Laurence Crane.

© Simon Holt, Dec 2004