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My Eight Favourites

This site has become quite large over the years (“you don’t say!”...), so I thought it was time to single out my eight favourite pieces, just for web-surfers who would like a taster before moving on and who - I hope - will come back later!

So, without denigrating the many other pieces available here, this is my “desert island discs” selection, the 8 pieces that I would wish to have with me if I were abandoned on a desert island, and/or those pieces for which I would wish to be remembered:

1. Tants Fraylachs

This klezmer style piece was written originally for the tuba quartet Tubalaté, but the clarinet quartet version has become quite popular - as has the saxophone quartet version. It has been performed a few times by the Fell Clarinet quartet in the UK and has its Japanese première in October 2010 played by the Isis Quartet.

Here is a video featuring the Fell Quartet’s performance in 2009:

The score and parts of Tants Fraylachs are published by

Musik Fabrik

and can be obtained

here (clarinet quartet version)

here (saxophone quartet version)


here (tuba and euphonium quartet version)

2. Soliloquy

This guitar solo dates back to my earliest days of composing.  It makes use of the special sonorities of the guitar and yet it is simple to play.  It has been performed by various guitarists over the years, including the New Zealander Bruce Paine and the Italian Alessandro Balsimini.

Here is a recent video in which I play it myself again (in 2010):

3. Beetle’s Wings

This song for alto voice and guitar is a setting of a pantheistic poem by Audrey Vaughan, inspired by her Roman Catholic faith but nonetheless wider in its implications since the view of nature is expanded into something much more world-wide than the vision of any one religion or denomination. I also include this amongst my favourites because of the range given to the voice - a beautiful opportunity for all altos (male or female!)

Here is a video from 1996 in which I perform it:

The Score and mp3 of Beetle’s wings

is available here

Soliloquy is published by Musik Fabrik and can be obtained

here (Soliloquy on its own)


here (Soliloquy as part of an album of five pieces for guitar)

4. Mass for men’s voices and organ

A mass written for the men’s voices of Manchester Cathedral Voluntary Choir - which they performed several times - including the Sunday following the death of Princess Diana in Dublin Christ Church Cathedral, and also Manchester Cathedral and Southwell Minster.

The Southwell Minster performance can be heard here.

Here is a video in which I perform it in my one-man multitrack choir dwsChorale (excluding the organ voluntary at the end):

The score of my Mass for men’s voices and organ can be obtained here.

5. Rose (There is a Rose in my garden)

A simple but effective song based on a poem by a Kurdish prisoner of conscience in Turkey.

The details and mp3s and scores of all of the various versions (including a setting for saxophone and strings) can be experienced here.

Here is a video in which I perform it with pianist David Lawson:

6. Pensieri su Klizemer (thoughts on Klezmer) for unaccompanied wind instrument

This was originally written for the Italian clarinettist, ocarinist and Klezmer performer Paolo Gavelli in Italy.

It has since also been performed by Paul Wehage on alto saxophone and Robert Billington on flute and by many others.

It has been published by Musik Fabrik and the scores can be obtained at the following links:

Pensieri su Klizemer for clarinet

Pensieri su Klizemer for alto saxophone

Pensieri su Klizemer for flute

Mp3s of live performances can be heard at the following locations (among others)

Saxophone version performed by Paul Wehage

Flute  version performed by Robert Billington

7. Heureux qui comme Ulysse

A setting for alto and guitar of Du Bellay’s poem of the same title.

This has absolutely no connection with the Georges Brassens song (which only uses a few lines of the Du Bellay poem and then goes its own way) or with the Ridan version, which frankly abuses the words and appears to have no connection whatever with the meaning of the poem, but the fact that this song has has had over many thousands of YouTube hits suggests that some people may be looking for the Brassens or Ridan song instead.... I can only hope that some of them will appreciate this version as well.

I therefore consider my  setting of the Du Bellay poem worthy of inclusion amongst my top 8 pieces.

The score of

Heureux qui comme Ulysse

can be obtained


8. Something for Luck

Trio for recorders or saxophones based on the idea of the four things that bring good luck at a wedding - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

The recorder trio version has been performed by several groups including X-tet at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral at a “Music for a While” concert

(their recording can be heard here)

A flash movie of one of the movements (something borrowed) can be enjoyed here.

The scores of Something for Luck are published by Musik Fabrik:

Version for recorder trio

Version for saxophone trio

OK - so, in the style of Desert Island Discs, I now have to choose the best of the eight and also one book (apart from the Bible, [The Koran (etc etc)] and the works of Shakespeare) and one luxury

If pushed, I would choose Beetle’s Wings as my favourite from among all my works.

My book would be Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Private Life” to remind me that, even if life on a desert island might seem somewhat basic, existence in the 20th and 21st century in Europe (and the USA), which I will have left, is really very much an exception sub specie aeternitatis and life has always been hard, bug-bitten and dirty for most of the time that human beings have lumbered across this planet!

My one luxury would be a pet cat ...