In 1970, British composer Peter Maxwell Davies moved to the remote and rugged Orkney Islands off the northern coast of Scotland. At first, he said, the natives thought he was just some weirdo from the south, and the more Puritanical islanders would pray the might find a more respectable means of earning a living than writing music.
But over time Davies and the islanders got used to each other. The composer found inspiration in the landscape and legends of the area, while the community warmed to the fact that the newcomer found them so fascinating. In 1978, Davies attended a neighbor’s wedding, which inspired a musical work he called “An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise.”
“It is a picture postcard,” said Davies, “We hear the guests arriving, out of extremely bad weather. This is followed by a processional and first glass of whiskey. The band tunes up and we get on with the dancing, which becomes ever wilder, until the lead fiddle can hardly hold the band together. We leave the hall into the cold night. As we walk home across the island, the sun rises to a glorious dawn.”
“The sun,” Maxwell Davies concluded, “is represented by the highland bagpipes, in full traditional splendor.”
Despite its local color, “An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise” was actually an AMERICAN commission from the Boston Pops, who gave its premiere on today’s date in 1985, with John Williams conducting.
Music Played in Today's Program
Peter Maxwell Davies (1934 - 2016)An Orkney Wedding, with SunriseGeorge MacIlwham, bag-pipes; Royal Philharmonic; Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, cond.Collins 1444