program notes by composition > Y > The Year of the Dragon

The Year of the Dragon

Philip Sparke

The Year of the Dragon In 1984 (which was actually a Year of the Rat in the Chinese calendar), the Cory Band from Wales commissioned this original work. Composer Philip Sparke writes: “...Cory had won two successive National Finals and I set out to write a virtuoso piece to display the talents of this remarkable band to the full.” The work is in three movements:

Toccata opens with an arresting side drum figure and snatches of themes from various sections of the band, which try to develop until a broad and powerful theme from the middle of the band asserts itself. A central dance-like section soon gives way to the return of this theme, which subsides until faint echoes of the opening material fade to a close.

Interlude takes the form of a sad and languid solo for trombone. A chorale for the whole band introduces a brief spell of optimism but the trombone solo returns to close the movement quietly.

Finale is a real tour-de-force for the band with a stream of rapid semi-quavers running throughout the movement. The main theme is heroic and march-like but this is interspersed with lighter, more playful episodes. A distant fanfare to the sound of bells is introduced and this eventually returns to bring the work to a stirring close.

Philip Sparke (b. 1951) is a contemporary British composer and musician. He is noted for his concert band and brass band music. He studied composition, trumpet and piano at the Royal College of Music, London. He played in the College wind orchestra and also formed a brass band among the students, writing several works for both ensembles. A growing interest in his music led to numerous commissions. He has written for brass band championships in New Zealand, Switzerland, Holland, Australia and the UK, and his test pieces are constantly in use wherever brass bands play.

Last updated on May 4, 2015 by Palatine Concert Band