One of a series of drawings by Ann Seabourne inspired by Dances on the Head of a Pin (www.annseabourne.co.uk)

Steps Volume 8: My Song in October - piano solo - duration c. 45 minutes - 2020-1

1. Komorebi -- 2. How beautifully it falls [K. Raine] -- 3. At the fall of the leaf [D. Rossetti]
4. When the leaves are flying [B. Carmen] -- 5. This leaf [Goethe]
6. When the rose is dead [P. Shelley] -- 7. The drifting leaf [H. Hesse]
8. One by one [E. Thomas] -- 9. On the wings of the breez [A Brontë]
10. The leaves are falling [R. M. Rilke] -- 11. Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud! [P. Shelley]
12. As a dead leaf [P. Verlaine] -- 13. The wind scatters the golden leaves! [W. Longfellow]
14. Every breath [Elizabeth Barrett Browning] --15. Listen... [A. Crapsey]
16. After Autumn, Winter [R. Herrick] -- 17. The wind whispers in dry leaves [Goethe]
18. This sprig of heather [G. Apollinaire] -- 19. Who'll toll the bell? [T. Hughes]

2020 was for many a year of deep tragedy with the pandemic and its consequences; for me this was intensified in October by the death of my dear wife Marcelle. As one of several "in memoriam" pieces, I completed this new volume in my Steps piano cycle series. It took its title from a poem by Ted Hughes, Elegy for the Leaves. I have always been somewhat haunted by A Blown Away Leaf from Janáček's On an Overgrown Path, written on the death of his daughter, Olga. I gathered together a set of 19 poems about, or including references to, autumnal leaves and used these as starting points (the 19th being the date of my wife's death, but also the 19th letter of the alphabet - S for Seabourne - found widely in my work). The pieces are not musical equivalents of the poems - a few broadly follow the narrative, but others start from a phrase, metaphor or general mood - there is no common pattern.

It had not been my intention to write an unduly dark or pessimistic work; more one that was reflective, simply "borne on the whims of the wind". However, music always finds its own way and in the final few pieces leading up to the 19th there is a progression through premonition, terror and pain (echoing somewhat the bleakness of my earlier volume 5, Sixteen Scenes Before a Crucifixion). This said, we find within a wide range of colour and mood, with light most definitely not excluded. Indeed the set opens with sunrays beaming into the forest. Throughout is the central image of a leaf falling, whether gently, whimsically, melancholically or in a flurry.

Marcelle was an artist. After her death I found various pieces I had not seen which included a small autumnal print in brown and yellow, strongly reflective of her deep love of the countryside, and especially of trees. It was untitled, but I think she would have approved of My Song in October.

This work will be recorded by my dear friend Fabio Menchetti and is only allowed in complete public performance after this. However, players are free to include single movements if they wish.

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