Dances from a Knot Garden

Duration 11’30”
For Piano, Soprano Saxophone and String quartet
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
Part of the Ballet Central National Tour of 2003, subsequently revived in 2010.
First performed with piano and pre-recorded track at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford
First performed live at the Bloomsbury Theatre in July 2003, by the Smith Quartet with Ian Stuart on sax

That we were able to solicit the collaboration of the Smith Quartet was thanks to their connections with ex-Rambert dancer Libby Old, teaching at Central School of Ballet at the time. The choreographer, Sara Matthews, presently director of the school, asked for a score that was bright, good-natured and maybe not over refined. We settled on a sound that was decidedly folkloristic, even outdoor, and by using the soprano saxophone to the string quartet an exciting element of grit was added to the ensemble.

There are eight dances in all, each section called after the dance’s title, such as ‘flying triangle’ or ‘circle dance’. So while the music is all built around the two note oscillation of the opening phrase, each section has its own world, with the solo quartet featuring in two sections and the fifth section being a gentle piano solo. The atmospheric second section, known as the ‘Herd Dance’, with its static undulating strings, sax cries and piano ripples, recurs several times throughout the piece, even amounting to a false end. The final section is a joyous barndance of an ensemble number; indeed, it is the dance of the Knot Garden.

In 2010 it was performed by members of the Berkshire Maestros, young talented musicians from the Berkshire area, who having workshopped it with the composer, played it live in performance for a royal gala as part of the Newbury Spring Festival.

photos by Bill Cooper (2003 and 2010)