Silver Light on Water (2008)

Duration 10’30”
For Piano and pre-recorded track with Patrick Jones (cello)
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
First performed as part of the 2008 Ballet Central National tour at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford

Silver Light on Water was commissioned by the then Director of Central School of Ballet, Bruce Sansom, to celebrate Ballet Central’s 25th anniversary. In fact the final piece was really Silver Light mark 2, as the first version in the CSB school show was a limpid gamelan-style piece, and for the Ballet Central tour, it was decided to start afresh. Matthews chose to choreograph a work inspired by the play of light on the sea, moonlight for the hushed first section, and dancing sunlight as the piece climaxes towards the end. The composer happened to know the stretch of Cornish coastline that she spoke of, which helped enormously in his attempt to describe it in music.

So the brief was an exciting one, namely to paint an evocative aural picture. The music is based on the shimmering piano motif heard at the opening against a ‘sky’ of suspended violins and glistening percussion. Patrick Jones had been a ‘regular’, so as to speak, in recordings for Ballet Central, ever since Michael Keegan-Dolan’s Dog Suite for the 2000 tour. Although the cello does not appear until a minute and a half has elapsed, the inclusion of the cello was not an afterthought, with the piano dancing in constant arpeggii, the cello line, which is mostly broad and legato, offsets the shimmering perfectly, and is, of course, played beautifully.

One would not think so, since each section seems to flow into the next seamlessly, like the waves it is portraying, but the score was written in segments, out of order, and nor was it composed from the top. The first section to be composed was the calm peaceful solo that is the centre of the work (many of Matthews’ choreographies have a quiet solo at their heart), and was performed in November at a private showing before any of the rest of the piece was created. In fact, so piecemeal was the compositional process that, when Feeney had to leave for the production week at Northern Ballet Theatre for the world premiere of his new ballet, Hamlet, there were still some seventy-five seconds yet to be completed. They were finally composed at 6.00 a.m. in Carole Gable’s kitchen in Yorkshire, and carried to London by hand!