Guernsey Postcards (2004)
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7233
The three movement sinfonietta Guernsey Postcards was written in 2004 to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the BWCI Group – the largest firm of actuaries and consultants in the Channel Islands… The movements are topographical: ‘The Viaer Marchi’ – an annual celebration of Guernsey trades and traditions – the music bustlingly festive but with a solemn introduction that perhaps evokes, as Corp states, ‘the spirit of Guernsey’; ‘Pembroke Bay’ – an evocation of the serenity of that beach (a ‘song without words’ featuring a solo bassoon); and ‘St. Peter Port’ – a kind of pointilliste portrait of the capital’s multifarious activities, enhanced by minimalist treatment – including the use of orchestral piano (unique to this movement).
Garry Humphreys, MusicWeb International
The first movement of Guernsey Postcards is ‘The Viaer Marchi’ which has the suggestion of a bustling minimalist ostinato (Glass out of Nyman), bell carillons and thronged promenades by the sea. It’s a feel-good piece. I cannot imagine it not raising a smile. The central ‘Pembroke Bay’ is a pleasing reflection – quiet and ruminative. The incessant pulse returns for the finale, ‘St. Peter Port’. Here the minimalist patterning continues with lilting accompaniment from the massed violins and then from triumphant brass. Both outer movements have a surging euphoric power.
Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Ronald Corp has established a formidable reputation as a conductor. Yet increasingly, Corp has devoted himself to composition, and this is the second disc of his music to be issued on the Dutton Epoch label. The most immediately appealing of the three items here is the relatively lightweight Guernsey Postcards, written in 2004. As Corp explains in the booklet-note, these colourful pieces were inspired by his visits to Guernsey. Each movement is under five minutes long, together forming a miniature sinfonietta. The ‘Vlaer Marchi’ movement celebrates a lively Guernsey event, the second, ‘Pembroke Bay’, is reflective, starting with a bassoon solo, while the third pictures the bustling St. Peter Port in an overtly minimalist style with ostinato repetitions. Altogether a charming work.
Edward Greenfield, Gramophone, May 2010
This disc is simply thrilling! I know Ronald Corp as a conductor but had no idea he had written such wonderful orchestral pieces. And there is such variety here [to include] the lighter Guernsey Postcards, which ought to be regularly played on the radio [… ] Highly recommended.
Amazon review by Leslie Grieves, December 2009
Ronald Corp is already well known as a choral composer and as the conductor of the British Light Music Classics series. If you know and like the latter, you’ll like the Guernsey Postcards, which are enjoyable and tuneful in the English tradition, though by no means frivolous.
Amazon review by ‘Code 17’, December 2009
Guernsey Postcards is very enjoyable – it reminded me a little of the orchestral suites of music by Mike Oldfield. It is partly minimalist and contains memorable tunes. Quite light in a way, but not superficial – and I find myself returning to this inspiriting music often.
Amazon review by Jeffrey Davis, December 2009
Ronald Corp’s Guernsey Postcards have not been appreciated within the musical press as much as they ought to be. I guess that one of the reasons may have been the expectation of a work in the form of a ‘light music’ suite from the pen of Eric Coates or Haydn Wood – something a little bit ‘retro’, perhaps.
The composer conducted the first performance in the St. James Concert Hall on Guernsey and reveals his intentions in the disc’s sleeve notes: he writes that this ‘three-movement work is a bright and breezy Sinfonietta (my italics) celebrating the sights and sounds of Guernsey’.
There are three contrasting movements, all musically portraying aspects of life on Guernsey. The opening ‘Postcard’ is entitled ‘The Viaer Marchi’ (or The Old Market), which is an annual festival running for more than thirty years. It is held on the first Monday of July, the aim of the celebration being to promote local craftsmanship throughout the history of the island with displays depicting how folk ‘used to live.’ Island recipes are usually available for sampling, including local breads and ciders, while various entertainments are laid on – traditional dancing, brass bands, Punch and Judy shows and such like.
Corp has stated that he wanted to write something ‘sparkling and lively’: certainly this opening movement evokes the hustle and bustle of the crowds with a relaxed and cheerful mood reflecting happy days and the varied delights of the festival.
The second movement is altogether more serious in intent and realisation. Pembroke Bay is one of the largest beaches on the island, offering an unbroken expanse of sand where the gentle slope of the bay makes it an ideal spot for bathing and paddling. More than a typical day at the seaside, however, the music evokes tranquillity as if the beach were deserted and nature is captured at its most beautiful and timeless. The composer has described this movement as an ‘aria’. Certainly this is introspective music whose mood is set by the opening bassoon solo and ravishing string chords. On another level, the piece suggests the contemplation of a man reflecting on past holidays and feeling the passing of time with some poignancy…
The final Postcard is quite definitely minimalist in concept. I guess that it would have been easy to musically portray the pizzazz of St. Peter’s Port with a complex Malcolm Arnold-ian scherzo or perhaps a Rawsthorne-ian Street-Corner-Overture-soundscape. However, Ronald Corp has stated that this music is ‘deliberately minimalist’ as he had in mind ‘the sun glistening on the water and the kaleidoscope of colours’ that make up the atmosphere of the island capital. The piece builds up to a moderate climax with counter-melodies, and finally an important reference to the opening movement brings the work to a close. It is an impressive movement that is, sadly, too short: there is much here that is interesting and musically exciting.
Ultimately this is a short work that straddles the definitions of ‘light’ and ‘serious’ music. There is a sense of purpose and construction that builds this work into more than just three disconnected cameos the shared musical material across the entire span brings it more into the realm of a ‘small symphony’ – truly a Sinfonietta! Two other pieces of music that describe the Channel Islands spring to mind – John Ireland’s Sarnia – An Island Sequence, and Malcolm Arnold’s delightful score for the British Transport Film, Channel Islands (1952). The Guernsey Postcards of Ronald Corp is a worthy successor and should not be underrated simply because of the title or the association with the composer’s sterling work in promoting ‘light music’ on Hyperion.