BCS to relaunch music publications

The British Carillon Society has relaunched its music publications, a large collection of compositions and arrangements mostly produced by our late and esteemed colleague John Knox, who set the highest standards for carillon music.

The list of publications currently available and details of how to order are available here.

Over his long career, firstly as carillonneur for Aberdeen, and then, after a break of over 30 years, returning as carillonneur for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, followed by Perth and Bond Street in London, John’s output was prodigious.

With John’s passing earlier this year, it seems a particularly apposite time to relaunch a body of carillon music much of which he either produced or inspired others to do likewise. His production of two-octave carillon music for Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Bond Street is a seminal contribution to the smaller instrument, so that now (along with the excellent publications of Beverly Buchanan, with whom John liaised) there is an appreciable body of two-octave music, including original compositions, some especially commissioned. A Tutor for Mark, Studies for Two-Octave Carillon is the only carillon tutor dedicated to the smaller instrument.

His Christmas in Old Bond Street books (two volumes) are perfect for the two-octave carillonneur during that festive season, and one of his last productions, selected arrangements of Bach’s lute suites, are a particular favourite of mine. Likewise, three-octave instruments such as Perth, York and Charterhouse are now very well served by his five Perth Carillon Books. Volume 5 of this series is dedicated to sacred music, and is therefore an invaluable resource for all those who need to play for church services or to mark the Christian year or special occasions with appropriate music.

He also initiated the BCS Monograph series. Most of these monographs are significant carillon pieces by British and Irish composers, published as single volumes, along with explanatory notes and background information to the compositions.  Edward Elgar’s influential Memorial Chimes for Carillon is part of this series, typeset by John using the Sibelius software package, and based on an original version performed by Clifford Ball and James Lawson. Other works in the series include John Stuart Archer’s Suites 1 and 2 for Carillon, Sir Hamilton Harty’s A Little Fantasy and Fugue for Carillon of 1934 and the Cattistock Suite for Carillon, by E. d’Arba, who, on subsequent research, was in fact Ethel Adelaide Parker, one of Britain’s first female composers for carillon.

The works of Clifford Ball, John’s first teacher at Bournville before his appointment as carillonneur for Aberdeen, is well represented in the BCS volume Clifford Ball Centenary: Life and Music, a collection for four-octave carillon, complete with an extensive biography of Clifford Ball written by his son Iain.

Also for the larger carillon are two volumes of the music of La Salle Spier, published through the BCS and edited by Elizabeth Graves Vitu. These volumes are a collection of music by this brilliant composer and musician, who became fascinated with the carillon in Luray, Virginia. The music deserves a much wider audience, and my hope is that, in relaunching the publications, the carillon world will look again at this rich vein of material. Volume I contains an excellent, well-researched introductory essay by Elizabeth on Spier’s life and carillon output, and his fruitful collaboration with Luray’s virtuoso carillonneur Charles T. Chapman.

New music for carillon is also represented in these collections. Volume I of the Newcastle Carillon Books contains the minimalist Four Pieces by local composer Robin Terry, commissioned by John, as was the Three Pieces for Carillon from Fung Lam, a composer based in Hong Kong who himself has a large and creative output, among them commissions premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.  Three Pieces for Carillon received its world première in March 2005 by John at Bond Street.

Also commissioned by and dedicated to John was Anthony Skilbeck’s A Passage of Time, a suite of three pieces Sunset, Nocturne and Daybreak, published by the BCS and premiered by John Knox at Saltley in 2002.  Anthony Skilbeck’s corpus of work, much of which is atonal, and both rhythmically and technically challenging, deserves exploration by the adventurous or curious carillonneur. Anthony was inspired to write Passing Thought numbers 1 to 11 for two-octave carillon, including one, Passing Thought No. 3, graciously dedicated to me for the 75th anniversary of the installation of the Saltley carillon, where I gave the first performance.  Also published by the BCS is Skilbeck’s Woodland Echoes, a BCS Monograph, for three-octave carillon.

Last but by no mean least is A Chimer’s Tune Book.  All in all, something for everyone. Perhaps the relaunch of this music will inspire members to refresh their own arrangements, and even try their hand at composition, with a view to future publication.

We are grateful to John’s sister Yvonne, who has given her agreement for the British Carillon Society to continue publishing John’s music. As well as raising the profile of an appreciable body of work, the sale of these publications will bring much-needed revenue to the Society.

Michael Boyd

Publications Officer (publications@britishcarillons.org)