Green Bushes: Harry Premiere

A new brass band piece by Professor Martyn Harry entitled Green Bushes will be premiered at Girton College, Cambridge this Saturday 24 June.

Martyn Harry writes:

Last year I was astonished to discover that some of George Butterworth’s most significant English folk music sound recordings and transcriptions were made at The Crabtree Pub, Lower Beeding, West Sussex: the village where I grew up!

Green Bushes for brass band is the first of several projected pieces to be based on folksongs recorded by Butterworth there, and particularly Ned Harding’s performance of this melody in ‘Lower Breeding’ (sic). Butterworth himself went on to cite the tune in ‘The Banks of Green Willow’, the orchestral idyll composed three years before he died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. There are several different versions of the melody, and my piece can be said to be saturated with them, starting with the opening Cornet and Euphonium solos that are based note-for-note on them.

Butterworth’s untimely death, along with that of poet Wilfred Owen, has now come to be associated with the horrors of the First World War, an unprecedented conflict that led to the death of over 17 million people and a further 20 million injured, and the unaffected quality of this powerful song symbolized for me the naïve hopes raised right at the start of the war. In Green Bushes I chose to contrast this folk tune with other types of musical material that was ‘in the air’ at that time.

In its fresh angle on musical tropes now considered ‘English’ (Vaughan Williams, Delius) Green Bushes also addresses our unhealthy preoccupation with the distant past and how it continues to impact our present-day reality.