• Ian Passmore

Music that doesn't suck, No. 31: Dear Isle of Man

We’re sticking with the English this week! Prior to the late 20th century, the so-called “pops” concert would never have included your favorite rock band or mainstream solo artist performing alongside your local orchestra. (Most orchestras HATE that, by the way...certainly not all, but most. They’re often excruciatingly loud, and the musicians have little to nothing satisfying to play; the orchestra is essentially turned into a giant, absurdly overqualified, back-up instrument. Harumph!) Rather, back in the “old days,” pops concerts were just classical performances of a lighter nature; think Suppé overtures rather than a Mahler symphony. In the UK, such concerts might include the music of Arthur Sullivan, Malcolm Arnold, and Haydn Wood (pronounced “Hay-den”).

Haydn Wood was born into a musical family and spent his childhood in the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea between Ireland and Great Britain. The “Manx” (a Celtic dialect) folk tunes to which he was exposed there were often a source of inspiration for him; they populate his Manx Rhapsody, Rhapsody Mylecharaine, Manx Countryside Sketches, Manx Overture, and Mannin Veen.

Mannin Veen (Manx for “Dear Isle of Mann”) is a 1933 tone poem for wind band, though it is occasionally performed in its orchestral version (not in the US, though, sadly). The piece is built upon four Manx folk tunes, explained here by Wood himself…

"The first, 'The Good Old Way,' is an old and typical air written mostly in the Dorian mode. The second, which introduces the lively section of the work, is a reel – 'The Manx Fiddler.' The third tune, 'Sweet Water in the Common' relates to the practice of summoning a jury to decide questions concerning water rights, boundaries, etc. The fourth and last is a fine old hymn, 'The Harvest of the Sea,' sung by the fishermen as a song of thanksgiving after their safe return from the fishing grounds."

The performance features one of the United States’ greatest musical icons: the US Marine Band, conducted by Col. Tim Foley. Happy Thanksgiving , everyone! :)

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