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Richard MILLS (b. 1949)
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1988)
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Richard Mills
Recorded: no information
ABC Eloquence CLASSICS 422 933-2 [40:03]


Mills’ ballet score Snugglepot and Cuddlepie is based on the eponymous fantasy by May Gibbs. The story line is fairly simple, but with many humorous and slightly ironic touches. The little orphan Ragged Blossom is kidnapped by three wicked Banksia Men. Her friends Snugglepot and Cuddlepie call the local gossip (Mrs Kookaboora) to the rescue to spread the terrible news. Old Mr Lizard and a band of Gumnut Warriors offer their aid and set off to rescue Ragged Blossom. She is bound in Mrs Snake’s sinister dungeon. The Banksia Men’s dance of victory is interrupted by the arrival of Mr Lizard, Snugglepot, Cuddlepie and the Gumnut Warriors. After a short and fierce battle in which Mrs Snake is destroyed, a Banksia Man manages to escape with Ragged Blossom in a boat. Snugglepot determines to follow them. The Fish Folk are ruled by Little Obelia. Among them, John Dory and the beautiful Ann Chovy, whom he seeks to marry, often quarrel. Their last quarrel is cut short by the intrusion of the Banksia Man and his prisoner. Snugglepot quickly arrives and befriends Ann Chovy who promises to marry John Dory if he will spare the Gumnuts’ lives. Little Obelia consigns the Banksia Man to her cave. After the wedding of Ann Chovy and John Dory, everybody returns to the world above the sea. The ballet ends in high spirits celebrating the safe return of Ragged Blossom and her friends. "And remember, Humans, be kind to all creatures and don’t pull flowers by their roots."

Mills’ colourful and imaginative score is appropriately straightforward and ‘written to be enjoyed" (the composer’s words). The music is very well made indeed, full of nicely judged orchestral touches, and not without a pinch of salt either as in the slightly ironic War March of the Gumnuts [track 10] maliciously winking at Eric Coates, the jazzy inflections in the Fish Dance [track 12] or in the wedding scene [track 15]. There are also some arresting and imaginative sounds, e.g. when the music suggests the kookaboora’s cry [track 8]. The music generally comments on what happens on stage and suggests various moods and atmospheres. It is in turn gently nostalgic (e.g. in the opening number Once upon a time somewhat calling Richard Rodney Bennett to mind), atmospheric (e.g. in the evocation of the Fish Folk’s underwater world), lightly ironic (e.g. in the War march of the Gumnuts), more animated and somewhat more dramatic when required by the action (e.g. in the Capture Dance [track 6]). It is eclectic for sure, but always tastefully done and free of vulgarity, and – above all – superbly scored by a master orchestrator with a deep ‘from inside’ knowledge of the orchestra’s way of working - Mills was trained as a professional percussionist. This is a lovely ballet score that should appeal to anyone responding, say, to Prokofiev’s ballet scores.

Hubert Culot

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