DICK BLACKFORD, YORKSHIRE COMPOSER
by Philip L Scowcroft
Dick Blackford, born in 1936, lives near York. After studying music at Manchester University he taught for 36 years before retiring in 1995 from York Sixth Form College to concentrate on composition. He should not be confused with Richard Blackford (b.1954) who studied at the Royal College of Music and has composed among other things a Blake song On Another Sorrow, TV music and a piano solo Song of a Raggy Boy. Maybe I can write him up one day.
The Yorkshire Blackford is a prolific composer and has been so since his teaching days, if not before. For much of his life he has known the composer and arranger Peter Hope (b.1930), still an icon of British light music. Dick's works spread across all forms of music: a Cantata, a Mass for the York Minster Chapter House Choir; songs for chorus (Two Cradle Songs, What Is Beauty?, described as a madrigal, and Rejoice and Be Merry, all SATB) and solo songs, including Winter Night, Your Presence and Daybreak, all in the rich tradition of English Song. One carol has been heard in King's College Cambridge's Carol Service.
For orchestra he has had commissioned two overtures Marinus and Scorpio and a Serenade for Strings (the latter is a worthy representative of the long tradition of British string writing and ends with a sprightly finale). Dick's portfolio also includes several concertos, for harpsichord (for Alan Cuckston), recorder (for John Turner, with string quartet accompaniment), piano, clarinet (published in a clarinet and piano reduction in 1999), cello, trumpet, a Serenata Concertante for two horns and orchestra and the Sinfonia Concertante for solo woodwinds and orchestra (also published with a piano reduction of the accompaniment in 1999). Nor has he ignored chamber music. Andromeda for a brass sextet of three trumpets, horn, trombone and tuba or bass trombone, was published in 1997 and a woodwind trio Spring was also published in 1997. Most recently as I write, his Dance Trio for the Alan Cuckston Trio (piano, clarinet and violin) was premiered at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery on 25th May 2011.
This is an attractive work in five movements, March, rhythmic and gently astringent, Sarabande, Last Waltz, both melodious and shapely, Intermezzo and Reel (Scottish rather than Irish, which should, the composer recommends, go "at breakneck speed", which it did at its premiere. The work, well laid out for its three instruments, may be categorised as 'light music'; though Dick is unwilling to be thus typecast, although he admits it has always been his intention to write tunes, and indeed he does.