Chorus & Orchestra
By Patrick Hadley
A Study of the Music by John France
The Hills is definitely one of Patrick Hadley's
two masterpieces; the other being the Symphonic 'The Trees So High.'
In many ways 'The Hills' is a difficult piece to formally define.
On the one hand it could be seen as a cantata or even an oratorio. Yet
again it would be possible to view it as a tone poem. However, perhaps
the best description would be a ‘choral symphony.’ The construction
of the work lends itself to unity and completeness of design. There
are effectively four movements - the first having a slow introduction.
It is with considerable accuracy that this work has been compared to
Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony -certainly on a general
scale if not in detail.
However, our musings on the 'form' of this piece are
actually brought to a halt by the inscription on the published score
that states - 'The Hills - A Cantata for Soprano, Tenor & Bass
Soli, Chorus and Orchestra.' So perhaps the question was settled
in Hadley's mind, if not for his subsequent listeners.
There were two other topographical works of some importance
in Patrick Hadley's catalogue - Fen & Flood and Connemara.
The first was descriptive of Norfolk and the second described the
Irish scene. However it is with The Hills that Hadley excelled
at describing both the actual landscape and the numinous quality evoked
by that landscape.
His two previous works had been The Travellers,
a cantata for soprano, chorus and orchestra composed in 1942 and the
delightful tone poem 'One Morning in Spring' - a sketch for orchestra
also composed in that year.
Derbyshire had already inspired a work by the composer.
There exists an unpublished sketch for orchestra entitled Kinder
Scout. It is perhaps one of the desideratum of Hadley enthusiasts
to hear this piece, with whatever faults it may have. It was written
when the composer was 24 years old. This work was given its first performance
on 14th September 1922 in Buxton when it was played by the
Buxton Spa orchestra conducted by George Cathie.
In order to understand the genesis of The Hills,
it is necessary to consider a number of factors in the composer's background
and family history. It is instructive to look at Patrick Hadley's connection
with the Peak District.
Patrick's father Sheldon lost his father in
1881 and shortly afterwards his mother remarried. Her new husband was
a wealthy builder who had sufficient funds to rent Shallcross Hall that
was a minor stately home near to Buxton. It was natural that Sheldon
was a regular visitor to the Hall.
Edith Jane Foster was the daughter of the Reverend
Robert Foster, Chaplain to the Royal Hibernian School in Dublin. She
had been born in Kilmore, to the north of Athlone. However, like many
middle class children of those days she was educated at a boarding school.
In her case, it was The Lawns at West Kirby. She was apparently a bit
of a thespian and soon took part in acting and singing activities at
her school. She is known to have played both Puck and Portia in performances
of Shakespeare. At this time Sheldon Hadley's youngest sister also attended
The Lawns, and she soon became friendly with Edith. It was almost inevitable
that she was invited to Shallcross during the holidays. During these
stays she took part in the varied musical activities that were a feature
of that house. She met Sheldon and the rest is history. They were married
Paddy, himself was born at Cambridge in 1899. His father
was at that time a fellow of Pembroke College. His parents were living
at Heacham, which was to be his lifelong home. However, Paddy holidayed
on a regular basis in Derbyshire - both before and after the First World
War. The Peaks were to become a great stamping ground of his. Even after
he had sustained his leg wound in the war, he was able to walk for miles
on the moors with as much vigour as a man was with no disability. Hadley
is quoted in Wetherell (1997 p.63) that "They were the first real
hills I ever saw except for the South Downs in Sussex once as a child,
and then at prep. School."
However it is not the landscape that inspired Hadley
to compose this particular work. It was something much deeper and more
personal. It is really autobiographical in a sense - dealing with his
family and his background. Nowadays we would say that he was trying
to find himself, recovering his roots. Many of the well-remembered places
of his boyhood were to feature in this composition. The initial impetus
to write this works seems to have come on the death of his mother in
1940. In a letter to Christopher Palmer (Sleeve Notes EMI 5.67118 2
Hadley) he wrote
'I lost my mother in 1940 and that set my mind to
the Derbyshire hills, where she met my father in his old home on the
hill above Whalley Bridge…they became engaged in Taxal Woods and were
married soon after in Dublin. Then I vividly remembered that old Buxton-Manchester
coach road, now just a track, and the moment when the magical panorama
opens across the Chapel Valley with Kinder Scout towering up in the
far distance (you need a clear day). The place names in the first movement
are all to be found on the map of Derbyshire 'peak' (misnamed, there's
no peak) roughly between Kinder Scout and Featherbed Moss.'
Of course at this time the war was developing into
an extremely dangerous phase and there was a constant threat of invasion.
So perhaps this led the composer to dwell, maybe a little morbidly on
the transience of life. There is an almost pantheist quality to both
the text of The Hills and to the atmospherics created by the
score. It is a meditation of the unseen influences on human life. Not
only those generated by mankind but those deriving from the very stones
and soil of the earth itself. It would be easy to reflect in a time
when the evil in men's hearts was filling the world that perhaps there
was an innate goodness in those parts of creation that seemed to be
inanimate. In this work the hills pass a commentary on the rites of
passage of human life -especially marriage and death. Patrick Hadley
was a nature mystic - in the same way perhaps as Frederick Delius and
Vaughan Williams were. In fact there are a number of allusions to the
music of Delius in Hadley's score. It is not difficult to see echoes
of the Mass of Life; it is no coincidence that he was working
on the scores of A Walk to the Paradise Garden and the Song
of the High Hills for the Cambridge University Music society at
that time. Although there is no overt Christian text or subtext to this
work, it is prefaced by the great and evocative line from Psalm 121
- I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills…" If he had finished the quotation
- 'from whence cometh my help' it may have assisted us in a greater
understanding of the cathartic nature of this composition.
The Hills is composed in five contrasting movements
or section: A prologue is followed by a paean of praise to the hills
in spring. There is a short slow movement or interlude entitled In Taxal
Woods. Then follows what is possibly some of the most exciting music
that Hadley composed - the Wedding - this can be seen as the Scherzo.
And finally there is an Epilogue - the piece coming to a quiet and optimistic
There is prefaced to the vocal score a fairly long
synopsis. In many ways the piece can be enjoyed without this prop. According
to a hand written comment by Patrick Hadley on a copy of the vocal score
I perused, he found it hard to set down his thoughts. He wrote, "What
filthy prose I had written! There's nothing so difficult as a synopsis,
Don't you think?" The comment was addressed to Ralph Vaughan Williams.
I have appended the synopsis (in italics) to this article as
I briefly look at each movement.
Furthermore there is the problem of the text of the
piece. Obviously there is a libretto to the work. Yet Hadley specifically
insisted that it should never be written down. I respect this wish in
my article and decline to give the text no matter how interesting it
may be. However, I feel free to make a few minor quotes for illustrative
The work is scored for the following forces:- 2fl(+2
picc) 2ob(+ca) 2cl(+bcl) cbn(opt) 8hn (4opt) 2 tpt 3tbn tuba, 4 perc,
hp, str. It was published by Oxford University Press after having been
accepted for publication by Norman Peterkin in September 1944. The vocal
score was published in 1946 and was priced 6/6d. The holograph was dated
Heacham 9th April 1944.
Prologue: Along the Old Manchester Coach Road.
The prodigal son returns to find his father no more
and his mother near to death. Then stung with remorse and in the hope
of learning something of the early life of his parents, he sets off
for those distant hills which he knows saw their first meeting, watched
their friendship grow and finally witnessed their marriage.
When the music begins the day is waning and the
prodigal son is tramping along an ancient track in the final stage of
his journey. At last he reaches the place with the view across the valley
beyond which the hills suddenly loom up. He sits down to rest and sings
quietly to those hills. After praising them for their stern and rugged
beauty he entreats them to sing of those two souls who long years back
met within their view and roamed amid their heights. 'Sing me their
tale, that tale of long ago, while I rest here and darkness falls, you
grim and glorious hills' is his closing phrase. He then falls asleep.
The orchestra continues as the chorus, at first
almost imperceptibly, joins in. The music leads without a break into
The prologue opens with a slow marching accompaniment.
The bass enters after two bars reflecting on his journey, his weariness
and the need to get to shelter before the light fades. It is a little
bit of recitative really. This is all written in dark hues – almost
sullen. But then, accompanied by a key change there is a mood swing
on the part of the traveller - there is some warmth as he begins to
comment on the landscape. There are some lovely orchestral touches -
for harp and a cor anglais passage that hints at the curlew's song.
He looks about him and sees revealed to him some of the attractive Derbyshire
countryside - the heather, the limestone, the cry of the curlew and
the white farmstead. The first crux of the work is reached when, suddenly,
as if turning a corner and seeing a vision before him he sees the Hills.
They are standing revealed to him in solemn grandeur. There is a fine
flute and piccolo cadenza here. In spite of the failing light he feels
an urge to address the hills. There is an almost Finzian quality about
this passage - one is reminded of the walking bass that was so dear
to that composer. The traveller addresses the hills; it is almost operatic
in some respects. He asks the hills to tell him the story of the past
- of his late father and dying mother. He decides to rest where he is
and let the darkness fall about him. He is about to fall asleep and
dream of things past. The prologue ends with a delicious passage for
wordless chorus. It is used in a manner that Vaughan Williams was later
to exploit so well in the Oxford Elegy. Perhaps it was Delius
who inspired this passage. There is no real break before the next movement
of section begins.
The Hills in spring
The hills have now sprung into life. After some
preliminary phrases about themselves they reassure the prodigal son.
They well remember that tale of long ago, which they soon begin to unfold.
But first they set the scene: spring in the air, breezy and crisp, galloping
clouds and fitful sunlight, smell of the peat, squelch of the moss,
rollicking waterfalls spraying the fellside, whistling crags, billowing
heather, croaking of the grouse, screaming curlew; the Hills, spring
on the hills! We heave, we surge, we shout and bellow for joy!
The opening pages of this movement are reminiscent
of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Sea Symphony. Of course the harmonic
language is slightly more modern and the references are to the hills
and not 'ships sailing the seas.' But the effect is similar - a great
shout of affirmation. In Hadley's libretto it is the hills that are
talking about themselves and not an observer- "We are the Hills…"
This is a great cry of praise that lasts but a few
bars of intense singing; there are dissonances here that add considerably
to the drama. These opening bars must be amongst some of the most dramatic
things that Hadley wrote. Eventually the pace and the tempo changes
for the self-description of the nature of the landscape. The opening
phrases return before the chorus begins a description of the geographical
extent of the hills.
Another verse follows consisting of topographical
names. ' From Chinley Churn and Rushup Ridge to Crowden Head and Kinder
Low, thro' Cluther Rocks, oe'r Ed'le Moor, round Crookston Knoll to
Fairbrook Naze and the edge. The down the dip o'er Ashop Clough and
up again to Featherbed Top, then Gridlesgrain Tor, through Barrow Stone,
so last of all Bleaklow Hill in the north.'
There is another short burst of self-acclamation, but
then a subtle change takes hold of the music. The hills seem to be talking
to the observers - in this case the symbols for Patrick Hadley's mother
and father. They encourage the lovers to come up onto the 'tops.' At
this point the tenor and soprano enter with a Delian 'Hy-ah.' They accept
the hills’ invitation.
And so the story begins to unfold just as though
it were happening once more. The hills call down to the folk below urging
them to climb and enjoy this magical spring day upon their heights.
The summons is answered from the vale below by two voices that represent
the parents of the prodigal son in their youth, 'We hear your call to
us, so now together we climb aloft, arise!' The remainder of the movement
portrays the ascent of the lovers and their arrival upon the summit,
when soli and chorus combine in a final burst of joy.
There is a great surging accompaniment from the orchestra
as the two soloists get into their stride. This is pure Delius. This
is not in a cribbing sense - there is no way that Hadley can be accused
of lifting lumps of any of the older master's works. It is just that
he seems to have absorbed all that is essential from such works as the
Mass of Life and even Appalachia. There is a Nietzschian
feel to the striving for the summit of the hills. Much of the soloists'
parts are in unison. Suddenly the chorus crashes in with 'Hyah Taho'.
There is a wonderful 'scotch snap' that is so reminiscent of Appalachia
on the word 'ever' when they sing 'Come praise the hills for ever.'
Without warning the mood changes again - there is a
'presto' orchestral interlude in the key of B major. But this last only
a few moments before a wonderful brass slide up a chromatic scale heralds
the last three ‘Hy-ahs’ from the chorus. This time they are joined in
this vocalisation by the two soloists.
Interlude - In Taxal Woods To the sounds of nature
the pair vow eternal love.
The slow movement of this ‘choral symphony’ is perhaps
one of the loveliest things that Patrick Hadley wrote. It has been likened
to one of Benjamin Britten's 'Nocturnes.' There is certainly
some justification with this comparison. Yet when I first heard this
piece I was struck how the opening orchestral passage reminded me of
the music of Aaron Copland. The Andante Tranquillo is a tender interlude
set between the great song of praise to the Hills and the Wedding Scene
that is about to follow.
There is very little programme given by Hadley in the
synopsis - save that the lovers vow eternal love. Yet somehow although
this is ‘just’ an interlude it is almost the very heart of the work.
The lovers do sing to each other - under the auspices
of the hills - yet the actual words do not really seem to matter. Whatever
the lovers are saying we know what they are feeling by the tone of the
music. The orchestra supplies the imagery of the brook, or as locally
known the 'gill’ by judicious use of the harp. Then it is the turn of
the flute to mimic the song of the nightingale as it sits in a tree
above the waters pouring off the moors. There is very much a chamber
music feel to this part of the slow movement. It reminded me of parts
of Britten's Turn of the Screw.
A short orchestral passage leads to a final acclamation
of love between the pair. This is very reminiscent of Vaughan Williams'
Hugh the Drover or Delius’ Village Romeo and Juliet type
of music - the orchestra providing a totally sympathetic accompaniment
to the love struck couple. Like all good operatic love duets it is written
in unison! It is a very beautiful and well-poised tune. Three repeated
'beloved's brings this movement to a close in quiet silence.
During the festive earlier phases of this movement
the chorus takes the part of the ordinary worldly wedding guests. Amid
the general hubbub the words are indistinguishable, but the general
impression seems cheerful as befits the occasion.
This is a fantastic scherzo movement. The choral writing
is superb. In spite of the fact that it is a romp one is especially
aware of Patrick Hadley's skills as a writer of choral music. The first
part of the Wedding scene is given over to meaningless prose. I will
respect Paddy's wishes and not give any of it here. However, it is full
of nonsense words, some of which are based on 'hunting' terms. This
prefigures perhaps the 'mouth music' that was to be used in his later
cantata Connemara. There is a dynamic orchestral accompaniment
that suggests a great churning motion of a wheel - it is as if it were
driving the chorus along. The Wedding music is meant to be joyous, yes
- but it also hints at a touch of intoxication, as would have been appropriate
at many a Derbyshire wedding! There are lots of key changes in this
music - most of them anything but subtle. However it all lends excitement
and vigour to this rollicking music. There are also some fine contrapuntal
passages dotted through this section that exhibit all the hallmarks
of a 'Parry-esque' choral writing. Many dissonances add piquancy to
this great choral outburst - for example the last note before the orchestral
interlude is a dominant ninth with doublings and added sixth. Just the
right amount of tension. There is a great orchestral interlude here
complete with sounds of horses hooves or clog dancers. Everything tells
me that this is naïve and ought not to work, but is seems just
right for the wedding celebration theme.
But now the time draws near for the departure of
the bride and bridegroom, when the former saddens at the thought of
taking leave or her beloved hills; she will give them one last fond
look, then farewell. But not yet, however, for it is now being openly
suggested by the guests that there is time for one more of the brimming
cup. The bridegroom, quite won over, delays departure accordingly. The
orchestra continues in this vein after the voices cease, until it dies
down and the prodigal son awakens from his dream.
The orchestral interlude gradually subsides, there
is one last burst of energy and a dissonant passage for brass. The chorus
gives its welcome to the newly weds - 'Hail the Bride and Bridegroom!
There is an Anglican Cathedral feel to this music - more akin to the
Hadley anthems than a choral symphony. There is some confusion here
as to who the speaker of the words are. Is it the guest who is singing
or is it the Hills? I tend to think it is the latter.
Then the whole mood changes - an abrupt modulation
into Db major for a short soliloquy by the bride. This is touching music
and has echoes of Finzi about it. The bride feels that she is leaving
the Derbyshire Hills for far off places and may never see them again;
she claims that they ‘will ever bring back sweet memories.’ Wetherell
(1997) actually suggests that this line of the libretto may have been
Paddy remembering his own mother's very words. It is a charming thought.
She gives a last fond farewell. However things are not over yet. The
guests suggest that 'one for the road' may be an appropriate way of
finishing the wedding reception. Hadley transforms the entire mood of
the piece in precisely four bars. From the desolation of loss of the
soprano to a four square folksong. Here is another superb example of
Hadley's ability to write effective vocal music both for soloist and
for choir. This section of the scherzo is a strophic song sung by the
tenor soloist - again blurring the distinction between players in this
drama. Is it the bridegroom singing or one of the guests? The choir
takes up the chorus with great enthusiasm. But soon the mood changes
again - we have a recapitulation of the 'Hail' music followed by a farewell
for both the chorus and the soloists. Then follows a brief orchestral
codetta that appears to be quite a mix of styles. Great changes of key
and a romantic tone present music that sounds as if it could have been
written for a film. Then before it sinks down into the bass soloists
reverie there is an almost Straussian fortissimo.
By now all is darkness. The hills, through his dream,
have sung him the early part of the story he wished to hear. He himself
can now take up the tale during his own boyhood. 'Long years elapses
of toil and cares in far-off scenes, 'mid plains and towns.' True there
is a gap during his wanderings (this neither the hills nor himself can
bridge) until his return to hear the last words of his mother as in
a dream. 'The Hills bring back sweet memories.'
Darkness has descended and the music reflects this.
The traveller has awakened and now decides to set the record straight.
This last part of the 'Wedding' movement is made up of a number of contrasting
sections. Each one vitally important to the argument.
The first section is simply a recognition that he has
been dreaming; what he has seen has been put into his mind by the Hills
themselves. He is now alone with his sorrow -his lack of understanding
and grief of his fathers passing and mothers illness. The next section
reviews his thoughts about the 'happy tale of long ago.’ The music is
in the major key. It is much more positive. Some moody horn notes add
a magic to this that makes it feel just right; it is impressionistic
in feel. Then there is an increase in the tempo - he supplies the part
of the story that he knows. His parents had left Derbyshire and travelled
afar (Cambridge?) They had seemingly left the benign influence of this
beloved country. Their life had not been easy. There is once again a
chamber feel to music of this music; a very simple and pared down accompaniment
that definitely prefigures the Britten of the Parables.
Then follows what are perhaps the most evocative ten
bars in the entire piece. Once again in Db major the strings accompany
the soloist in his statement that the 'Hills bring back sweet memories’.
Here is the second crux of the piece. Here Patrick Hadley is contemplating
the transience of life. But then straight into the Allegro Agitato.
Now a sudden thought strikes him. Once more he appeals
to the Hills. The moon comes up and illuminates the rugged skyline.
'If more there be to tell, you only know. Sing on!' The orchestra rise
to a pitch of intensity, then subsides and leads straight into the Epilogue.
The traveller suddenly realises that the Hills will
speak to him too. Perhaps they can tell what became of his parents'
souls. He commands the hills to 'sing on!’ in a great apotheosis. The
orchestra plays for a few moments before closing down the intensity
in two short bars.
‘ The Epilogue -The Hills by Moonlight’
is a perfect ending to this unusual but dramatic work. Once again we
are in the cathedral rather than the concert hall. Yet surely this is
appropriate. There is a religious or numinous quality about the architecture
of The Hills that is akin to the stonework of the great cathedrals.
As Hadley points out in his synopsis the chorus reverts to the part
of the hills - the wedding guests being a dream from the past. The tenor
and soprano soloists join in this final meditation on the transience
of life. However, this is not a pessimistic ending. For the Hills, in
their role as a kind of pantheistic guardian have chosen to cherish
the souls of his parents. The traveller can only hope that one-day he
too will join them on their peaceful existence on the Derbyshire Peaks.
The work ends on a triple pianissimo B major chord in six parts.
Epilogue: The Hills by Moonlight
The chorus (once more as the hills) joined by the
soprano and tenor soli, now sings again. The tale is finished After
many troubled years spent far away these two devoted souls have at last
returned to the hills to remain for ever in their tender care.
Eric Wetherell: ‘Paddy’ The Life of Patrick Hadley’ Thames
Publishers (Elkin) London 1997
For soprano, Tenor & Bass Soli,
Chorus & Orchestra
By Patrick Hadley
Vocal Score 6/6
Oxford University Press
36 Soho Square, Oxford Street, London, W1
The score is copyrighted in 1946
The sections of the piece have the following dates:-
I G&C 5th October 1943
II Ashby St Ledger Christmas 1943
IV Heacham 9th April 1944
On a copy of the score presented to the library of Ralph Vaughan Williams
by Patrick Hadley
Annotation in black ink - For Ralph from Paddy.
In the synopsis, Hadley makes the following changes in black pencil:
remainder rest of the movement portrays
the ascent of the lovers and their arrival brings the lovers
to the top of the mountain upon the summit, when
soli and chorus combine in a final burst song
Further he adds the following note, again in pencil:-
(What filthy prose I had written! There's nothing so difficult as
a synopsis, Don't you think?)
Emendations to the Score in Red ink
Page 3 Section 2 bar 6 D natural in 'soprano' crossed out and C# inserted
in its place
Page 5 Section 3 Bass solo words changed from "I rest here and darkness
you grim O stern and steadfast
and glorious hills.
Page 20 Section 11 bar 12 D natural in alto crossed out and changed
Page 22 Section 12 bar 19 The third beat has the db crossed out and
replaced by an Eb
Page 51 Section 42 Bar 2ff The key signature should read F major and
not Ab major. Hadley has amended.
Page 73 Section 65 Piano crossed out and replaced by Orchestra
Page 76 Section 68 Bar 6 Bass should read A natural and not Ab
Also bound into this volume are the following works: -
Corinna's Maying- R.O. Morris 1933 OUP
La Belle Dame Sans Merci - Patrick Hadley - 1935 Curwen Edition
King Arthur (abridged version) - Henry Purcell 1675 Novello
Edition of 1897
Orpheus Act II - C.Von Gluck Novello
Gloria in Excelsis - Llywelwn Gomer 1949 Michigan State College
John France 2nd February 2002