Programme Notes – Kol Simcha Suite

The work was originally commissioned Kol Simcha translated from the Hebrew means ‘Sounds of Joy.’for the Rambert Dance company and was in their repertoire with performances in theatres in the UK and the USA from 1995 – 1997. The Suite was performed by the Manchester based contemporary music group Psappha in October 2021 and had its USA premiere at Elon University, North Carolina in May 2022.

In the 1990s I had a new desire to connect with my Jewish ‘folk’ roots and through the help of my second cousin, the clarinettist Merlin Shepherd grew to love the vitality, humour, and pathos of Klezmer music with its performance characteristics and quirks. Merlin played in the original production of Kol Simcha, a twenty-five-minute suite of dances and interludes. For this new version scored for Pierrot ensemble (flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, cello) I have cut the piece down to seventeen minutes and the movements are as follows:

  • Scalerica De Oro – literally ‘Ladder of Gold.’ A Sephardic dance all in melodic unison
  • Sher – a medium fast tempo march thought to imitate the cutting action of scissors
  • Doina – originating from Romania, this is more recitative-like in character
  • Hora – a circular dance in medium slow triple time
  • Terkishe – an up-tempo Habanera (not from Turkey!)
  • El Mole Rachamim – Jewish prayer for the soul of a person that has died.
  • Bulgar – fast, riotous, and celebratory (but in the minor key…) Le Chaim (cheers) everybody!