From the Sleevenotes: Hat Box

Sleevenotes from John Turner and Neil Smith’s release Prima Facie CD166, Hat Box


1 Top Hat Quadrille
2 Breton Beret (Valse Mélancolique)
3 Mexican Hat Dance
4 Smokey Stetson Shuffle (…after the shoot-out…)
5 Deerstalker’s Jig
6 Baseball Cap Stomp
7 Best Bonnet Waltz
8 Cloth Cap Galop

ALAN BULLARD was born in 1947 in Upper Norwood. London. He studied under Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music and subsequently at Nottingham University. The English choral tradition was very much part of his upbringing, and has resulted in many choral works, notable amongst which are Madrigal Book and The Spacious Firmament, both broadcast by the BBC Northern Singers and their conductor Stephen Wilkinson, and three substantial choral and orchestral cantatas, A Song to St. Helena, Dance of the Universe, and Canticle of Freedom. As well as having a large catalogue of instrumental and ensemble music, he is much in demand as a composer of music for amateurs and young people, and his many works for wind instruments have gained great popularity. Among other works written specifically for John Turner, his Recipes for Recorder and String Orchestra were Editor’s Choice in Gramophone Magazine and Gramophone Japan in 2000.

The suite of dances entitled Hat Box was composed in 2001 and is dedicated to John Turner and Neil Smith. It refers to Stockport’s historical role as a hatting town. All the movements are inspired by diverse varieties of hat-wear, and each of them makes reference, in a greater or lesser degree. to a well-known local tune, which makes its presence clearly felt only in the final hectic Galop.


ŠTĚPÁN RAK was born in Ukraine in 1945, but was abandoned by his natural parents and taken to Prague by Soviet troops. He studied (music and guitar) at the Prague Conservatoire and (composition) at the Prague Academy of Music. He has in recent years developed an international career as a virtuoso performer on the guitar, as well as a composer with a remarkable stylistic range. The affecting neo-baroque Arioso started life as a guitar solo in the composer’s suite Homage to Comenius. Rak was a guest at the 1987 Cannington International Guitar Summer School, during which John Turner and Neil Smith gave a recital, and to provide an encore for their concert that evening, Rak composed a recorder part to go with the original guitar piece during dinner that evening, the première being given an hour or two later!


The set of divisions (variations) on probably the best known of all English folktunes comes from Volume I of The Division Flute, published in 1706 in London, by John Walsh.


ERNEST TOMLINSON was born in Rawtenstall. Lancashire in 1924 and died in 2015. A Manchester Cathedral choirboy, he won a scholarship at the age of sixteen to study composition at Manchester University and organ, piano and clarinet at the Royal Manchester College of Music. Called up to the Royal Air Force in 1943, the first six months of his training as a wireless mechanic were spentat Stockport. The Masonic Hall in Wellington Road South was then the RAF’s local

headquarters and classrooms and laboratory facilities were made available in the Technical College. Ernest Tomlinson was during this period billeted at Trinity House on Shaw Heath and retained fond memories of the friendliness of Stockport folk. He was made very welcome in the homes of local families and at a thriving Youth Club in the town. Serving in France from l944-45, after the War he returned to and completed his musical studies. Moving to London in 1947, he worked for several years as a publisher’s staff arranger and organist at a Mayfair church, until regular broadcasts of his orchestral music enabled him to become a freelance composer from 1955, in which year he founded his broadcasting Light Orchestra. From those days he went on to become probably the best-known British composer of light music of the late twentieth century. His works range from delightful miniatures, such as the ubiquitous Little Serenade, via large scale symphonic jazz works, including Sinfonia ’62, Symphony ’65 (the latter being the first symphonic jazz work to be performed in Russia, under the composer’s baton in the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra and Big Band), to choral works, concertos (his Rhapsody and Rondo for Horn and Orchestra was the last work premiered by the late great Dennis Brain), opera, and ballet (Aladdin).

Chadkirk Idyll, composed in 2002 for John Turner and Neil Smith is the composer’s tribute to Stockport, with memories of his happy stay in the town some 77 years ago. There are also versions for recorder and piano and recorder and string quartet.

About the piece he wrote as follows: “On receiving the request to write a piece for this CD, the description of Chadkirk and its history conjured up for me an imaginary picture back in history. The mental image of a small and lonely chapel in the river valley at the base of a windswept hillside inspired the melodies around which the Idyll was shaped.”


JOHN PURSER is a composer, poet, and author of Erik Chisholm , Scottish Modernist, and the award- winning Scotland’s Music. His compositions cover many genres from opera to solo lute: they have been described as ‘heartfelt, clear, rugged and peculiar’. A selection is available on CD from

“I composed Skye Blue in July 2019 for John Turner, to whom it is dedicated. The piece consists of four variations on a simple fourteen-bar theme. I live on the Isle of Skye and this piece is as bright and summery as the island can be. The variations share characteristics with those of piobaireachd – the classical music of the Highland bagpipes – but their nature is driven by the character of the recorder.”


1 Waltz in Green Chiffon
2 Steps in Blue
3 Escalation in Red

DAVID ELLIS was born in 1933 in Liverpool. He studied composition under Thomas Pitfield at the Royal Manchester College of Music, and won many prizes for his compositions, including the Royal Philharmonic Prize. From 1961 he worked for the BBC in Manchester, becoming Head of Music (BBC North). After his retirement from the BBC, he became Artistic Director and Composer in Residence to the Northern Chamber Orchestra, and assisted with the establishment of Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa.

The composer writes: “This piece was written to celebrate the renovation of the medieval Staircase House in Stockport. The Fred and Ginger of the title are of course, Astaire and Rogers, from the heyday of the great Hollywood musicals. Little excuse was needed for them to launch into a dance routine, usually backed by a full symphony orchestra and chorus. In this brief sequence the forces are more modest but I hope that Fred and Ginger may be tempted to join with some heavenly choreography. I moved to Stockport in the mid-seventies and soon discovered that the town centre was full of hills designed for only the very fit – short cuts inaccessible to motor vehicles were, and still are, a particular feature. So, at the beginning and end of this Staircase Music, there are a few moments of necessary repose for the composer to contemplate his next move.”


JACOB VAN EYCK was probably born in Heusden, in the Dutch province of Brabant in 1589 or 1590. He was blind from birth and, having been involved with the installation and tuning of the bells

in the city hall there was appointed the carillon player of the cathedral in Utrecht in 1625, later being appointed in a similar capacity at other churches and the city hall in Utrecht. In addition he played the recorder with great virtuosity, as appears from a poem of 1640 celebrating the Janskerkhof (a park in the city). His salary was increased from eighty to one hundred guilders “on condition that he entertains the people walking in the church garden from time to time in the evening with the sound of his little flute.”

The collection of pieces entitled Der Fluyten Lust-hof (‘The Pleasure-Garden of the Flute’) was published in two volumes, initially in 1616 and l619, but both subsequently reprinted. They are one of the main sources of early seventeenth century recorder music. The pieces are mainly sets of divisions (variations) on well-known tunes of the time, both sacred and secular. The tune for this set of divisions is by John Dowland – his song Come againe: sweet love doth now invite from his First Booke of Songes or Ayres, printed in 1597. Curiously the tune as used by van Eyck starts on the first beat of the bar, whereas in the song the tune actually starts on the second beat, from which it is a fair assumption that the tune was better known on its own rather than in the original song version! There are four variations after the initial statement of the tune, each of increasing virtuosity.


1 Ragtime
2 Blues
3 Bossa Nova

JOHN GOLLAND was born in 1912 in Ashton-under-Lyne, and died in 1993. He studied composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music under Thomas Pitfield. He is widely known for his music for brass and wind band, including two euphonium concertos, concertos for tuba, trumpet, flugelhorn, and piano, a concerto for band, and the frequently performed test pieces Sounds and Atmospheres.

In addition he composed a children’s opera The Selfish Giant and several orchestral and chamber works. His New World Dances were written for John Turner and Neil Smith in 1980 and first performed by them at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle in October of that year. The work has since become one of the best known pieces in the repertoire for recorder and guitar, being performed not only by John and Neil but also by numerous duos all over the world. A lazy blues is framed by a quick ragtime using the simplest of harmonic progressions to support two jaunty and memorable tunes, and a rhythmic Bossa Nova, in which the recorder part takes wing from time to time in improvisatory flourishes. The work also exists in a version with strings, published on the Prima Facie label (Balmoral Suite and other Recorder Favourites, PFCD100).


1 Brande Yrlandt PIETER DE VOIS
2 Courante Monsieur ANON
3 Fantasia ANON

These three recorder pieces come from the two books published under the title of ‘t Uitnentent Kabinet (‘The Select Cabinet’) by the Amsterdam publisher Paulus Matthysz in 1646 and 1619, and are thus contemporary with the Van Eyck Divisions also on this disc. All three pieces are sets of divisions on dance melodies.


1 Three
2 Four
3 Five and Six
4 Twelve

JOHN DUARTE (1919-2004) was born in Sheffield, and after graduating as a chemist from Manchester University worked for several years as a research chemist in industry. He took up music as a hobby in 1934, and except for two years’ tuition in jazz guitar (of which he remained a formidable exponent) was entirely self taught in music. He first came to prominence as a composer when Segovia played and recorded his English Suite No. 1, now the most-played English guitar work in the world. His extensive list of compositions includes numerous works for guitar, both solo and with other instruments and voice, including a full-scale concerto. Un Petit Jazz was written for John Turner and Neil Smith in 1982 and first performed by them in Smithills Hall, Bolton, later that year. and subsequently all over the world.

The composer writes: “When I sat down to write something for the John and Neil I decided on a work that would reflect their ebullient characters and, at the same time, have popular appeal. The inspiration for the title was taken from the 1960s when the great (arguably greatest of all time) Ida Presti, on visiting our home, and knowing of my background in jazz, would often ask: “Jacques, joue un petit jazz pour nous.” The small slip (‘petit’ should have been ‘un peu de’) made it the more memorable. The titles represent the number of beats in the bar: Three (3/4) is a waltz with overtones of David Brubeck. Four (4/4) is a twelve-bar blues, evoking the late-night atmosphere in a jazz-club. Five and Six (alternate bars of 6/4 and 5/4) is a sort of cheerful song. Twelve (12/8) is a simple boogie-woogie. Following the success of the piece, they asked me to add another movement to it. I responded with Un Petit Bis (‘a little encore’), which falls into no particular category. I resisted the temptation to write something in 7/4 time! In Three, Twelve and the encore there are touches of ‘tongue-in-the-cheek’ – an overdose of solemnity would have been inappropriate.”


1 Round Dance
2 Pavane
3 Ostinato
4 Waltz
5 Galop

PETER HOPE was born in Stockport in 1930 and studied at Manchester University. After graduation he worked for two years in London with Ernest Tomlinson in the arranging department of Mills Music. Ever since he has been a full-time composer and music arranger. In the latter field he has worked for many internationally known names, including Jose Carreras and Kiri te Kanawa, and other composers including John Williams and James Horner. His original compositions include the Suite: Ring of Kerry (which won an Ivor Novello Award in 1968-9), a Trumpet Concerto performed by Elgar Howarth, a Concertino for bassoon and orchestra, recorded by Graham Salvage and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and a Recorder Concerto for John Turner, also recorded with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. The Bramall Hall Dances were written especially for John and Neil for a concert at Bramall Hall, and the five dances in contrasting rhythms combine elements of medieval and modern popular music.