Letters of Regret Music by David Golightly
I met David Golightly in the mid 1990s, when he was trying to set up an organisation to represent composers in the north-west of England. He succeeded, forming the North West Composers Association, and I was honoured to be David’s right-hand man in the early days – we shared a love of contemporary music (and football). David worked tirelessly for composers in the area, putting on concerts, releasing CDs, and attracting funding for a variety of successful projects, as well as composing prolifically himself.
Sadly, David’s life was cut short in 2018. I was approached by the executors of his will, Doug and Gillian Wright, to record his fabulous piano trio, Letters of Regret. This I did, with the renowned Lawson Trio, and the piece lends its title to this this double CD, capturing the essence of David’s depth and musical vitality. After the recording of Letters of Regret, I decided as a tribute to put together on disc all the music I had recorded with David. It’s a stunning collection in my opinion, and I am proud to be involved in this release. You can read more below about David and his music, from Gillian Wright, who tells David’s story, Annabelle Lawson, who talks about Letters of Regret, and David’s close friend from the brass world, Steve Robson, who reminisces about David and the final work on this collection, A Weardale Portrait.
I am extremely grateful to Doug and Gillian Wright, Annabelle Lawson, Monica McCabe, Steve Robson, and engineer and producer Phil Hardman, who recorded the piano trio Letters of Regret.
Stephen Plews 2022.
“More than we are’. – David Frederick Golightly 1948 – 2018. A brief history of the composer’s life.
David believed that God loves artists and that if we have been born with any given talent then it is our duty to develop it and become something ‘more than we are’. David Frederick Golightly was born just after the second world war in the town of Stanhope which lies at the heart of the beautiful Weardale valley in County Durham. His mother Joyce and his extended family were devout Christians and members of the Methodist church. They were local celebrities renowned for reciting poetry in the local dialect and raising money for good causes.David recalls that his grandfather took him to his first football match at Middlesborough at the age of 12 which was the start of his lifelong love of the beautiful game and Middlesbrough FC.
David took piano lessons from a young age but would not practice, and after leaving school he became an apprentice motor mechanic and just played the piano for amusement. Like any teenager growing up in the 60’s he enjoyed the emerging pop culture, but it was a trip to Blackpool at the age of 17 when he purchased a classical LP record from Woolworths that was to change his direction in life. He became interested in classical music and furthered his musical interests by taking lessons in singing, playing the piano and tuba.
After completing his apprenticeship he became foreman of vehicle maintenance at a company in Shotley Bridge.
Another influence on his life was a small book of Pushkin’s poetry, which he found in an antique bookshop in Hexham and treasured all his life. At the age of 23 he decided to change direction and return to education. He left his employment as a motor mechanic because his hands were suffering through his work, which was not compatible with playing the piano. In order to support himself he took a part time job as a door-to-door salesman for Betterwear.
He obtained GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ level examinations plus high grades in piano, tuba playing and also singing. This ultimately would lead him to Huddersfield University to study for a BA Honours degree in music composition and performance. Whilst there he met a fellow student Roger Heaton, a talented clarinettist for whom he wrote Moods, his first acknowledged work.
From there he went on to the Guildhall School of music and Drama in Leeds, for a postgraduate certificate in Advanced Studies. His first teaching post took him to the Isle of Wight and then to Holmfirth, where he rented a bungalow in the small village of Holme in the shadow of the Yorkshire Moors, famous for its wild beauty and desolation. David always insisted that the bungalow was haunted by some mischievous spirit that would hide his keys and other personal belongings. Whilst he was there, he took on the Junior Brass Band at Hinchliffe Mill, conducting and teaching young brass players. He also gave private lessons and promoted his music through his publishing Company, Modrana.
Young musicians were given instruction, not only in playing a musical instrument, but in how success can have its own rewards. Youngsters were encouraged to move through their grades and enter competitions to win local fame for their achievements. They were pushed along to achieve more than they or their parents thought possible.Not many small towns can boast its own orchestra, but whilst he was living in Yorkshire, David sought out and joined Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Adrian Smith where he played the tuba. It was here that one of David’s pupils was given the opportunity to become their youngest ever soloist, playing Vaughan Williams’ tuba concerto on a euphonium at the age of 12. This was quite an achievement for both the youngster and David as the child had only been playing the instrument for 2 years. This was definitely an example of being ‘More than we are’.
After leaving Holmfirth High School he went to work at Oldham College and purchased his first home across the Pennines in Mossley, and over the next few years he was writing many pieces for musical productions at the college such as ‘Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ and ‘Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe’. At the age of 41 he married Pam, a fine pianist whom he had met at Huddersfield University and they purchased their first home together in Poynton, near Stockport. David then became a part time student at Nottingham University and gained an AMusM in composition. Unfortunately, his marriage to Pam only lasted for two years before they decided to split.
It was at this time he began work on his opera The Eye. The plot concerns the dilemma facing the Devil since hell is now overcrowded. Heaven gives him the opportunity to demonstrate the qualities essential for salvation with the hope that humanity will change its ways. It was an unusual piece that reflected a difficult period in David’s life as he readjusted to his single status. He would visit the nightclubs of Manchester and experience the seedier side of life, which may have been the inspiration behind the work.
David relocated properties but remained in Poynton where he was adopted by a cat, George, which being a very independent cat was a perfect companion for the workaholic composer. David was busy at the college, taught a group of private pupils and also helped out at the local church conducting the choir.
This was a very productive period for David and he composed Rites of Passage to texts by Pushkin for the Soglasie Choir of St Petersburg. This male voice choir performed this on their extended tour of Britain in 1993. The following year David set off for Russia and conducted his composition ‘St Petersburg Mass’ at the Capella Hall. David sees this as the most successful concert of his career after he received a 10 minute standing ovation by the very appreciative audience who described him as ‘the English Shostakovich’.
Whilst in Russia, David was distinctly under the impression that he was being followed wherever he went. He would also tell the story of the old woman selling cigarettes on the street, shivering in the cold and to whom he tried to offer money, but was prevented from doing so by a policeman.
He invited the choir back to England the following year but David found that the behaviour of some of the members rather challenging, especially when one man threatened him with a knife!
In 1996 he wrote the Shadow Portraits, a piece made up of 3 parts. This piece appears to represent 3 ladies who had been most influential in his life. While living in Poynton, he set up a musical group of young people aged between 12 and 18. They produced a CD of well-known songs arranged by David for a CD called Brass Live.
In addition, he saw the lack of opportunities for classical musicians and composers which led him to form a group known as the North West Composers Association. It was here where he met John McCabe and for whom he wrote Piano sonata No 1. He was also a member of the British Academy and one of the classical representatives for the PRS Advisory Group, established to assist the Company review its public performance and broadcast policy.
Symphony No 1 (also known as the Middlesbrough Symphony) was a major piece of work David wrote as a tribute to Steve Gibson for his investment in Middlesbrough football club and the wider community over so many years. The music portrays the history of the club over five years, the scherzo represents the club’s visit to Wembley, the slow movement represents the pain of defeat and the final movement with its march attempts to capture the atmosphere of a match day with the climaxes suggesting the home team scoring a goal. This symphony had its world premiere in Middlesbrough Town Hall in September 2011.
Written in 2001, Letters of Regret was a piece that David wrote during a dark period in his life, when he felt persecuted by the establishment whom he felt responsible that success was eluding him. It is dedicated to an Irish lady, a woman with whom David fell in love. David felt that there were dark elements that prevented the romance. This feeling seeped into his dreams and they became nightmares, when David felt that unknown forces were determined to thwart all his attempts at happiness and success. Those of us who knew David personally will be able to relate to the deep depression that hit David like a stone during this period and this piece is clearly autobiographical.
The three movements are Demon, Angel and Letters of Regret. The demon represents external forces with an unknown agenda that influence events. Angel is the Irish lady whom he loves and the finale expresses the regret at the unsuccessful efforts at romance; it is a set of variations depicting private love letters written but not sent.
In 2004 David had a heart attack which led him to reconsider his life, and he left Poynton and moved to Frosterley with his cat George, to be near to his dear Mother in Stanhope. However, she too had become unwell and died a year later. David’s piano trio In Memoriam is dedicated to her, and David’s arrangement of Crimond was a favourite piece of hers.
When George passed away, David felt he had lost a good friend and after a short while he brought a new cat, Sarine into his home. David continued to teach music to youngsters and adults, but he found that the opportunities for private music lessons were far less in the North East than had been in Poynton.
David took up fishing, and spent many happy hours in contemplation sitting by the river Wear. He also took up writing, and had some success in poetry competitions. This encouraged him to write his story about Hob, the dragon. He also began an epic fantasy story called Waits a dragon – unfortunately this work was never completed.
Up until his death, David played the church organ at Tow Law, and continued to give singing and piano lessons. David’s final composition was The Soldier’s Hymn, written to commemorate the 100th anniversary of George Bradford from Bishop Auckland who died at Zeebrugge. He and his brother achieved heroism in WW1 for their bravery and sacrifice and were awarded the Victoria Cross.
Unfortunately, David died suddenly in February 2018 before it had its first performance.
In David’s own words. ‘It takes a phenomenal amount of sacrifice to achieve success in this world. If you succeed then it is great but if you don’t then the journey is still worth the effort’. David is buried near his mother in Crosshill Cemetery in Stanhope County Durham.
I hope you enjoy this CD, which is a celebration of David Golightly’s life and work – in particular, it was his wish that Letters of Regret would be professionally recorded after his death.
Gillian Wright 2021
Letters of Regret
David Golightly finished his piano trio Letters of Regret in 2002. The work was commissioned by the Fenice Trio, who gave the world premiere at Middlesbrough Theatre in the same year. It was their informally-captured, live recording, and the insight of hearing the composer himself give a long, spoken introduction to the performance, which the Lawson Trio took as a starting point for the recording on this disc, made at the RNCM.
In his spoken introduction, David speaks of this work as being both the musical summation of his composition to-date, as well as an impassioned expression of his own unfulfilled love for a woman who he calls “the lady”. He refers to the time of writing as “a very stressful time” and the piece seems to be underpinned by tension between his unrequited, Romantic love and his fervent religious beliefs. All three movements are peppered with quotes from earlier works: his St Petersburg Mass, the Middlesbrough Symphony, his vocal setting of Pushkin’s The Flower. His interest in Russia and Russian culture is often apparent in the soundworld and the music contains musical motifs imbued with Christian and personal symbolism; the pitch D features as a recurring musical signature throughout the piece – repeatedly reinforcing the work’s purpose as a deeply personal ‘final word’.
The first movement – Demon – portrays the composer’s emotional state at the time of writing and the “malice and mischief…of the demon that plagues and torments”. The music clearly owes a lot to Shostakovich and is, rather tellingly, headed ‘fiercely agitated and pained’. However, in the final bars of the piece “the demon theme is thrown away – worth nothing against the power of the next two movements”.
The second movement – Angel – begins with what David describes as an “ethereal” and “spiritual” musical landscape and is conceived as a character portrayal of “the lady”. A theme representing her is heard three times in close succession, passed from cello, to violin, to piano and representing the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the music is punctuated with ominous, low Ds in the piano, spelling out the initial ‘D’ for ‘David’. Towards the end of the movement, abrasively dissonant rising figures in rhythmic unison, represent the clamour of “phone calls never made”. The movement ends with a reappearance of the D signature – this time played pizzicato in the cello.
The third movement – Letters of Regret – forms the emotional heart of the piece and contains many quotes from previous works. In this movement, a “letter theme” is heard seven times, in various transformations, representing seven, written letters to “the lady”, which were never sent. Each time, this theme is followed by a solo piano “regret theme”, which conveys the composer’s regret for the fact that, “as the letters were never sent, the lady could not possibly respond”. The repeated versions of these two themes incorporate the entire gamut of human emotion – from a blues-tinged tenderness, to a harsh angularity and crafted ugliness. However, at the end of the emotional rollercoaster, the piece concludes in a spirit of peace – what David himself calls “a happy ending” – with three, drawn-out, shimmering C major chords. There is a sense that, despite the angst and the darkness of much of this music, ‘goodness’ or faith, perhaps – wins out. As is the case with his Middlesbrough Symphony (which has a completely parallel ending), the piece is “a tribute to the Givers of this world, the people who seek to enrich our lives” and ultimately carries a positive message.
Anabelle Lawson 2021
David F Golightly studied composition with Richard Steinitz at Huddersfield University. He was born in Co Durham in 1948. A number of his compositions have been commissioned by eminent performers, including “Moods” for Roger Heaton, and “Rites of Passage” and “The St Petersburg Mass” for The Soglasie Male Voice Choir of St Petersburg” (premiered in 1994, at the State Capella Hall St Petersburg). His music has been performed as far afield as America, Germany, Poland and Russia. To add to his credits, David was also acclaimed for the Baroque arrangements for the Rumanian opera singer Inessa Galante on her CD “Arietta”.
Important premieres, recordings and commissions have included the “Piano Trio” (Fenice Trio Recording), “Concerto for Strings” (Kiev Philharmonic, CD recording ERM masterworks series, released June 2006), “Second Symphony” (Dedicated to Serge Inkov Choral master Kirov (premiered 2006, St Petersburg, Russia), Symphony No 1 (The Middlesbrough, premiered Royal Northern Sinfonia Middlesbrough, September 2011), and Housman settings for Mezzo Soprano and Piano (premiered New York, 2011, with Emily Cobley, Mezzo Soprano, Beth Levin Piano). Later commissions include a Tuba Sonata (Ewan Easton, Halle, Tuba), Piano Fantasy on a theme of Thomas Morley (Adrian Morley), and Three Folksong settings for Mezzo Soprano and String Trio (David Appleton).
David was chairman of The North-West Composers’ Association, and a past director of the British Academy. In addition, he was also one of the classical representatives for the PRS Advisory Group established to assist the company review its public performance and broadcast policy. This double CD is a celebration of the life and music of David, who died in 2018.
The CD programme
1-3 Letters of Regret – The Lawson Trio
Recognised both for their performances of the cornerstones of the trio repertoire as well as lesser known works and their own new commissions, the Lawson Trio has appeared at major venues including London’s Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, the Southbank Centre, and at many UK music societies and international festivals, with live concert broadcasts given on BBC Radio 3 and ABC Classic FM.
The ensemble’s debut CD The Long Way Home was released in 2012 on the Prima Facie label. This disc, which features four of the Trio’s own commissions, as well as a work by Mark-Anthony Turnage, received a five-star review in BBC Music Magazine, and enthusiastic reviews in Classical Music Magazine, the Sunday Times and the Independent. In 2018 the Trio collaborated on a disc of premiere recordings of works by Gordon Crosse, including his Piano Trio, which was revised for the Lawsons in 2012.
The Lawson Trio has commissioned a number of pieces for the genre from British composers David Knotts and Cheryl Frances-Hoad, and they have had works gifted to them by Gordon Crosse, Anthony Powers and Camden Reeves. They have also worked with composers Judith Weir, Cecilia MacDowall and Hugh Wood, for performances of existing repertoire. High-profile premiere performances of new work have included the complete set of works from their CD debut, recorded at the Southbank Centre for BBC Radio 3’s ‘Live in Concert’ programme.
The ensemble has been selected as a featured artist by the Park Lane Group, Making Music’s Concert Promoters’ Group, Music in the Round, Concordia Foundation and CAVATINA Chamber Music Trust, giving season highlight concerts at the Wigmore Hall for Park Lane Group and CAVATINA. In July 2011 the Trio travelled to Australia as one of 8 successful piano trios from international auditions, to compete in the final rounds of the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition, which was broadcast live on Australian radio. They were also the first piano trio to be offered a Britten-Pears Residency as part of the chamber music programme at Snape Maltings.
Originally set up at Cambridge University in 2000, the Trio went on to pursue formal study as an ensemble as Junior Leverhulme Chamber Music Fellows at the Royal Academy of Music.
They have benefitted from the wisdom of many wonderful ensembles and individuals, including the Endellion, Chilingirian and Fitzwilliam Quartets, the Florestan Trio, Ferenc Rados, Siegmund Nissel, Martin Lovett, Colin Carr, Simon Rowland-Jones, Krysia Osostowicz and Peter Cropper, as well as Richard Ireland at the invaluable ‘Chamber Studio’ sessions he coordinates at London’s Kings Place.
Committed to bringing new audiences to classical and contemporary music, the Trio is constantly involved in educating young musicians through workshops, masterclasses, combined performances and interactive concerts, and especially through its work as Associate Ensemble to the Chamber Music 2000 contemporary music initiative.
4-8 Moods – Roger Heaton Clarinet
Clarinettist Roger Heaton performs with groups including the Kreutzer Quartet, Fidelio Trio and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble. He was Music Director of Rambert Dance Company and Clarinet Professor at the Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik during the 1990s. Recent CDs include Mihailo Trandafilovski’s Clarinet Quintet and solo works by Radulescu and Boulez. Recent writing on music includes a chapter for the Cambridge History of Musical Performance and one on Bryars’ Music for Dance (forthcoming, 2022). He is Emeritus Professor of Music at Bath Spa University.
9-11 Piano Sonata Number 1 – John McCabe Piano
John McCabe’s (1939-2015) career established him as one of Britain’s leading composers, with seven symphonies, the ballet Edward II (Stuttgart 1995) and two-evening ballet Arthur (Birmingham Royal Ballet), The Chagall Windows, and Notturni ed Alba (soprano/orchestra), together with much chamber, keyboard and vocal music to his credit. Cloudcatcher Fells is a classic of the brass band repertoire. His Horn Concerto was written for David Pyatt and the BBC NOW, Symphony on a Pavane for the LPO, Symphony Labyrinth for the RLPO and his Cello Concerto Songline for Truls Mørk and the Hallé Orchestra. A book, Landscapes of the Mind: The Music of John McCabe, was published in 2008 by Ashgate Publishing (Guildhall Studies series).
In his distinguished career as a concert pianist, he performed and recorded widely, including the landmark set of complete Haydn Piano Sonatas on Decca and many British works, and he was noted for his generosity in performing works by other composers, here and abroad. Appointed CBE for his services to British music, his 70th birthday in 2009 was celebrated with many concerts including the BBC Proms and residencies at the Three Choirs Festival, Hereford, and the Presteigne Festival.
12-14 Three Shaow Portraits – Jonathan Middleton Piano
Jonathan Middleton is recognised as one of the most gifted and versatile musicians of his generation. He has been highly sought-after for many years now as a soloist, teacher and general music-educator, considering himself ‘extremely fortunate’ to have been amongst the few pianists lucky enough to study under the inspirational pianist and piano pedagogue Marjorie Clementi, a direct descendant of the great composer and pianist Muzio Clementi.
Indeed, Mr. Middleton’s repertoire is comprehensive, ranging from Bach and Scarlatti (including most of the 48 Preludes and Fugues of Bach), through the classical period (including most of the great sonatas, sets of variations, and concertos of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven) through the romantic period and right up to the present day.
Alongside his busy schedule as a performing musician, Mr. Middleton has also acquired a reputation as a totally dedicated and caring teacher. He looks on mentoring young students both as an important duty and a privilege, ‘to pass on to the next generation the remarkable legacy that has been entrusted to us so that it may continue to enhance the lives of everybody it touches’.
1-4 Symphony Number 1 – The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Gavin Sutherland)
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is a classical orchestra, predominantly composed of Czech classical, jazz and guest musicians.The history of the orchestra goes back to the Film Symphony Orchestra (FISYO), which was founded shortly after World War II, in 1947 as the in-house orchestra for the huge Barrandov Film Studios.The orchestra play and record music for every type of orchestral project including CD albums, major international films, television series, video games and even ringtones — both for the Czech Republic market but chiefly for clients and media productions all around the world.
Gavin Sutherland is Music Director of English National Ballet. Born in Durham, UK, he graduated from the University of Huddersfield, winning the Kruczynski Prize for Piano and the Davidson Prize for Distinction brought to the Institution. He began his career as staff conductor and pianist at Northern Ballet, and over the last 30 years he has collaborated with many nationally- and internationally acclaimed dance companies and orchestras. He has recorded over 100 CDs, mainly of British music and including many world premiere performances. This strand of his career has led to a fruitful collaboration with the BBC, most notably with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Besides his prolific ballet, concert and recording work, Sutherland regularly arranges for leading international orchestras, often involving reconstruction of notable lost scores, and also broadcasts regularly as performer and interviewee. In 2019 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Huddersfield, and in 2020 won the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Creative Contribution.
5-7 Seascapes – The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Gavin Sutherland)
8 A Weardale Portrait (conducted by David Golightly) – Stanhope Silver Band
A Weardale Portrait was commissioned by Stanhope Silver Band as part of their “175th Anniversary Celebrations” which took place in 1998. It was a particularly exciting commission, as it was an opportunity for the band to work with a local composer, a man known to have been a mechanic, who then went off to study music, and whose music we heard had been performed in Russia, and by celebrated musicians in our country. As conductor of the band, I had the privilege of contacting David to offer the commission, and sharing discussions with him regarding the musical form the piece might take.
David based A Weardale Portrait around a local folk song,The Bonny Moor Hen, and he included memories from his youth of attending events such as the annual Stanhope Agricultural Show, where the Beer Tent was always an attraction for many, the “Sulky Racing” (Horse and carriage), an exciting spectacle, and the Roundabouts a great way for the youngsters to end their day. The piece thus became a find recollection for David of “Show Day”, but also included some of his joy of local nature. The sections of the piece are:
The Bonny Moor Hen (The miners of Weardale) Sulky Fair
Tent of Hospitality (The Beer Tent)
Stanhope Silver Band recorded David’s excellent composition on their first ever CD, which was another major project for their 175th anniversary year. David enthusiastically accepted my invitation for him to take the baton and conduct the recording of his piece, and its first performance, which took place in the wonderful surroundings of Stanhope Methodist Chapel.
The band also recorded David’s arrangement of the hymn tune Crimond (“The Lord’s My Shepherd”) on the CD. My personal feeling is that David was very pleased to have been asked to share a project with Stanhope Silver Band, and he seemed very appreciative when the suggestion was made to use A Weardale Portrait as the title of the CD.
Several years later, I was lucky to have the opportunity to develop my own passion for music by studying for a degree in Band Studies, with a course validated by Sheffield University. Just a few weeks before commencing the course, I received a call from David, who excitedly told me that he had been appointed as a composition teacher on the very same course. He was ringing to ask my thoughts on subjects that might be of special interest for musicians setting out on such a course – we ended with laughter, having realised that David was about to become my teacher.
Over the following four years, I was privileged to learn from David, who shared the teaching of composition with the wonderful Arthur Butterworth, and part of a teaching team including Alan Fernie, who taught arranging, and Course Leader Richard Evans, our conducting guru. I think it is fair to say that David gained great respect from myself and fellow pupils on the “Band Studies” degree course.
I am proud to have known David, and subsequently shared several projects with him. In his latter years of his life we had several conversations regarding his second symphony, and it is a source of great regret that he never got to experience a performance of this work. I am a great admirer of his first symphony, which is included in this collection.
I do hope that this retrospective release of the music of David Golightly will engender a new interest in his work, and maybe in the not too distant future, a recording and performance of his Symphony No. 2 may follow.
Steve Robson 2022