Alarum (solo tuba)

Programme Note

This work, for solo tuba, was written for, and premiered by James Gourlay in 1994. Hans Nickel gave the first performance outside of England at the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference in Chicago in 1995.

Written for solo tuba, the title of the work derives from an old English word meaning a “call to arms” and Gregson interpreted this to be a “primeval call”, hence the opening gesture of the piece which is meant to imitate a tribal-like intensity. The piece is divided into three main sections and runs continuously. The first section is aggressive, nervous, and yet lyrical. The second section melodic and peaceful, but reaching a climax when the two themes (lyrical and rhythmic) are juxtaposed against each other. The last section is dance-like in character with changing time patterns which lead back to the very opening statement, the alarum of the piece. There are no time signatures and seldom bar lines. The rhythmic values are, however, strict and proportional. The notation appears less cluttered as a result and gives greater freedom to the soloist with regard to phrasing.

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Alarum for unaccompanied tuba … opens with visceral intensity, exploring the full range of the instrument, delivering through lyrical calls to a ferocious climax …. the listener’s attention held throughout by the virtuosic delivery of Ewan Easton.

Thomas Dunne, Brass Band World, March 2021

Alarum, for solo tuba, exploits both the primordial and lyrical sides of the instrument …. Ewan Easton negotiates the bravura aspects of this challenging, but supremely worthwhile piece with an imposing command of line and timbre.

Paul Conway, Musical Opinion, July/September 2021

Work Details

First Performance

  • Date: 13 February 1994
  • Venue: Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham, England
  • Performers:
    James Gourlay (tuba)



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