I composed the original version of Postcard to Grimethorpe in 1993 at the request of Elgar Howarth, for a concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, given by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. This was at a time when after the Grimethorpe Colliery pit closed the future of the band was in severe jeopardy. The concert was given in aid of the band, both through publicity and funding.
Then in late 2022 Jack Stamp, the American composer, conductor and educator, and at that time international composer-in-association with Grimethorpe, contacted me to say that he had discovered my short piece in the band library, and asked if I might extend it for a recording he was sponsoring for the band – the repertoire to consist entirely of music specially composed for Grimethorpe.
I agreed and decided to extend the piece by using the miner’s hymn Gresford, as a symbolic gesture of protest at the many thousands of miners in the UK who were made redundant from their jobs. After an angular (quasi-atonal) first section, the hymn enters, softly at first, but with each phrase it becomes more powerful and insistent, ending with the final phrase triumphantly accompanied by melodic percussion (replacing the drums and cymbals of the earlier phrases, as if the band were then on the march). However, this short work ends softly and gently, as if anger has been replaced by quiet resolution and determination, looking to the future with confidence.
(Available for purchase: Autumn 2023)
The recording is rounded off with Edward Gregson’s title track Postcard to Grimethorpe – a transitory reconnection spanning almost 30 years, that undergoes a metamorphosis from anger and jeopardy to majestic defiance and gentle confidence.
Iwan Fox, 4barsrest (November 2023)