Favourites for drifting and dreaming
The perfect programme of relaxing music for a lazy, hot summer afternoon, wherever it is spent, indoors or out, in the garden or on the river. And what could be more fitting than Coates' 'Summer Days' Suite and Stanford's 'The Bluebird'
We British are obsessed with weather. Hardly a conversation goes by without this most controversial of subjects not being raised. Even the most reserved by nature of us will use the weather as an 'ice breaker' (no pun intended!). To feed our national preoccupation, the televised weather reports have become mini-extravaganzas in their own right. Presenters with jolly personalities regale us with the most detailed of information about conditions, not just for the day in hand, but anything up to a week later. And we learn of hurricanes and blizzards and extreme rain falls etc around the globe on a regular basis.
And whilst we are on the subject, there is that perennial question, rhetorical or answerable, that always becomes the subject of debate: were the summers of yore hotter and sunnier than they are now If we believe they were, could we not be accused of 'rose-tinting' our memories It is the way we want, or arguably, need to remember them. It is an extension of that hoary, old cry that 'everything was so much better then'. Well, were they To redress the balance, someone is certain to pipe up with reminiscences of washed-out holidays, freezing bank holidays and worse.
And then the statistics are waved in our faces to either prove or disprove the reliability of our memories. But do we really want to accept the evidence Statistics, of course, are suspect and are subject to 'hidden agendas'.
Composers, however, certainly do take a positive stance about summers. The warmth is almost tangible in their music - by turns languorous, relaxing, escapist and dreamy. Frederick Delius knew instinctively how to convey the intoxicating delights of an English summer. 'Summer Night On The River' is an exquisite example of quintessentially English music. Debussy places us firmly in a boat on his French river, and a feeling of utter tranquillity and nonchalance imbue this perfect, little miniature.
Percy Grainger has a more robust way of depicting summer. His 'In An English Country Garden' bristles with good humour and vivacity. This lovely piano arrangement suggests a folk-dance, carefree and merry.
Eric Coates, too, could be relied upon to produce melodies, full of charm and longing. It was almost as though he could unceasingly draw from a bottomless well of glorious and memorable tunes. His 'Summer Days' suite and 'Miniature' suite are both evocations of summers long gone and redolent of a more innocent age.
So it is now time to bring the battered deck-chair into service, relax, pour out a glass of lemonade (or perhaps something a bit stronger!) and bask in these wonderful summery sounds. For winter listening, substitute the armchair, close your eyes and dream of summers past and the summer to come.