Chameleon is a multi-instrumental wind quintet with musicians united by their ability to double/triple. This means that each member performs on multiple instruments, often within the same piece. Having the whole woodwind family at their disposal makes for an interesting variety in repertoire and our combination of instruments means that they can push the boundaries of typical wind ensembles. Their current concert programmes consist of music from the musicals, folk music and French-themed repertoire. They are constantly arranging and collaborating with composers to expand this list and they are in the process of have three original pieces written for their unique combination.
Chameleon Wind Quintet appear by permission of the Royal Northern College of Music
MATLOCK PROGRAMME - Friday 1st March
Jupiter from the Planets (Holst arr. Freya Chambers)
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. The most massive of the planets, named as the light bringer, the rain god and the god of thunderbolts. It’s is said that Jupiter “symbolizes expansiveness, scope of enthusiasm, knowledge, honour, and opportunity.” Holst gives us an unmistakably English Jupiter. The popular hymn “I vow to thee, my country” comes from the middle section of Jupiter and was set to words by Holst in 1921.
'Dr Gradus ad Parnassum' and 'Cakewalk' from Children's Corner (Debussy, arr George Strickland)
Children's Corner was originally written as a 6-piece solo piano suite, and was dedicated to Debussy's daughter Claude-Emma (Chou-Chou, who was 3 at the time). The work was not intended to be played by children, but to evoke images from childhood and some of the movements are nods to some of Chou-Chou's toy collection.
"Gradus ad Parnassum" (the steps to Parnassum) "became the first 'counterpoint text' in the modern sense and the greatest schoolbook in the history of European music." and, while unlikely that it was on the Debussy's home piano, a study book by the same name would have been. This movement is of moderate difficulty for the pianist, and resembles some Czerny exercises, especially the way it moves through different keys in the middle section.
At the time of its composition, Golliwoggs were in fashion, due partly to the popularity at that time of the novels of Florence Kate Upton ("golliwog" is a later usage). They were stuffed black dolls with red pants, red bow ties and wild hair, somewhat reminiscent of the black-face minstrels of the time. This is a ragtime piece with its syncopations and banjo-like effects. The dynamic range is quite large and very effective. The B section of this dance is interrupted on several occasions by the love-death leitmotif of Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, marked avec une grande émotion (with great feeling). Each quotation is followed with banjo imitations. The cakewalk was a dance or a strut and the dancer with the most elaborate steps won a cake ("took the cake").
'Introduction & March of the Lions', 'The Elephant', 'Aquarium' and 'The Swan' from Carnival of the Animals (Saint-Saëns, arr. George Strickland and Jess Tomlinson)
A large amount of our work is involved in outreach and workshops. This arrangement came about because we were asked to do a workshop on the piece, so we had to arrange it. This workshop went on to be our audition for the Live Music Now scheme, which we are now a part of, and completed our initial training and first performances for them at the end of last year. We have chosen a selection of our favourite movements for you today, which show off a range of our instruments. As we use this for workshops, it is a part of our repertoire where we stick to only one or two instruments each, which creates more intimate arrangements of the work.
Constellations (Sam Buttler)
Constellations for Wind Quintet depicts a journey through the stars in all their stages of life. The opening shows the empty expanse of space, with the star theme being passed throughout the ensemble. We then come across our first constellation: with fugal entries throughout the quintet. From there, we experience the expanse of space further, shown in the flute and oboe duct, surrounded by nebulous material. Then comes a supernova and the death of stars, with the bleak interior section, beginning with the octave unison between the bassoon and horn. Only later do we return to the opening constellation before a powerful, supersonic ending to the work.
'The Old Reinlander from Sønndala' & 'Scarborough Fair' from Folk Suite (Traditional, arr. Freya Chambers and Jess Tomlinson)
When Chameleon first formed we discussed the use of different instrument combinations within the quintet to create a unique sound for our group, as well as adding a visual element to our performances. We also discussed how we could incorporate movement around the stage. Scarborough Fair and Ar Lan Y Mor were the first two to be written for our Folk Suite, representing places that members of the quintet (past and present) came from. Jess and George have family ties to Yorkshire, so Jess arranged Scarborough Fair, and our original saxophonist Josh arranged the Welsh Folk Tune Ar Lan Y Mor. Anna has family ties to Ireland which is where the tune Toss the Feathers comes from. Freya, our current saxophonist transcribed the final movement from an arrangement by The Danish String Quartet, and celebrates traditional Scandinavian Folk Music. This movement comes from Norway.
Lensky's Aria from Eugene Onegin (Tchaikovsky, arr. George Strickland)
Lensky's Aria is from Act 2 Scene 2 of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin. The night before the aria is sung, Lensky challenged Onegin to a duel in response to his advances on Lensky's finace, Olga. Now, on the morning of the duel, Lensky looks back on his happy youth as he waits for Onegin to arrive. He resigns himself to the fact he will probably die in the duel, his only regret being that he would never see Olga again. This aria, despite being originally written for tenor, is often arranged for flute or violin.
An American in Paris (Gershwin, arr. George Strickland)
This piece was the first one we worked on as a group. George had fun arranging it down from a full orchestral score to the five of us, and it has proved popular with audiences. It is an abridged version of the dance scene at the end of the Gene Kelly film and we think, even though it doesn’t have the drama of the choreography off screen, it proves to be an action packed performance showing us all off on our main and doubling instruments.
'Ar Lan Y Mor" and 'Toss the Feathers' from Folk Suite (arr. Josh Jones and Jess Tomlinson)
See previous note.