Jack Speirs writes: “I was commissioned to write a short fanfare, which suggested to me an accessible, uninvolved, celebratory piece. The basic idea, based on a simple major scale with a sharpened fourth, is announced at the opening: muted trumpets articulate the tonic and dominant, whilst muted horns with a typically French-Horn-Fifth motive supply the augmented fourth. This muted opening bursts into the rhythmic fun and games of the ‘fanfare’ proper. The harmonic movement throughout is generated by the unsettling influence of the sharpened fourth.
“Rhythmic variety is an important feature of the Fanfare. Most bars exhibit some form of rhythmic irregularity (mixtures of 4/4, 3/4 + 3/8, 2/4 + 3/8 and so on), whilst the denouément features strings and wind playing in 2/4 and 3/4 against the 4/4 ostinato of the brass. For the conclusion, I felt the only percussion instrument, apart from timpani, should be given its head. Consequently, the side drum leads the final charge.”
Jack Speirs was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire in 1939. He was educated at Edinburgh University from 1959 to 1963 where he studied composition with Kenneth Leighton and history and theory with Hans Gal and Hans Redlich. He graduated BMus with first class hons in composition. From 1963 to 1964 he studied at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin with Boris Blacher (composition), Emil Seiler (viola) and Josef Rufer (analysis).
He came to New Zealand in 1965 to take up a lectureship in music at the University of Otago. In 1980 he was promoted to the position of Associate Professor. He remained at Otago until his death in 2000. His teaching specialisations were in analysis, instrumentation, twentieth century music, composition and conducting. Many of his students in conducting and composition have gone on to forge successful careers, both in New Zealand and overseas.
Speirs has been a guest conductor of New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Wellington Sinfonia. He received the merit award of the Composers’ Association of New Zealand (CANZ) in 1989 and the KBB Citation for Services to New Zealand Music in 1998.
Recorded 12 April 2017, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington by RNZ Concert for Resound at 2017 NZ Composer Sessions.
Producer: David McCaw
Engineer: Graham Kennedy