Graduation Fanfare for Girton & RWCMD
Updated: Nov 2
In 2019, I was approached to write a fanfare for the 150th anniversary of Girton College, Cambridge which was performed by the RWCMD Brass Band with myself conducting.
Photography credit: Girton College
"Girton College was the first residential institution for the Higher Education of women in the UK. Its founders were passionate about the principle of inclusion and also had a role in the suffrage movement and in the campaign for women’s advancement in the professions. They founded ‘the College for women’ in 1869; it opened on October 16 with 5 students. The principal founders were Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon. This fanfare opens with statements from quartets of 5 players representing the 5 pioneering students who, inspired by those who founded the institution, were brave enough to seek out degree level education on the same terms and to the same level as men. These gestures were written specifically for the women of the RWCMD Brass Band who premiered the work in 2019. Growing from small beginnings the college flourished to become a radiant beacon of excellence in diversity.
The green and white of the College crest represent Emily Davies’ Welsh heritage. The use of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the Welsh Anthem, heralds back to this heritage and is then interwoven with God Save the Queen, the English Anthem, as a symbol of two great nations being merged together in one institution for learning.
I also use the number 5 through the use of the interval of a 5th in both melody and harmony, 5/4 bars, 5 Bar Phrases and the use of smaller ensembles of 5 which will be played by all women. The overall shape of the fanfare is to represent the growth of the College from small radical beginnings to its position today as a permanent institution within the world class collegiate University of Cambridge. It was not an easy path; success was hard-won. Moments of dissonance and dis-chord in the fanfare represent the hardships endured by the Girton pioneers during the building and expansion of the college."
Programme Note for "Fanfare for Girton"
Due to Covid-19, graduation ceremonies had been cancelled up and down the country. Luckily both Girton and RWCMD adapted with a plan to take them online. For this they asked if an arrangement of the original fanfare, with a smaller orchestration and a slightly shorter duration, would be possible. I of course said, yes!
Adapting the work for Dectet Brass, I had a real task of reimaging the voicings of harmony whilst also contemplating the structure to give a satisfying finish in this shorter setting. The original was composed in two parts, one with a focus on the number 5 and the other looking at the conjoining of nations in the Welsh and English national anthems. It became very clear that I was going to have to focus on just one of these aspects in this reimagining. For me, I felt the quartal harmony of the piece was the most important factor and therefore I decided this was the material I was going to focus on in adapting the work.
"...the fanfare, like the College itself, builds from slendour beginnings towards a rich, vibrant apogee."
Susan Smith, Mistress of Girton College