Knivshult/ Ash Wednesday
Early on in the same tour that produced "Berlin”, Kate and l discussed with Johan Etzler, director of Stockholm’s Kulturhuset, our ideas for The Cortège. We asked him to suggest a Swedish poem that we could include. Scandinavia at that time was in the grip of the long winter and the boat from Helsinki forced its way through an icebound Baltic Sea. Back in London, on a postcard marked "Knivshult/ Ash Wednesday”’, we received a message from that land of forests and melting snows; Johan had sent a traditional poem in a regional Swedish dialect. This simple, touching story was a natural addition to the texts of The Cortège. Nevertheless it took me a long time to Find the melody- l was probably too locked up in the rules that l had created for myself with "Berlin". The breakthrough came when, some months later, I was playing the euphonium in a hotel in Salzburg. I worked out a melody that had the simplicity and directness that the poem needed, and a lilting 6/8 rhythm. Kate found the vocal melody by singing in harmony with the horn line I had written.
“Knivshult” is one of those tunes that we never get tired of doing. We play it regularly with the Brass Band as well as in The Cortège. Even with the Orchestra the instrumentation used is very simple - a pastoral mood is set by tinkling sleigh bells and cow bells, and by a sumptuous guitar drone (continuously sustained note or chord). The theme that accompanies Kate’s vocal is played by bassoon, alto saxophone and clarinet. In the middle there is a solo by Chris Biscoe on alto saxophone.