The Cortège

Ruote Che Girano

This is based on a sequence of chords over a common root. The piece is a development of a song that we have played for years with the Brass Band. The vocal verses fit into three eight-bar measures in 4/4 time. In the Brass Band version the vocal 8s are sung over a six-bar bass figure, repeated four times (4 X 6 bars = 3 x 8 bars). The effect of this is that the accompaniment to the song is always shifting in relation to the song itself. Each of the vocal 8s starts over a different part of the bass figure. The vocal, sung by Phil Minton, is basically in two-bar phrases. The different bar structure of the accompaniment produces some interesting emphases, and the effect of two things starting together, diverging, then coming together again.

In the new setting of the song I've kept to the original idea: the vocal is sung in 8s, basically in Dm. and in 4/4. Against that a sequence of chords, all based on a pedal D, change every six beats, producing an eight - bar sequence in 6/4. The vocal verses are sung in groups of three 8s, in 4/4, which coincide with two 8s of the 6/4 sequence. As the rhythm of the accompaniment diverges from the basic rhythm of the vocal, so the harmony shifts around the basic D. At the end of each three 8s of the vocal and two of the 6/4 accompaniment, the two come together in a four-bar riff in D minor.


The effect is of the vocal telling the story moving forward, while everything else is in a state of flux, around it. A tension builds up, and there is a sense of release when everything comes together.

I was working on this arrangement at the time that Phil, Kate and I went to Rome to rehearse with the Radio Orchestra (Big Band della RAI) for concerts in Rome and Venice - a project organised by Filippo Bianchi. During rehearsals in Rome I took the plunge and wrote out the arrangement for the Orchestra. The opening flute line, based on the chord sequence, was originally played on vibes, and the solo in the middle was played by a great Italian musician, Baldo Maestri, on clarinet. With my own orchestra it became a vehicle for the trumpet of Guy Barker. Just before the Rome concert, we asked one of the Italian musicians for an Italian translation of “Wheels  Go Round", and “Ruote Che Girano”  became the title.  

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