Christopher Rouse - Composer

Press and Program Notes


The Nevill Feast

Program Note by the Composer

During the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, it was not uncommon in England to find the scheduling of elaborate feasts in honor of a notable event. Guests numbered in the hundreds or even thousands, and often the intent was to demonstrate how many fighting men a given family could muster in the event that an army had to be raised.

George Nevill was elevated to the archbishopric of York in 1465 — perhaps tellingly, this occurred in the midst of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of Lancaster and York — and the feast held that year in his honor has come down to us as one of the most sumptuous and enormous of all such feasts. A substantial variety of birds were served, including gannets, gulls, sparrows, peacocks, and larks. Other items offered included six wild bulls, one hundred thirteen oxen, one thousand sheep, and thirteen porpoises. Also on hand were two thousand each of chickens, geese, and pigs. Over two thousand guests reportedly attended, and the feast lasted for several days.

Completed in Pittsford, New York on February 23, 2003, The Nevill Feast is dedicated to Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops, for whom it was composed. It is a brief (approximately eight minutes) score intended simply to entertain. The influence of rock and roll is present throughout, and the work is framed around a repeating chord progression central to rock music. It is scored for an orchestra of piccolo, two flutes, three oboes, two clarinets, bass clarinet, three bassoons (3rd doubling contrabassoon), four horns, three trumpets, three tombones, tuba, harp, electric bass, timpani, percussion (three players), and strings. The percussion instruments required are glockenspiel, xylophone, marimba, drum set, two bongos, two timbales, bass drum, cowbell, Chinese cymbal, police whistle, maracas, claves, guiro, and small cabasa.

Christopher Rouse

The Boston Globe

Richard Dyer

"Rouse's piece has both a period and a distinctly contemporary flavor; it begins quietly but builds into a rousing juggernaut. What is fascinating about it is how off-kilter he keeps it by juggling the rhythms as the crescendo builds until it all comes together; the whole thing is fun, brilliantly orchestrated, and more than slightly unsettling."

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Andrew Druckenbrod

"loud, boisterous, fun music..."

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