If there ever was a staple to the Canadian orchestral repertoire, it’s Fall Fair by Godfrey Ridout. I’ve played it twice with Orchestra Toronto and I recall the first time I played it, my friend, Uri Rozen, who passed away a number of years ago, rolled his eyes in classic Uri fashion about having to play Fall Fair again. In any case, it’s a freakin’ fun piece to play on tuba with lots of big brass sections and little nuggets just for the tuba.
But now I’m viewing the piece from the opposite side of the orchestra — I’ve programmed it in the Highlands Chamber Orchestra’s Fall Pops 2015 concert as part of the over-arching Haliburton 150th theme of Canadian, American and British music. And seeing the full picture of the orchestra in play is wonderful.
First of all, Fall Fair is a tour-de-force of a piece. So many emotions and imagery being portrayed: boisterous revelry, ho-down country fiddling, nostalgic look back to summer, and maybe even a little love theme in there too.
Here’s the bright opening with high woodwinds (plus trumpets and upper strings not pictured here). Picc and oboe also introduce what I feel is the ‘excitement-and-anticipation’ theme as you’re on your way to the fair. Also — keep that first bar in mind … it’ll come back later….
Next is the major boistrous theme introduced fully by the trumpets and trombones, with a nugget for the tuba — you can’t help but come in bright and shiny to punctuate the phrase.
The strings and some woodwinds also give us a hoe-down theme (think Aaron Copland’s Hoe-Down from Rodeo). What kind of self-respecting county fair would not have some good fiddling going on?
Next we have the main boistrous theme elongated in a solo for 1st horn. I think we’re looking back to a great summer and wonderful memories. Violins and celli take it on next to sweeten the moment.
Finally we have a possible love theme introduced by the english horn with deep pizz by celli, basses and harp. A nice big 3/2 to take your time in. Violas and clarinet join in to help out, and the woodwinds over all repeat the theme. Finally the whole orchestra is welcomed in with a big, deep and lush sound (dare I say schmaltzy?). It’s goosebump material for me, whether on tuba or on the podium.
Take a closer look at that love theme though… the first four notes of it are the opening bar in the first pic above. Clever, no?