A fantasia in memory of John Fletcher, the tuba virtuoso who died in his forties.  I was on his last tour, a trip around Italy with the LSO.  He'd been his usual energetic self, played wonderfully - then suddenly wasn't there any more.  The shock of it was simply dreadful.  Twenty years after his death a memorial CD was made, and this was written for it.  The idea was suggested by a bus shelter!  I'd become hopelessly lost driving back from Cheltenham and stopped the car to wrestle with the map.  It turned out that I was in Adlestrop, and I noticed that someone had had the imagination to fix the old GWR railway sign to the local bus stop, with a plaque bearing Edward Thomas's famous poem.

My original idea was to write a pastoral piece redolent of birds, haycocks and what have you, but the express-train "drawn up unwontedly" in Edward Thomas's poem would have none of it, and has given itself a far bigger role in the proceedings than I intended – to the extent of departing halfway through the birdsong.  Well, there is no harm in that; after all, John Fletcher was very fond of anything to do with railways.  The middle section is a set of variations on his name (F-la-E-ti-C-H-E-re).

Yes, I remember Adlestrop -

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.

No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop-only the name.

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still or lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang 

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Edward Thomas

You can buy the CD here:


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