Nineteen Years of Winter (2008)

December 1st, 2011

Nineteen Years of Winter (2008)


fl, cl, pno, vln, vla, vcl

fp. 18 March 2008; Chroma, Concert Hall, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.

Commissioned by Cardiff University for the Cardiff University Concert Series 2007/08.

Score is available to purchase here.

[audio:] Nineteen Years of Winter (2008) (mp3)



Nineteen Years of Winter takes its inspiration from the historical period that is commonly referred to as the ‘Anarchy’; the reign of the English King Stephen from 1135 – 1154. The period is referred to as the Anarchy as it was basically one long civil war that occurred between the forces of Stephen and his cousin Matilda. The throne passed between the two of them over the years 1138 – 1147(though Matilda was never crowned) until Matilda returned to her husband in Anjou, leaving the kingdom to Stephen. Although in essence Stephen won the war, Matilda would have the ultimate victory when her son Henry II succeeded her cousin.

Nineteen Years of Winter takes its title from a contemporaneous account from the Peterborough Chronicle (c.1153) which refers to “nineteen winters for our sins”, and the Anarchy is often referred to as ‘the nineteen winters’, ‘nineteen long winters’ or ‘nineteen years of winter’.

My work takes the Anarchy as its starting point, though it is not a literal representation of the time. I have tried to reflect the form of the nineteen year period, with relevant periods of conflict and stability, these correlating with major battles and skirmishes from the civil war. Overall I have tried to keep a wintry, cold feel to the work reflecting the words of the Peterborough Chronicle; the long periods of military inactivity (which are unusual for a civil war) are reflected in the slow rate of harmonic change, the feeling of musical stasis and the close circling of pitches, intervals and modes.

I emphasised the link with the historical period with the inclusion of a quotation from the twelfth century composer, poet and mystic Abbess Hildegard von Bingen. Her work Columba Aspexit is quoted initially in the bass clarinet in its lowest register, before becoming more prominent in the string heterophony towards the end of the work.

Nineteen Years of Winter is dedicated to my PhD supervisor Anthony Powers, whose words of support and encouragement have been immensely important to me over the past five years.


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