American Trio (Hymns, Rags and Blues)

by Peter Dickinson

Hymns, Rags and Blues is just what its title suggests and is one of a number of pieces in which Dickinson has explored popular music styles. In a sense these works are a tribute from an English composer to his sources in American music which have occupied him as writer, performer, teacher, and broadcaster for many years. The composer provides the following notes.

This work began with three hymn tunes, one specially invented and two remembered from the composer’s Sunday School childhood in the North of England. The three hymn tunes are converted unrecognizably into blues-one for each instrument-and they also form a strain each of a classical rag in the pattern A-A-B-B-C-C-A-B. The rag style is deliberately pre-jazz, and in this case follows quite closely that of Charles Hunter (1876 – 1906), the blind white player and composer born in Tennessee. The layout of Hymns, Rags and Blues, with its often comic juxtapositions, can be clearly followed:

  • A slow prelude announcing the main hymn.
  • The Rag for violin and clarinet against the piano’s own blues
  • Cadenzas against the main hymn in the piano.
  • The blues for clarinet.
  • The Rag for clarinet and violin against the piano’s variation on the hymn.
  • More cadenzas against the hymn.
  • The Blues for violin, increasingly disrupted by the clarinet, which erupts into its own cadenza.
  • The final Rag in the piano with disruptions from both clarinet and piano, who both gradually come to terms with the Rag just in time.

Hymns, Rags and Blues was written fo the Verdehr Trio and retitled "The American Trio"


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