Album Notes

Valley of the Ice Flowers

Quick Links:
Elspeth’s Dream | Caryn’s Castle | Fairy Cupboards | Gibson’s Cave | Sylvia | Fair as Eden | Water Wheel | Dance of the Dawn | If Only | Beyond the Rain | River of Peace | Nocturne for Jane | Piano for Blue World

VIF_CDfrontHere are the long promised sleeve notes for the CD album especially compiled for the (4) people who actually purchased the physical CD and the innumerable thousands who purchased digital downloads, allowing Classycool Music staff to enjoy Beckhamesque lifestyles forever.

This page is what remains of a blog written by Mel Stallwood which unfortunately managed to delete itself and a good deal of the years of jottings sadly disappeared.

The original title ‘Keep a Rainbow in your Heart’ (and your peace will be like gentle rain) was first composed in 2002 and was intended to be a musical tribute to Teesdale in springtime. The composer attempted to illustrate the river and becks, waterfalls, wild flowers, lambing and changeable weather. The piece was also arranged for string orchestra + flute/oboe and harp and included in a 4 seasons kind of setting. The work was entitled the ‘Teesdale Suite’. ‘Keep a Rainbow in your Heart’ was part of the ‘Spring’ section

Early in 2001 I wrote a musical called the “Angel of Derry” about the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland. I first composed the music comprising of 10 pieces and called it the ‘Irish Suite’ . The ‘Irish Suite’ is actually a musical portrayal of a story I drafted (called ‘The Angel Of Derry’ ) which I planned to turn into a musical.

Set in Belfast, the story is about a nurse (Mary O’Connor) and Bill Woods. Mary, originally from Dublin (nicknamed Angel’) sings and plays the harp, and Bill plays flute/sax with a visiting British army band. Their inevitable relationship creates serious complications, especially when ‘Angels’ republican brother (Sean) is killed by the British Army during a riot. The ensuing love story creates sectarian mayhem, but the incredible heart-rending twist at the end almost solves the Irish problem…. Anyway despite being interviewed on BBC Radio Ulster, I was unable to find a publisher or anyone prepared to invest in the idea. I then used a couple of the pieces as well as some new music and put together the ‘Teesdale Suite’ which I wanted to be a tribute to the lovely area of Northern England I am privileged to live in.

Again, I sadly failed to rustle up any interest, even the local stores, Raby Castle, Eggleston Hall and other tourist venues declined to offer the CD for sale in their shops. I thought it would be nice if a local orchestra premiered the work or part of it, but after spending sleepless night writing hundreds of orchestral parts for the local ‘Cobweb’ orchestra they decided that the music was too much like ‘film’ music and their members preferred to play familiar classical styles.

I was now becoming suicidal and turned once more to roaming the hills with unkempt dogs, beards, out of date maps, broken compasses and other dangerous things. To cut a long beard short, regarding ‘Valley of the Ice Flowers’ I have a book called ‘England’s Last Wilderness’ by David Bellamy and Brendan Quayle, which documents the local myths and legends of the Northern Pennines going back to its Celtic and Norse roots. It provided my inspiration for much of this album, especially after visiting some of the remote locations, as the book says “the north pennines are one of the most magical, yet least discovered areas in England. A land of moor and mountain, of hidden valleys and ancient woodland. I wrote some of the tunes with some of these ancient myths in mind, for instance the first section of ‘Elspeth’’s Dream’ when in it’s original habitat in the ”Teesdale Suite” was meant to portray the remote cold winters of Baldersdale where Hannah Hauxwell once lived. The piece was the 2nd movement of the ”four seasons” section of the Teesdale Suite and was called ‘A Winter Too Many’ (Upper Teesdale).

As keen lovers of the countryside and rambling (mainly verbally) my wife and I like to pootle off whenever we can for a few days to neighbouring areas of Northern Britain. We always find lots of books and leaflets about the local area, wild life, flora, houses, castles, waterfalls, books of ghost stories and of course all the favourite local walks which often are made as attractive and interesting as possible by strange and wonderful tales of romance, tragedy and myth. Teesdale, our home for 20 years is no exception and one my books on the area, England’s Last Wilderness by David Bellamy and Brendan Quayle describes Teesdale as the ‘Valley of the Ice Flowers’ (now you know how the ‘Teesdale Suite’ became ‘Valley of the Ice Flowers’).

Chapter 1 begins,

“To any botanist worth his salt, Teesdale is a magic word bluegentianspoken with a sense of true Blue Gentian reverence. It is a place of pilgrimage where memories of some 12,000 years of environmental change linger on in a bouquet of flowers. The valley is one England’s great historic landscapes, painted by Turner and immortalised by Sir Walter Scott. There are castles and a ruined abbey, ghosts and a great grouse moor, Roman and Celtic remains, and through it all (’we offer you perfection’) runs one of the best stretches of ‘white’ or fast river in the country, fed by magnificent waterfalls, the most impressive being High Force”. “But above, below and all around are Teesdale’s flowers. Delicate blue gentians and pink primroses head a whole flowering of of alpine and arctic plants which brighten each new spring as they have since the last Ice Age melted away…” (Sorry about the silly Robbie Williams reference) it’s surprising how most of the local people born and bred in this area have little or no idea of their unique botanical heritage, rivalled only by maybe one other site in the whole world. But I mustn’t digress…

Tomorrow I will attempt to relate the amazing story behind Elspeth’s Dream…

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Elspeth’s Dream


Here is a little about the inspiration behind the composition of Elspeth’s Dream. Page 28 of Professor Bellamy’s book continues…”Cotherstone village is a little lower down the dale, standing on the west bank of thewhite_hart tees at its junction with the River Balder. In Celtic times, the confluences of rivers and streams were mysterious places, believed to be the haunts of spirits, both malevolent and benevolent. One famous legend concerns the last of the Lords of Romaldkirk whose castle once looked down from high on the magical meeting of the Tees and the Balder. The castle no longer remains, but you can see the last of its foundations on the steep hill which overlooks the waters. According to legend, local lord went hunting and on his way met Elspeth, an old woman who warned him against going out that day. However, the proud lord ignored the advice offered and headed out with his hounds and horse to the wood. At twilight he became separated from the rest of his party, and entering a woodland glade saw a vision in the moonlight: a pure white hart”. The rest of the story is best told in this anonymous local rhyme – best read in the traditional scary Scottish drone… (imagine Fraser from Dad’s Army) (Page 29)

“But night had fallen, and near by Yawn’d
a chasm dark and dread…
Twas the top of Percymere
The deer so swiftly sped;
The young lord followed recklessly
Forgetting danger near;
His every thought was fixed upon
The slaying of the deer.

But now the dogs stopped suddenly,
A flash as though of fire,
Revealed unto the luckless youth
The brink of Percymere.

And far below, in that dark dell
Crept the river on its way,
Like some huge serpent coiling round
quivering, ghastly prey.

He checked his steed – but ’twas too late –
The tired beast reel’d and fell,
Roll’d on its rider, and both together
Were plunged into that awful dell.

And then, amid the dark, dim night,
Arose a fearful scream,
And horse and rider mangled lay:
Fulfilled was Elspeth’s dream”.

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Caryn’s Castle

caryns_castle‘England’s Last Wilderness’ continues on Page 32… Before leaving Middleton for the upper dale cast your eyes due south towards Lunedale and there in the hills above the town stands a solitary clump of ancient Scots pines. These dark trees mark the site of a great tumulus, Kirkcarrion. This was excavated in 1804 and in it were found the bones of a Brigantine prince, Caryn, hence the name ‘Kirkcarrion’ – Caryn’s Castle. It is a great romantic sight on a late summer evening when the sun slips down on the fells behind, or when the moon is full, shining an eerie light upon the sentinel trees and prehistoric mound lying below. When the moon is out, Caryn’s unsettled spirit is believed to stalk the fells, no doubt lamenting the disturbance of his Celtic tomb.The original tune came from my Irish musical ‘The Angel of Derry’. It was entitled “I saw a rainbow…like an emerald” the words were as below…

I saw a rainbow in the sky,
I saw a white dove flying by,
There were flowers and bees
and green leaves on the trees
and a rainbow in the sky.

I saw the orange men with the green
and there’s ne-ver a gun to be seen
’twas an angel that changed
all the hearts of the people
and a rainbow appeared in the sky
Like an emerald… Was it all a dream…

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(Lost in) The Fairy Cupboards

fairy_cupboardsHere is a magical little place I have spent some happy moments in quiet contemplation. My previous post relates the amazing tale of the Lord of Romaldkirk and Elspeth and this little spot is close to that fateful crag overlooking the meeting of the rivers Balder and Tees. I wrote the music with this lovely little spot in mind and added my usual large dollup of fantasy. The footpath leads on the the old Shaw Bowes Academy where Charles Dickens was inspired to write Nicholas Nickleby and his tales of Wackford Squeers and Dotheboys Hall. My story however is not to be told today, but it doth reside in the music.

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Gibson’s Cave

Gibsons_CaveGibson’s Cave is in Teesdale and is part a suite of music I wrote for Teesdale several years back so although not included on the original Valley of the Ice Flowers album, it really should have been. This lovely place can be accessed from the Bowlees visitor centre in Teesdale. After a walk through the beech and silver birch woods by Bowlees Beck, the impressive cave and waterfall (Summerhill Force) suddenly comes into view. The cave was supposed to be a hide-out for an outlaw in the 16th Century.I wrote the waltz at the end as a kind of afterthought. Maybe I remember dancing and larking about behind the waterfall on one occasion in the cave area.

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Sylvia

SylviaA special tune for a special lady. This was one of the first tunes I ever wrote (1981) apart from a few childhood attempts. I remember playing it on my old (former BBC) Boyd baby grand in my basement studio

The flower pictured is actually called ‘Sylvia’

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As Fair as Eden

edenAlluding to a comparison of Teesdale with the Eden valley. This was ‘Autumn’ in the Teesdale Suite and was the anthem for Teesdale. The original ‘Irish Suite’ name was ‘Ireland, Ireland – a land as fair as Eden’. I have tried this as a string quartet and also as a brass band arrangement with mixed results.

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The Water Wheel

The_Water_Wheel-mp3-imageOriginally ‘Life Keeps Turning’ the inspiration came from an old Water Mill not too far away – A nice (secret) place to spend time.There’s a bit more to this story and I will try to get round to publishing more details another time.

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Dance of the Dawn

dance_dawnDance of the Dawn was an Irish Jig originally.Composed for the abandoned musical ‘The Angel of Derry’ it’s a musical portrayal of a love story during the ‘troubles’ of Northern Ireland. Set mainly in Belfast it’s about a nurse (Mary O’Connor) and Bill Woods. Mary (nicknamed ‘Angel’) from Dublin plays the harp, and Bill plays flute/saxophone with a visiting British Army band. Their inevitable relationship creates serious complications, especially when ‘Angels’ republican brother (Sean) is killed during a riot. The ensuing love story and apparent ‘miracles that happen around Mary creates sectarian mayhem, but the incredible heart-rending twist at the end almost solves the Irish problem…

The original arrangement for the ‘Angel of Derry’ was typical ‘Riverdance’ stuff.

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If Only

ifonlyI wanna stay with you forever
wanna lifetime guarantee
I could be wrapped around your fingers
If only you could see
I wanna dance with you all night now
I wanna kiss and hold you tight
If only you feel the way that I do
If only you wanted me tonight
Bridge
You know I’ve never really told how I’ve
loved you for so long
But you never seem to notice me
Why can’t you see – you’re so right for me…
I wanna love you for a lifetime
I’d never let you slip away
I’ll put a ring around your finger
If only you’d agreeV4.I wanna dance with you all night now
I wanna kiss and hold you tight
If only you feel the way that I do
If on – ly – you – loved – me.(Solo)
Bridge
Verse 1.
Verse 4.

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Nocturne for Jane

JaneLambThis piece is one of a few compositions that I had no recall of thought or preparation until I woke early one morning went to the piano and played it straight through. I think I tweaked the arrangement later and added the key change but that was about it. Jane had spent a year ill in bed and even now after she got back on her feet she never has a day without pain. Nights are worse and poor Jane hasn’t got through a night for maybe five years (at least). Jane deserves this special Nocturne. If it ever made any money then we would spend it on treatment and then a nice holiday!

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Beyond the Rain

rainbowThe piano solo ‘Beyond the Rain’ probably goes back to around 1982 when the tune was written to fit Jane Carol’s famous lyrics ‘You will Never Know How Much It Hurt’ also became included in ”The Angel of Derry” (from ‘The Angel of Derry’ lyrics Jane Caroll)And now the threads of time
Run through my broken dreams again
Too hurt to feel, to know what’s really true
Why do I hear the things my heart would never listen to.To lose is not to die
But now I’m on my own again I miss you so,
but pride won’t let me show
How much it hurt to hide the pain inside and let you go.To lose is not to die
And life would take my hand again
I’ll touch the stars that shine beyond the rain
And you will never know how much it hurt to let you go
And you will never know how much it hurt to let you go…I try to understand
And watch you walk away
from all we planned
But if you came back to me
Night would show the day to me Oh no…

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River of Peace

peaceriverOriginally written for the ‘Irish Suite’ and then included in the ‘Angel of Derry’ which unfortunately never materialized.The title was ‘Your Peace will flow like a River’ (inspired from the book Isaiah 66) and was orchestrated featuring Flue and Harp solos. The first section written in C minor was not included in the original.

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Piano for a Blue World

blueworldCD_frontThe CD contains 4 of my originals plus 11 of the most beautiful romantic classics ever written. Composers include Chopin, Liszt and Debussy. If you would like to order a copy please get in touch through the contact page. The individual tracks are available as digital downloads on the web.I included ‘Nocturne for Jane’, ‘Angelique’, ‘Water under the Bridge’ and ‘Dancing in the Rain’ I am not sure how much longer it will be available because unfortunately the record company is closing down.

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