Blue Letters from Tanganyika

John Hardy ()

Blue Letters from Tanganyika 1997

3(III+picc).3(III+ca).3(II+Ebcl.III+bcl).2.cbn - 4.3.2.btbn.1 - timp.3perc - hp - strings
Duration 
18
Genre 
Commissioner 

At the age of twenty-six in 1953, Anne Ritchie set off alone for Tanganyika (now Tanzania), with an annual salary of £30 and the task of managing every school in an area the size of England. For two years she travelled on foot and by canoe across the water and wild country, and her letters tell of an exotic, exciting world, with “children doing arithmetic on their bare arms,” and where schoolgirls are startled by a python “but killed it quite happily!”

Forty years after she returned, her son John Hardy began discussions with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales about composing a new piece for a series of concerts. John's inspiration came from the exotic stories told by his mother her letters home, and these blue airmail letters gave the piece its name. “What I did was to use them as the basis for a sort of tone poem,” explains John, “describing in music some of the colour and drama of her time there.”

The 18-minute piece is in four movements, each based on a different part of Anne’s travels: ‘Arrival at the Lake’ after a dangerous night journey through lion territory; ‘Travel on the Lake’, sometimes tranquil, sometimes stormy and always filled with crocodiles and hippos; ‘Twilight on the Lake’ through the stillness of a long African night; ‘On Safari’, with the excitement and fear of the unknown.

Full of exuberant African colours, the piece is rich with imagery and imagination. Anyone who likes classical, orchestral and big film scores will feel instantly at home. Fresh and bold, Blue Letters from Tanganyika conjures an exotic world where lions are banished by bicycle bells, snakes are frightened away with hymns and the only person who can cure an aching tooth is a German nun.

John Hardy

Performances 
12.4.97 St David's Hall, Cardiff: BBC National Orchestra of Wales / Martyn Brabbins
3
Flute
3rd doubling piccolo
3
Oboe
3rd doubling cor anglais
3
Clarinet
2nd doubling Eb clarinet, 3rd doubling bass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3
Trombone
3rd bass trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
3
Percussion
1
Harp
(Esc)