A FEW DAYS op.6 (November 1962)

16mm. film - Script, Direction and Music by Howard Blake, Photography by Alf Francis
Published by: Highbridge Music Ltd
Instrumentation: Flute, clarinet, harp and piano

[Key to Abbreviations]
Note on Lyrics: Poem by Howard Blake, spoken by Elona Thomas
Duration: 15:25
First Performance:

NFT 1, National Film Theatre, April 25, 1963

Acquired by the National Film and Television Archive 1963


Sheet Music Available
Instrumental / piano score for sale
Instrumental parts for sale
Some of the music from the film is used in a concert version as "Trio for Flute, Clarinet and Piano'' (opus 25), available from Highbridge Music
Recordings Available

Trio for Flute, cello and harp, opus 0559, is recorded on the album HOWARD BLAKE - CHAMBER MUSIC issued by Naxos CDE 84553 2005. It is an arrangement made in 2005 of the original Trio for flute clarinet and piano opus 25, itself adapted from the music for the film 'A Few days' on 1963.

Flute: Gabrielle Byam-Grounds, Cello: Joseph Spooner, Harp: Rowena Bass

Produced by Richard Hughes and Susanna Stanzeleit

Movements

  • 1: Party theme - Mambo (for flute, clarinet and piano) (1962) 2 minutes
  • 2: Romantic theme (for Flute, Clarinet and Harp) (1962) 3 minutes
  • 3: Blues (for clarinet and piano) (1962) 2 minutes
  • 4: Dramatic scene (for clarinet and piano) (1962) 2 minutes

Notes

HOW THE FILM WAS MADE

Howard wrote, directed and edited a black and white 16mm film called 'A Few Days' whilst working at The National Film Theatre.  The cameraman was co-chief projectionist Alf Francis and his assistant Neville Walker.  Cast were members of staff except for the girl, Elona Thomas, who was studying opera at nearby Guildhall. Blake wrote the voice-over poem which she spoke and he also composed the music score, recorded by students from the Royal Academy of Music. The sound engineer was John Fletcher, director of Dateline Films for whom Howard was soon to work as a composer of music scores. (Notably 'Red,White and Zero'). The film was given four public performances in the main theatre of the NFT from April 23-26 1963 and attracted some attention. New York Times critic Richard Roud found it very compelling and loved the break-up scene on the beach, saying 'that's just the way it is!'. FT film critic David Robinson took a keen interest and it was suggested by BFI directors James Quinn and Stanley Reid that Blake might wish to take up a scholarship to study as a film director. However at this point in time Howard felt that he had learned enough about filming from the experience and must turn again to music which he had begun very greatly to miss. Following the performances the film was acquired by The National Film and Television Archive (British Film Institute Film Library) where it remains.

HOW THE MUSIC FROM THE FILM BECAME PUBLISHED AS CHAMBER MUSIC

In 1964 Howard was approached by the music publishers Chappell and Co. who suggested that he might revise the Romantic Theme (2. Allegro) from the film and use it to create a first movement of a trio, also suggesting that it would be more 'useful' if the harp part could be replaced by piano. Howard agreed to this and composed the 2nd movement (Andante-Waltz-Andante) and 3rd movement (Allegro). The completed work was published by Chappell's imprint 'Music for Education' (Music for instrumental ensemble) in 1964 as "Trio for Flute, Clarinet and Piano'' (opus 25) In 1961 Chappell's had published Howard's 'Fantasy Allegro' - a trio for Flute/or Oboe/or B flat clarinet, Bassoon and Piano in their 'Music for Woodwind Ensemble' series; 'Party Pieces' - a suite for pianoforte; and 'Burlesca' for violin and pianoforte. The splendid premises of Chappell and Co. at this time were at 50 Bond Street and it was a great tragedy that not so much later the building burnt down destroying original manuscripts and extensive archives. The publications by Highbridge Music are reprinted from Howard's original materials.

Lyrics

1.
You have driven me away from you.
All I needed was reassurance, but you would not give it to me.
I begged you to consider me, but you could never understand what I meant.
You were too blind to see that I needed you, and you went away thinking of your injured love.
Are you pleased?
Are you happy now?
Have you regained your freedom, or found a deeper loneliness?
Anyway, it's not important.
What are a few days, a few weeks - even years?
Time passes and the importance of things fades.

2.
Did I ever love you?
I remember the place we met;
I remember you coming in and talking to me.
I see you through the strange amber of recollection - the filter of memory which diffuses realness into a dream.
The people and the room breathe with the warmth of enchantment;
The bright music fades into soft melancholy.

3.
A stream of time, filled with our meetings and partings
Unaware of any but one.
Absorbed in absurd forgetfulness.
Things and places taking new contours on an enchanted screen.
Green illusion and mysterious melancholy.
Strangely happy, strangely sad.

4.
The end comes softly as a shadow.
A breeze springs up, a cloud crosses the sun.
Is there a reason? Why do I despair..
And you forget?

5.
Why won't you reassure me?
Why do you drive me away?
I give all to you and you respond with indifference.
You think only of your injured love
While I defend my restless despair with a vain anger.
Are you so blind?
I explain, and you understand nothing.

Are you pleased?
I know better than to believe you are happy.
You will return to that deeper loneliness
And long to regain the enchantment that is lost

Performances

17th July 2014 In 1961 I started working at the The National Film Theatre. The Co-Chief projectionist was Alf Francis. He came from Essex and was always cheerful. He was crazy about film, amazingly perceptive, practical and blessed with a wonderful Cockney sense of humour. On the day I began work we decided to try and make a film and along with fellow-projectionist Neville Walker we spent our Sunday mornings shooting the B&W film 'A Few Days', shot on a 16mm Bolex with Alf as cameraman. It was eventually to be programmed by the NFT and purchased by the British Film Archive. The support and experience I gained from this encouraged me to venture into the larger worlds of professional music and cinema. Alf remained a friend for the rest of his life and I was honoured to play the organ at his funeral at the request of his wife Anthea,

Yeovil crematorium chapel

4th October 2013 As part of the festival and 75th birthday celebrations, Howard Blake introduces (in German) a programme of projected film excerpts featuring his film scores, Filmkunsttheater Metropol, Dusseldorf 7.30pm Die Filmmusik von Howard Blake Vortrag von und mit Howard Blake in deutscher Sprache mit Filmausschnitten

Related Works


'TRIO FOR FLUTE CLARINET AND PIANO' op.25 (January 1964)
A Trio In Three Movements derived from the music of Howard's film 'A few days'
'PIANO TRIO NO.2' op.524 (2001)
Concert piece in 3 movements, an arrangement of the trio for flute, clarinet and piano (op.25) from the film 'A Few Days'
'TRIO FOR FLUTE, VIOLA AND PIANO' op.524A (January 2001)
Concert piece in 3 movements - an arrangement of the trio for flute, clarinet and piano (op.25)
'TRIO FOR FLUTE, CELLO AND HARP' op.559 (September 2005) (Audio Sample Available)
Concert piece in 3 movements - an arrangement of the trio for flute, clarinet and piano (op.25)
'TRIO FOR FLUTE, CLARINET AND HARP' op.598 (May 2009)
Concert piece in 3 movements - an arrangement of the trio for flute, clarinet and piano (op.25)

Related Autobiography Chapters


'Variations on a theme of Bartok', Howard Ferguson, and violinist Miles Baster (1958)
The National Film Theatre and the filming of 'A Few Days' (1962)
Playing the piano for a living (1964)
Vladimir Ashkenazy records my piano music for Decca (2013)

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