*THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE op.451 (May 1993)

A song-cycle to poems by Robert Louis Stevenson for male speaker, film (optional), choir and orchestra
Commissioned by: Patrick Tobin and Helen Mitchell on behalf of The Mary Erskine School, Edinburgh for their Tri-centenary
Instrumentation: Boy speaker (RLS as a boy), Male speaker (RLS as a man), children's chorus,
2(I+II=picc).1.2.1 - 2110 - perc(2): timp/cyms/susp.cym/BD/tgl/xyl/conga/bongo/wind machine/cast/tamb/SD - harp - pno(=harpsichord/cel/small organ) - strings
[Key to Abbreviations]
Note on Lyrics: Text: Robert Louis Stevenson from "A Child's Garden Of Verses"
Duration: 21 mins
First Performance: Usher Hall Edinburgh with David Rintoul and the choir and orchestra of Mary Erskine School conducted by Helen Mitchell 25th March 1995.
Sheet Music Available
Piano / Vocal score for sale
Vocal score for sale
Full score for hire
Orchestral parts for hire


Recordings Available
The Land of Counterpane
Released: 2007
Recorded: 25th March 2007
Artists: The Choir of The Mary Erskine School and The Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Howard Blake. With David Rentoul (speaker)
Available from: Highbridge Music

HIGHBRIDGE MUSIC CD 2007  Made by The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the choir of The Mary Erskine School Edinburgh with David Rintoul (as Robert Louis Stevenson as a man) and Niall Rice (as Robert Louis Stevenson as a boy) and conducted by the composer. Available from:


Director of Highbridge Music Ltd. - The Music of Howard Blake

Studio 6, 18 Kensington Court Place, London W8 5BJ.

Tel: 020 7937 1966   Mob. 07966 387 637

howard@howardblake.com  www.howardblake,com


Requests for use of copyrights should be addressed to james.rushton@musicsales.co.uk

Enquiries to hire or purchase scores and sheet music should be addressed to Adam Harvey, Music Sales Hire Library, Unit F3, Dettingen Way, Bury St. Edmunds,Suffolk, IP33 3TU Hire at Music Sales.co.uk 01284 596004



  • Prologue: The Land of Counterpane

    RLS as a boy speaks over the orchestral prologue. The speaker should be about 8 years old

  • 1: Windy Nights

    The choir whisper and shout 'gallop and gallop and gallop' while the orchestra hints at the 18th century with a prominent harpsichord part suggesting the highwayman

  • 2: Singing

    We hear the 'organ man' play, we hear a 'birdie' sing (represented by a flute)and Japanese and Spanish children playing - all glimpsed in a song lasting less than a minute

  • 3: Where go the boats?

    Two-part harmony from the choir and from solo violin and cello at the end

    Recorded by Roderick Williams on an album called Classic Children's Songs - Amazon

  • 4: Marching Song

    Unison voices with a strong Scottish accent!

  • 5: From a Railway Carriage

    The song rattles along at high speed till its final, distant whistle, which leads directly to...

  • 6: Night and Day

    ..a slow ballad and gentle evocation of a child's view of the change from light to darkness, from darkness to light

  • 7: The Swing

    Woodwind conjure up the motion of a garden swing

  • 8: Young Night Thought

    Off-stage solo trumpet and trombone summon up ancestral memories in an evocation of what is sometimes called the 'akashic record'. The young Stevenson seems to see the whole of past life marching with him as he hovers between wakefulness and sleep

  • 9: Looking-glass River

    Clarinets shimmer with rippling water and reflections, but at the end lie still as a looking-glass until...

  • 10: The Land of Counterpane

    A full choir setting of the title song which segues into...

  • Epilogue: To any reader

    Themes and echoes are recapitulated as an orchestral coda over which is spoken (as if by Stevenson himself in his mid-thirties)'To Any Reader', a poetic epilogue that expresses both his ability to recapture his childhood memories and his regret at the passing of the years.


The role of Robert Louis Stephenson as a man should be spoken by a male narrator and as a boy by a boy of about 8.

Number 22 of the collection 'Lifecycle' is a piano transcription of the song 'Night and Day'.


Blake, Howard (1993). ‘The Land of Counterpane’, op. 451.
[First Performance: Usher Hall Edinburgh with David Rintoul and the choir and orchestra of Mary Erskine School conducted by Helen Mitchell 25th March 1995. For boy speaker (RLS as a boy), Male speaker (RLS as a man), children’s chorus,
6 woodwind players, 2 percussionists, 1 keyboard player and strings.]

Prologue: ‘The Land of Counterpane’ (RLS as a boy speaks over the orchestral prologue), 1: ‘Windy Nights’, 2: ‘Singing’, 3: ‘Where go the boats?’, 4: ‘Marching Song’, 5: ‘From a Railway Carriage’, 6: ‘Night and Day’, 7: ‘The Swing’, 8: ‘Young Night Thought’, 9: ‘Looking-glass River’, 10: ‘The Land of Counterpane’, Epilogue: ‘To any reader’ (spoken as if by Stevenson himself in his mid-thirties)


 [The work is considered by Blake among his best compositions. It was commissioned by the Mary Erskine School, Edinburgh for their tri-centenary. An animated film was later planned to accompany the music, a script was written and Pat Gavin produced drawings but then The Scottish Film Board pulled out and BBC2 and BBC Enterprises followed them. To be performed 24th March 2007 by the Mary Erskine Choir & Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by the composer at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, during which a recording will be made. ‘A CD will initially be made available through the Edinburgh school [Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools], but all parties hope it will eventually find its way into full commercial distribution. It is to be launched in September [2007], when the same forces give another live performance to mark the opening of the school’s new £3.5 million Performing Arts Centre.’]



17th March 2018 Orpheus Sinfonia and massed youth choirs of Taplow Choirs led by Gillian Dibden as part of the Windsor Spring Festival, St, George's Chapel, Windsor Castle 7.30pm
31st January 2015 Jersey Orchestra cond. by Howard Blake, St.Helier

Excerpts from Star Wars, The Good,bad and the ugly, Lord of the Rings etc live orchestra with screening

22nd August 2014 National Girls Choir of Scotland, St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh
19th April 2014
- 22nd August 2014
National Girls Choir of Scotland,
24th June 2013 Francis Holland School, Sloane Square, London
7th May 2011 Hartsville Civic Chorale, Children's Chorale,High School Singers and Palmetto State Boys Choir, Hartsville, Southern Carolina, USA, West Hartsville Baptist Church
5th February 2011 Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conductor Garry Walker, Erskine Stuarts Melville choir, The Usher Hall, Edinburgh, family concert, The Voice of a City, 3.00pm
27th September 2009 Cheltenham Cantilena Orchestra conducted by Stephen Belinfante, Cheltenham Town Hall 3.00pm
8th July 2008 Smithy Bridge Primary School, Symphony Hall Birmingham

'Windy Nights' only - Music for Youth National Festival

3rd February 2008 Children's chorus trained by Mary Noyes with The Richmond Orchestra conducted by Philip Hesketh, The German School, Petersham 3pm
23rd September 2007 The Mary Erskine Choir & Scottish Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Howard Blake, as part of a concert to inaugurate the new hall, Mary Erskine Arts Centre, Edinburgh

Two perfomances at 3.00 and 7.30

23rd September 2007 Children's, Boys' and Girls' Choirs from Taplow Choirs and Pure Harmony children's choir (Slough) conducted by Gillian Dibden, Windsor Festival, Taplow Court Concert Hall 5pm
25th March 2007 The Scottish Chamber Orchestra & Mary Erskine Choir, conducted by Howard Blake, Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Recording to be conducted by the composer

24th March 2007 Helen Mitchell (conductor) with choir and orchestra of Mary Erskine School, Usher Hall Edinburgh
13th April 2000 Berkshire Young Musicians Trust, Gillian Dibden (conductor), Royal Albert Hall

Programmed with 'Carmina Burana' conducted by Christopher Bell

25th March 1998
- 26th March 1998
The Ex Corde Choir from the College Chorus, speakers Graeme Gilchrist & Andrew Cubie and First Orchestra, George Watson's College, Edinburgh
2nd December 1995 New London Children's Choir & New London Orchestra conducted by Ron Corp, St John's Smith Square
25th March 1995 Mary Erskine School choir and orchestra / David Rintoul (speaker) / Helen Mitchell, Usher Hall, Edinburgh


They were also in the unfortunate position of following pupils from the Erskine Stewart's Melville Schools who impressed with their incredibly crisp and precise articulation of Howard Blake's The Land of Counterpane.

Based on texts from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, these catchy songs were well-suited to children's voices.

susan nickalls, The Scotsman, 8/2/2011

Related Works

'*LIFECYCLE' op.489 (1996) (Audio Sample Available)
A sequence of 24 pieces for the piano - the complete 77 page album can be purchased by mail order

Related Autobiography Chapters

MARCH IN D (1949)

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