Suite of Antique Dances
for Flute, Harp and Viola (2015)
by Ron Hannah

  • Branle
  • Galliard
  • Saraband
  • Passamezzo Antico
  • Saltarello
  • Duration: about 12 minutes

     The title of this page reflects my recent opportunity to write for an ensemble which included a hurdy-gurdy. I had never before written for a drone instrument. I was intrigued and duly produced this delightful suite, but its première went off most unsatisfactorily (you may read all about it, and about the hurdy-gurdy itself, at this link). All of that is in the past, however, and the music remains. I still thought this was a most worthy piece, and the hurdy-gurdy being a rarely seen or heard instrument these days, I have made a second version for flute, harp and viola. You may download the full score of either or both by clicking on the buttons. The viola version was premiered at my 70th birthday concert in Vienna in 2015, but thus far I have only posted a



computer-generated audio file of the hurdy-gurdy version, with its drone effects. I had to forego many of those drones in the viola version, of course, but it still works, trust me!

     The five movements, listed above, are all older forms. Looking for strict definitions of these early dances, however, proved to be problematic. A "Branle" has some 26 definitions, according to Grove, and can be seen in all sorts of guises, rhythms and tempi depending on historical period, nationality, etc. A "Passamezzo Antico" comes closest to being defined, in that it is nothing but a chord sequence, which I have preserved in my movement of that name. I think rather than thinking in terms of musical forms, the early musicians defined their dances by the steps involved. So, I am free to write a Branle in duple or triple time, even if it is usually duple, and so on. The Saraband also is fairly well defined historically - triple time with the second beat emphasized - but even spellings can vary. Numbers 2 and 3 can be rendered with or without a final 'e', and I have seen the first spelled 'Bransle'.

     Well, why should I care? I'm a composer, after all, not a musicologist. Still, I'd like my piece to conform at least a little to history, even if I do stretch the forms and harmonies. Should you decide your ancient music group, or your more modern music group, would like to play it, please send me an email, below, and I'll be happy to send you parts if you promise to inform me about any performances so that I can keep this website up-to-date. Score and parts may also be obtained through the Canadian Music Centre.