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The idea for ‘Ding Dong Bell’ came after reading about the serious and often rather disturbing backgrounds behind children’s nursery rhymes.   The piece is structured in three movements, played without a pause. The first movement is based on the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and the second on ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’.  The final movement alludes to the poem ‘Full Fathom Five’ from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, although the starting point was the nursery rhyme ‘Ding Dong bell, Pussy’s in the well’.

The musical material for the first and second movements is mainly drawn from fragments of the respective nursery rhyme melodies.  However, towards the middle of the first movement an unrelated theme is introduced which is then used throughout rest of the work. The piece veers between the superficial and the sinister, and bells in various guises feature throughout.

Elizabeth Winters

Programme Note – Ding Dong Bell (2007)

The idea for ‘Ding Dong Bell’ came after reading about the serious and often rather disturbing backgrounds behind children’s nursery rhymes.   The piece is structured in three movements, played without a pause. The first movement is based on the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and the second on ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’.  The final movement alludes to the poem ‘Full Fathom Five’ from Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’, although the starting point was the nursery rhyme ‘Ding Dong bell, Pussy’s in the well’ – hence the title of the piece!

The various church bells featured in the nursery rhyme ‘Oranges and Lemons’ were the inspiration behind the first movement.  The fast section of the second movement was particularly inspired by the following quote: Beheading a victim was fraught with problems. It could take up to 11 blows to actually sever the head; the victim often resisted and had to be chased around the scaffold. Margaret Pole (1473 – 1541), Countess of Salisbury did not go willingly to her death and had to be chased and hacked at by the Executioner.  I found that the nursery rhyme ‘Mary, Mary quite contrary’ was full of references to Mary Tudor, Protestant martyrs, and instruments of torture.

The musical material for the first and second movements is mainly drawn from fragments of the tunes of the respective nursery rhyme melodies.  However, towards the middle of the first movement an unrelated theme is introduced which is then used for the basis of the third movement. The piece veers between the superficial and the sinister, and bells in various guises feature throughout.