Men of Stone – Symphonic Suite for Brass Band

This work was composed in 1995 for the National Youth Brass Band of Wales, who commissioned it in association with the Arts Council of Wales. The title comes from an exhibition of dramatic photographs of British prehistoric monuments which I saw at the National Museum of Wales, Llanberis a few years before the work was written. This suite celebrates four Neolithic and Bronze Age sites from England and Wales, al1 of which evoke personal memories and associations. Each monument is assigned a season of the year and a time of day, the whole sequence running from autumn through to summer and from morning to night – ending at dawn on Midsummer’s Day. The movements are:

I Avebury (Autumn, Morning)

Avebury in Wiltshire is an enormous structure covering some 28 acres and enclosing an entire village. It originally consisted of about 100 massive stones, but many were destroyed during the 17th and 18th Century by religious zealots who considered them dangerously pagan. Avebury is thought to have been built around 2500 BC.

II Castlerigg (Winter, Afternoon)

This is a large circle of 28 stones situated in a remote spot above the town of Keswick in Cumbria. It was built during the Bronze Age and, like most sites of this kind, its purpose remains mysterious. It is seen here during a blizzard.

III Barclodiad-y-Gawres (Spring, Evening)

Although the original enclosing cairn has now disappeared, the intricately carved stones of this burial chamber remain. Barclodiad-y-Gawres is among the most beautifully situated of all prehistoric sites, occupying a stunning position on a headland along the south coast of Anglesey. Here it is represented at sunset on a warm spring evening.

IV Stonehenge (Summer, Night/Dawn)

Perhaps the greatest of all Stone Age monuments, Stonehenge bears impressive witness to ancient man’s scientific and organisational skills. Built around 4,000 years ago it is believed by many to have been a huge astronomical observatory. At dawn on Midsummer’s Day the sun rises in alignment with the centre of the monument and the distant Heel Stone and it is with a representation of this natural and man-made phenomenon that the work comes to a triumphant conclusion.

John Pickard