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micheldever, autumn of 1914

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John Alexander writes: "My Dad was born in a labourer's cottage on a farm near the small village of Micheldever, 5 miles or so north of Winchester, on 2nd October 1914, two months in to a dreadful war. His young mother – she was 17 or 18 – lived in one of the farm worker's houses (Sunlight Cottages) on Home Farm with her three sisters, two brothers and their parents a mile and a half from Hursley, a small village 5 miles or so to the south of Winchester. She worked as a 'General Servant (Domestic)' within the 'big house' of the Hursley Estate. In those days it was considered extremely shameful in such small communities to give birth to an illegitimate child. Before the pregnancy became too noticeable, Edith Mary Alexander was shuffled off to the home of a relative in Micheldever to see out her confinement. Nobody, except the young mother, knew the identity of the father and she never told anybody who it was. So I have never known nor had a paternal grandfather.
As 2014 dawned, my thoughts turned to my father in what would be the centenary year of his birth. Vaguely knowing the story, I started to think about my grandmother and the situation she was in. I wondered how she had travelled the eleven miles to Micheldever and exactly who it might have been who took her there. Could it have been her eldest brother – who would be killed in the Great War a couple of years later – that drove her in the farm's horse and cart, accompanied perhaps by one of her sisters? What were her feelings, her fears, beliefs and experience? These and other relevant thoughts occupied me during the composition of this piece. I also dwelt on the fact that, four years later, in 1918, my Dad's young Mum died during the Spanish flu epidemic that swept the country, leaving her little boy an orphan – so, my paternal grandmother was also completely unknown to me.
Thus, imagining the place, circumstance and time he was born, these five short pieces for double bass quartet are, with huge affection and love, in memory of my father, Reginald (Reg) Percy Alexander (1914 – 1988)."

This work was commissioned by David Heyes for Bass-Fest 2014, made possible with generous funding provided by Alison McNaught and Marion Attrill.

John Alexander was born in West Sussex in 1942 and began to compose at the age of 20. At the time he discovered a fascination for art, literature, dance, architecture and sculpture and these topics, along with mathematics, have continued to have a bearing on his work. He studied composition with Edmund Rubbra at the Guildhall School of Music in London, and later with Jonathan Harvey and Peter Wiegold at the University of Sussex.

John Alexander has never been a prolific composer, but an impressive and growing body of work reflects a rare eye for detail and structure - each work beautifully crafted and reworked until every inflection, detail and nuance is perfect. Probably best described as a miniaturist, he writes in a fluent, independent and strongly personal style with an intense desire to create music which communicates to both performer and audience alike.

In 1999 John Alexander won the 1st BIBF Composition Contest and was invited to be a judge for several BIBF competitions. He was a featured composer at Bass-Fest 2001, was an spnm short-listed composer for three years, and was Composer-in-residence at the 2004 Rotterdam Conservatoire Double Bass Weekend, Bass-Fest 2006 and 2007 Wells Double Bass Weekend. His works have been performed and broadcast throughout the world and he was written an impressive and unique body of work for double bass.


  • 1. opening the day
  • 2. questioning stillness
  • 3. less is sometimes enough
  • 4. half finished answer
  • 5. trail of memory

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Cat No. RM891
Supplier Code RM891
Price £13.50
ComposerJohn Alexander
CategoryDouble Bass Quartet
PublisherRecital Music
Difficulty level6 - 8, Advanced
ISMN 979-0-57045-891-2
EAN-13 9790570458912
Weight 161 grams
Published 22nd December 2016
Availability 5 in stock
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