An Orkney Wedding, With Sunrise

By Peter Maxwell Davies
Composed in 1984

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (called “Max” by many of his friends) has long been one of Britain’s most respected composers. He was born in Manchester, England, and studied music at the University of Manchester and the Royal School of Music. After further study in the United States and Australia he returned to England where he created a virtuoso chamber group called The Fires of London to perform works by himself and his colleagues. For a time they were the rage in avant garde musical circles.

But Maxwell Davies was drawn increasingly to write music that was not only modern but that was communicative and accessible. You will see this reflected in his composition An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise.

Composer’s Note:

“An Orkney Wedding was written for the Boston Pops Orchestra as a commission for its centenary, and conducted at the first performance by John Williams. It is a picture postcard record of an actual wedding I attended on Hoy in Orkney.

At the outset, we hear the guests arriving, out of extremely bad weather, at the hall. This is followed by the processional, where the guests are solemnly received by the bride and bridegroom, and presented with their first glass of whisky. The band tunes up, and we get on with the dancing proper. This becomes ever wilder, as all concerned feel the results of the whisky, until the lead fiddle can hardly hold the band together any more.

We leave the hall into the cold night with echoes of the processional music in our ears, and as we walk home across the island, the sun rises, over Caithness, to a glorious down. The sun is represented by the highland bagpipes, in full traditional splendor.”