Fantasy Variations on "Scarborough Fair" for six cellos,
by Steve Matchett

end of the introduction - theme - first variation
performed by the HASSA Cello Choir
© 2006 Gulf Wind Music Press

Difficulty level:
College / Professional

Fantasy Variations on ,"Scarborough Fair," for six cellos (op.23) was composed in 2004. The English folk song Scarborough Fair dates back to the Middle Ages and was popularized by Simon & Garfunkel in the 1960's. The original writer of this folk ballad is unknown, and early on the song was sung by traveling bards. The Faire at Scarborough was an important trading fair that lasted about 45 days in late summer. The song's refrain, "Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme" had special meaning because the herbs represented not only the powers of healing, but also the ideals symbolized by courtly romantic love in the same way that red roses might do so today.

The tune interested me because of its beauty and sense of longing which is inherent in its "Dorian" modal sound. I originally thought of just making a straight forward arrangement of the piece, but the more I worked with the tune, the more it played in my imagination, so I decided to try and make some interesting variations on it. Not only does the melancholy nature of the song fit the sound of cellos, but I also found that elaboration suited the technical capabilities of the instrument (my wife Terri, who is a cellist, was a big help here!). The piece is comprised of: an introduction and theme - followed by five complete variations - a return theme and ending. There are also several transition areas interspersed throughout, which often draw on the tune. I was inspired to use a preexisting tune as the basis for a piece, by going back and listening to some of the works by my teacher and mentor Fisher Tull. He composed many pieces utilizing preexisting ancient melodies. The revitalizing of old melodies is a process that I believe is appropriate for a composer to undertake. - Steve D. Matchett 8/3/2006

"This is a fun and very accesible work to add to your cello ensemble library, composed by a tuba player married to a cellist. The parts are well balanced for a variety of playing levels. The variations are rhythmically interesting, following the style of Old English folk tunes. Students will enjoy playing a more popular tune, and many technical ideas such as upper position intonation, shifting, and general ensemble playing can be addressed in the process of learning this piece." - Amy Catron Flores, American String Teacher Journal, Vol. 58, No. 1, Feb. 2008

Composed in 2004. Premiered January 21, 2006 by the HASSA Cello Choir conducted by the composer, at Rice Temple Baptist Church, Houston, TX, USA.
Instrumentation: 6 vlc.
Timing: 11' 30"
Publisher: Gulf Wind Music Press

© 2006 - 2009 Gulf Wind Music Press
contact us
last revised January 18, 2009