Patrick Hawes: How Hill


Patrick Hawes’ 2009 collaborative album Fair Albion is subtitled ‘Visions of England’, with each work representing some of the varied countrysides and landscapes found in the UK. Hawes collaborated with cellist Julian Lloyd Webber, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and harpist Claire Jones on Fair Albion. 


The Music

How Hill is the ninth track on Fair Albion, and was composed for the former Royal Harpist, Claire Jones. Jones features on other tracks on the album, however How Hill is the only solo harp work. This work made its premiere at How Hill in Norfolk. How Hill is a popular landmark in Norfolk and described by Hawes as: “The white windmill and sweeping lawns make this one of the most picturesque spots on The Norfolk Broads.”

In How Hill, Hawes makes use of the harp’s upper registers, the pure sound it makes and the heavenly associations the instrument has. Opening with a lullaby-like theme, the melody is simple and features a moving arpeggio accompaniment. The music changes tempo at points to show the shimmering effects of the harp, as well as its versatile abilities. 

The sparkling triplet rhythms gain momentum, which make the glissandos even more effective. Hawes’ use of dynamics is also pertinent in this piece. With the loud sections bursting full of colour and the quiet sections still keeping its integrity, whilst also being calm. 

A reprise of the opening lullaby is heard during the middle section of the piece. This brings us back to something familiar, with its warm atmosphere sweeping over the landscapes. How Hill comes to close with a flurry of glissandos, and a simplified arpeggiated version of the opening lullaby, before coming to a quiet and honourable close. 


Final Thoughts

Patrick Hawes’ How Hill is an atmospheric work that sweeps you in from the beginning. The soft touch of the harp adds to the nostalgic side of the music, with the melodies remaining simple and true to the original version. It must have been incredible to listen to this work whilst sitting on How Hill itself – a truly authentic listen!


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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