Andrew's moving elegy will nestle among towering music

THE smallest, often described as the most beautiful, of all the mountains in the English Lake District is Haystacks, a 1958 ft high gem surrounded by towering peaks - once seen never forgotten.

The contrast could also describe a small elegy, the latest World Premiere performed by Todmorden Orchestra in their Spring Concert on Saturday, March 20, at Todmorden Town Hall (7.30pm).

Once heard it is unlikely to be forgotten because of its haunting beauty and the message it delivers.

The simple and moving Elegy for Strings will nestle among these towering orchestral works: Bizet’s L’Arlesienne; Spanish composer Manuel De Falla’s El Amor Brujo which features Welsh mezzo soprano Buddug Verona James and includes the famous Fire Dance; and Modest Petrovich Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition with it’s thundering finale, the Great Gate of Kiev.

Created by the 36-year-old composer Andrew March his five-minute premiere is a memorial to the innocent victims who died, and others who are still dying, after they were given contaminated blood transfusions in the 1970s and 1980s.

Many, like Andrew, were haemophiliacs.

Andrew’s creative intensity can be understood with the reminder that 4,670 adults and children were given blood or blood products contaminated with viruses like Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B.

Among these, 1243 were also infected with HIV.

Andrew is one of the remaining 337 survivors in this category, contracted when he was just nine years old.

He said: “I have lived all these years taking each day as it came and trying through the gift of music to stay as positive as possible.

“In 2009 I watched four of my haemophiliac friends die of complications from contaminated blood.

“They died without seeing any kind of end to the campaign for justice, no apology and little by way of proper acknowledgement of what happened and how it might have been avoided.”

Andrew drew his inspiration from a theme based on birds of prey, describing a hawk seizing a small wading bird.

He believes it is an appropriate description of what happened to the innocent victims of the haemophile tragedies.

When the music was passed around for the first rehearsal conductor Nicholas Concannon Hodges, a friend of the composer, admitted it was an emotional moment for him.

One member of the strings section said later: “You can be sure that all of us will put everything we can into the music, to deliver how he wants it played.”

Also sure of a warm welcome to Todmorden is the highly acclaimed opera singer Buddug Verona James who sings the vocal sections in the De Falla ballet music composed in the 1920s.

Buddug has made countless appearances at home and abroad with world-famous companies.

She is also well-known for her numerous recordings and as a talented actress.

She will sing her part in El Amor Brujo in the Andelusian dialect, probably another first in a Todmorden Orchestra concert.

The orchestra will be led by Andrew Rostron.

Tickets are available at the door, Todmorden Information Centre, Burnley Road, Todmorden, or from Jennifer Moorhouse who can be contacted on 01706 817333.