East Sussex landmarks depicted in new Sussex Suite

Eastbourne teacher, musician and composer Alexandra Lehmann has had her latest work Sussex Suite published by Forton Music.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 8:05 am
Alexandra Lehmann

Sussex Suite, for two flutes (easy-intermediate level), is based on English and Sussex folk songs, dances, and tunes, she explains.

“The five pieces are named after local locations: Pevensey Polka, Long Man of Wilmington Waltz, Hymn of the Hastings Fishermen, Jolly Jig of Eastbourne and Melody for Motcombe Mews.”

Alexandra has also written Clara’s Bossa Nova, for flute and piano (intermediate), based on the bossa nova and samba music she heard when living in São Paulo in the late 1990s, where she played viola with the Opera Orchestra. Bossa Nova is based on jazz chords, syncopated samba rhythms, and sinuous melodies.

“Having previously composed Scottish-infused pieces for flute, which have won international prizes and are played from USA to Japan, I decided to compose Sussex Suite as a musical tribute to Eastbourne, where my daughter Clara, black cat Popi and I live.

“We love our home in Old Town, Eastbourne, and East Sussex: the beautiful countryside by the sea with the rolling Downs; idiosyncratic traditions, such as the thrilling, macabre, and colourful bonfire procession; and seafaring folklore, with its exciting histories of smugglers. So, I suppose this composition is my way of sharing my love of the town and Sussex; as well as my gratitude to my mother, Françoise Lehmann, for the lovely home she has bestowed to Clara and me (as well as Popi) in Eastbourne Old Town, where we are so happy.

“I wanted to convey the musical traditions of Sussex: its songs, dances, and melodies. I also wanted to depict Eastbourne and local landmarks in music.

“The five pieces are:

“Pevensey Polka’: I imagined a joyful barn dance in a Pevensey pub.

““Long Man of Wilmington Waltz: I thought is would be a bit of fun to imagine the Long Man dancing a waltz.

“Hymn of the Hastings Fishermen: Life of fishermen is tough, so here I had in mind a group of fishermen returning from a morning shift singing about their hardship.

“Jolly Jig of Eastbourne: Eastbourne has a summer carnival with children and adults dancing and parading, and I wanted to convey the merriment.

“Melody for Motcombe Mews: This movement is special because it is where Clara and I live. We played this piece at one of the Mews’ communal garden matinées, which we hope to resume soon.

“My background is as a performer, having played viola professionally with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, São-Paulo Opera Orchestra, English Symphony Orchestra, and Brighton Philharmonic.

“I actually started composing to support my A Level students with the process. I then decided to send my compositions to the woodwind publisher Forton Music. They expressed an interest and since then I have been composing pieces for flute and bassoon, which Clara plays. For Sussex Suite I researched into local musical heritage and immersed myself in its melodies. Ideas then just came to me and I recorded them on my mobile phone. I remember Motcombe Mews forming itself in my mind whilst walking in the Downs with Clara.”

"Next I wrote the melodies on a manuscript software called Sibelius and added the chords and a second flute part.

“Folk music is all about community and playing with others, which is why I composed the Suite as a duet, although the first flute can play solo. The secibd flute plays melodies too, so it is not just a harmony part. First flute is Grades 2-3 and second flute is Grades 1-2. There are optional guitar/piano chords.

“My hope is that Sussex Suite imparts the love I have for Eastbourne and the local area by taking inspiration in its musical and historical folklore, and beautiful landscapes.

I hope that flautists of all ages and abilities will enjoy playing the duets at their own community or family events.

“And it is exciting to think that people from around the world will have a musical guide to Eastbourne and Sussex landmarks.”