Latchford Locks

Gary Carpenter, 2018

This piece is dedicated to Bridget Smith who played clarinet with the NCWO for 30 years

A joint commission by Bridget Smith, Tracy Woods and the North Cheshire Wind Orchestra through its commissioning scheme.

Latchford Locks is a continuous set of variations that references the physical and historical path of the Manchester Ship Canal. There are two basic themes, the first a 19th century song written to promote investment in the project which – doing what it says on the can – is called ‘The Manchester Ship Canal’, the second a long winding theme that begins about two minutes in.

The sections are:

Prologue – The People’s Canal: the original ideal of the canal, in my mind a misty, half formed dream. This is the only time you hear the whole of the Ship Canal song which then reappears but gradually disintegrates as the piece progresses.

Latchford Locks: the ‘proper’ theme – starts with a clarinet and tuba duet and is the heart of the piece.

Boggy Stream Polka: The name Latchford derives from the Anglo Saxon for ‘Boggy Stream’. Trombones begin this section.

The Way To Pomona: Pomona was the Roman goddess of fruitfulness and the name of a dock on the Canal. It is currently a derelict island promoted by the City of Manchester as a film location for gritty dramas. Pomona is depicted initially by three lamenting flutes.

Stoney Sluices: a waltz commencing lightly with the four saxophones but getting increasingly frenetic – and ultimately violent. A brief return to the ‘Pomona’ music leads to…

Old Warps: The entire orchestra bends two chords in a moment of stasis. Serendipitously, I discovered the section of the canal called ‘Old Warps’ after I’d written this section.

Black Bear was a canal that ran from Runcorn to Latchford, now filled in and a park I believe. This segment (the longest) begins with a caxixi (a kind of shaker) solo. Its energy gradually increases and material first heard in the ‘Boggy Stream Polka’ is transformed into a dance groove and leads to a quiet, unsettled coda.

Latchford Locks was commissioned by Tracy Woods, NCWO and Bridget Smith to whose memory this piece is dedicated.

© Gary Carpenter 2018