'Alfred had me made (or made me again)'
The third song on English Electric (Part One) is called Winchester From St Giles' Hill.
Winchester is a beautiful and historic city in the south of England. St Giles’ Hill lies to the east of the city and forms part of the western edge of the South Downs. From the top of the hill you can see all of Winchester, and the song is an historical view of the development of the city and of (as Peter Ackroyd calls it) the ‘long song’ of England.
Winchester stands at a number of crossroads in time and provides a narrative of British and English history in miniature. There was a prehistoric settlement at Oram’s Arbour, then it became a Roman town and afterwards, a Saxon capital and stronghold. The Normans built a castle and a massive cathedral. It became a centre of learning with the opening of Winchester College and, in Victorian times, the railways came and with them the modern age.
Michael Wood has stated that 'Geography is history and history is geography' and Winchester From St Giles' Hill seeks to link the development of the city with its place in the landscape.
'A river flowing from the chalkhills through the water meadows and the open fields.
Walls were made and streets were laid down,halls and houses, schools and churches.'
Winchester From St Giles' Hill begins and ends with a flute and piano motif. The theme also forms part of the instrumental section where it is played on classical guitar. Alongside David's flute, a key feature of the song is the beautiful and complex piano playing of Danny Manners. I asked Danny to develop the piano part so that it sounded like a mountain stream racing down a hillside: of such obscure requests, beautiful arrangements are made.
The next song to be featured as we count down towards the release of English Electric will be Judas Unrepentant. David will be telling the tale of that song on his blog in a few days' time.