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Spark Catchers, The

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Hannah Kendall

Hannah Kendall (trans. F. Mack Wood)

General Info

Year: 2017 / 2020
Duration: c. 10:00
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Symphony
Publisher: Manuscript
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


Full Score
C Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Tambourine
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The Spark Catchers was commissioned and premiered at the Proms in 2017. The piece opened Chineke!’s debut concert at the festival. The group is majority minority ethnic players, and it was such a momentous occasion, and a privilege to have written the piece for the occasion.

It takes inspiration from Lemn Sissay’s poem with the same title, which he wrote for the 2012 London Olympics, and is permanently etched into one of the transformers at the stadium. It depicts the working lives of the women who worked in the Bryant and May match factory, which once stood on the edge of the Olympic Park, and how they had to keep a watchful eye, catching any stray sparks that might set the factory alight.

The piece isn’t a musical depiction of the poem, but instead, four lines from the text form the structure of the work, and shape the music within those sections: The lively Sparks and Strikes; the Molten Madness, which is darker, and brooding. Beneath the Stars/In the Silver Sheen is quiet, still, and crystalline; and finally, The Matchgirls March, which begins dance-like and culminates with forceful and punchy chords.

- Program Note for orchestral version by the Seattle Symphony

Lemn Sissay’s incredibly evocative poem, The Spark Catchers, is the inspiration behind this work. I was drawn to its wonderful dynamism, vibrancy, and drive. Specific words and phrases from the text have established the structure of the work, and informed the contrasting musical characteristics created within the piece’s main components.

The opening ‘Sparks and Strikes’ section immediately creates vigour and liveliness, with the piccolo and violins setting up a swelling rhythmic drive, interjected by strong strikes from the rest of the ensemble. This momentum continues into ‘The Molten Madness’, maintaining the initial kinetic energy, whilst also producing a darker and brooding atmosphere introduced in the bass lines. A broad and soaring melodic line in the French horns and first violins overlays the material, moving into a majestic episode led by the full string section, accentuated by valiant calls in the woodwind, brass and percussion; culminating in a sudden pause. A lighter variation of the opening rhythmic material in the clarinets, harp, and strings follows, creating a feeling of suspense. The texture builds-up through a jazzy figure led by the brass, leading to powerful and surging interplay between the flutes, oboes and violins.

The lighter, clearer, and crystalline ‘Beneath the Stars/In the Silver Sheen’ section follows. Quiet and still, it is distinguished by its gleaming delicacy through long interweaving lines, high pitch range and thin textures. An illuminating strike, underpinned by the glockenspiel and harp, signifies the climax of this section. Subsequently, the opening zest comes back again through dance-like material which culminates in ‘The Matchgirls March’ with its forceful and punchy chords.

The Spark Catchers ends with a coda-like section, which carries over the power of the ‘March’, whilst also incorporating variations on musical motives from ‘Sparks and Strikes’ and ‘The Molten Madness’; finally concluding on a sparkling flourish.

- Program Note by composer for orchestral version

Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Miami (Fla.) Frost Wind Ensemble (F. Mack Wood, conductor) - 1 March 2020 *Wind Band Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by this Composer