Symphonic Overture from John Paul Jones
Julian Wagstaff


The Symphonic Overture has its roots in my stage musical John Paul Jones, which premiered in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2001. Essentially a tragedy of ambition, the musical tells the story of the son of a Scottish gardener who became a hero of the American Revolution as the “father of the American navy”.

The Symphonic Overture, however, is not strictly programmatic, rather it is symphonic. It takes a number of the key musical-thematic ideas from the score of the stage show and transforms them kaleidoscopically, fragmenting and re-compiling them in unexpected and unpredictable ways.

The work is in three clearly discernible sections. The first interlaces the Scots jig in 6/8 (which opens the musical) with the anthemic “Freedom Arise” theme in 4/4 (which closes it), by means of metric modulation. The second, slower section is essentially a canon and variation on the “Home Again” ballad from Act I of the show, while the third and final section is a radical development of the “Battle of Flamborough Head” sequence, again from Act I of the musical.

My intention in writing this piece was to explore how essentially quite simple base material, from a highly tonal, “popular” musical work, can be transformed into something both tonally more ambiguous and technically more intricate while retaining the spiritual essence of the original material.


Instrumentation Genre Ensemble (with conductor)
Tag orchestra
Duration 13 minutes
Instrumentation Piccolo [1 player]; Flute [2 players]; Oboe [2 players]; Clarinet [2 players]; Bassoon [2 players]; Contrabassoon [1 player]; Horn [4 players]; Trumpet [2 players]; Trombone [2 players]; Tuba [1 player]; Timpani [1 player]; Percussion [3 players] (Cymbals, Slapstick, Triangle, Tubular Bells, Woodblock, Xylophone); Harp [1 player]; Piano [1 player]; Violin 1 (section) [10 players]; Violin 2 (section) [10 players]; Viola (section) [8 players]; Cello (section) [6 players]; Doublebass (section) [4 players]

Performances of this work

Date Venue Performer Link
01/04/2006 (*premiére) Queen's Cross Church, Aberdeen, Scotland, UK Link to online catalogue

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