Whilst John Rutter is extremely well known for his religious choral music, he has also written a few orchestral pieces that are every bit the equal of his better known works. This Suite is indeed one of these. Originally written in 1973, and following the tradition of earlier English composers like Vaughn Williams and Percy Grainger, this suite explores various English folk tunes.
The opening movement has a kind of hornpipe feeling to it that uses the jaunty tune ‘A rovin’ yet this is balanced with the more reflective counter melody ‘I sowed the seed of love.’ Of course the ‘racy’ tune wins the day! The second movement - 'I Have A Bonnet Trimmed In Blue' is a perfect evocation of an elegant young lady who is keen to display her new bonnet to the local swains! Yet perhaps she is a little shy and is apprehensive about possible comments. From the last section I believe she found her hearts desire… The slow movement is based on the folksong 'O Waly Waly', a tune that will forever be associated with the late Kathleen Ferrier. This version gives the tune a sense of regret and sometimes intensity that matches the words:- O love is handsome and love is fine, And love is charming when it is true; As it grows older it groweth colder And fades away like the morning dew. The mood is lifted for the last movement, with an almost Handelian rendition of 'Dashing Away With The Smoothing Iron'. However, this tune doesn't have everything it's own way, for the 'Bailiff's Daughter' makes an appearance as well for a triumphant ending:- O stay, O stay thou goodly youth! She's alive, she is not dead; Here she standeth by thy side, And is ready to be thy bride... (and hopefully they both do the ironing!)