Three Bridges Suite for Jazz Ensemble Op.18

Composed: 1994
Duration: 8 minutes 30 seconds
First Performance: July 1995, at the Pittville Pump Room, Cheltenham, performed by the Regency Brass Ensemble, conducted by Diggory Seacome.

The inspiration for the ‘Three Bridges Suite’ came from the composer’s visit to San Francisco in the Easter of 1995. Having been asked by Diggory Seacome to write a work for ten players for the Regency Brass Ensemble (following on from a large scale commission for the Ensemble in 1994), he immediately began to create a piece which in some way mirrored his feelings as he journeyed across the three bridges that span the San Francisco Bay area. Although the work is cast in four movements, the final movement is the composer’s journey back across The Golden Gate Bridge from Sausalito to San Francisco and acts as a reprise.

Golden Gate Bridge

This movement captures the busy nature of one of the world’s most famous landmarks. Alternating between the time signature of 3/4, 3/8 and 2/4, with long sections in 4/4, it mirrors the composer’s complicated and disjointed journey towards the edge of the Golden Gate before arriving on the huge single span structure with an unhindered journey ahead of him.

San Francisco Bay Bridge

This bridge is reminiscent of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York and its lattice-work structure is epitomised in the pointillistic ‘motto’ played by trumpets and horn at the beginning. As it moves towards a small island in the middle of the Bay it changes direction slightly, giving a feel of another structure altogether. Venables has captured the ‘American’ feel of this bridge using jazz rhythms and a ‘sleazy’ melodic idea.

San Mateo Bridge

This is the longest and most modern of all of the three bridges and seems to soar out of nowhere as one travels across it. The composer felt that this was the calmest and the most serene part of his journey and has depicted this with a soft, slow melody played by the flugelhorn. As one nears the middle of the bridge its huge expanse allows many beautiful vistas to be taken in, before dropping onto its other side.

Golden Gate Bridge (Reprise)

The return over the Golden Gate Bridge offers very much the same material as the opening movement. A coda allows the work to end in a more affirmative and complete way, bringing to a close a lengthy but unique journey.