“Viking Saga” was inspired by my conducting engagements in Norway in the 1980s. Among them was a visit to the Flekkefjord Pike Korps who asked me to write a piece for them. I had just written “Adventures in Brass” which was very popular, particularly with younger bands, so I decided to pursue the creative energy. My teacher, at that time, was Professor Edward Gregson who encouraged me to develop my ideas into a full-scale work. The piece received a few performances in this version but neither I, nor my teacher, were satisfied so the manuscripts lay dormant. In the summer of 2002 a band from Switzerland- Cordula Brass Baden and Christoph Moor, who had played the piece under my direction in the Swiss National Youth Band, commissioned me to finish the work and make the changes that, I felt, were needed.
In 2016 the Tønsberg Wind Band, from Norway, commissioned a wind band version for their performance in the Norwegian Championships held in Trondheim 2017.
This performance is available for streaming and download from iTunes, Spotify, TIDAL, Apple Music and Deezer.
I’m very grateful to these bands, my teacher and friends for their encouragement.
The music is programmatic, rather like film music, and in this sense owes a lot to the great film music writers of our day such as John Williams and Bruce Broughton.
The opening introduction is intended to take our imaginations back in time to when the Vikings sailed, in their long boats, across the North Sea to Britain and many other countries in the years 800 - 1066
They had natural horns, in pairs, made from bronze, which are represented by the “off-stage” horn cadenzas.
There follows a sinister section where the bronze-horn theme is played quietly by the basses. The music breaks out into a section of wild, warlike music portraying the many battles that were fought in those times.
Historical discoveries now show us that the invading Vikings were also peace loving and the music describes how they settled in many areas farming the land. This section is a set of variations on a theme.
There follows an unusual section of “free time” music, which aims to describe a dream-like vision of Valhalla- the place where Vikings warriors go when they die. In Valhalla they can fight all day, drink mead at night & eat the sacrificial pig watched over by the god Odin & his two ravens Huginn and Muninn.
The bronze-lure theme is heard once again, and this theme, with a forceful, driving accompaniment, is taken up by each section of the band in turn.
Eventually a grand finale, in conquering spirit, arrives and leads us to the majestic and triumphant conclusion.
Ray Farr was educated at the Birmingham School of Music and at the Royal Academy of Music. After 10 years as a professional musician with the BBC Radio Orchestra he started his career as a conductor.
Ray has appeared in hundreds of concerts around the world and in some of the finest concert halls including the Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House and has gained a reputation as a stylish conductor and a planner of interesting concert programmes ranging from light music to "avant-garde".
He is equally adept in Classical and modern music and has conducted opera, ballet and oratorio. In 1988 Ray won a special Arts Council Award to study contemporary music with Edward Gregson and Jorma Panula, Professor of Orchestral Conducting at Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy.
He has conducted at Leeds Music Festival, Harrogate Contemporary Music Festival, Aldeburgh Festival, Adelaide Festival and the Bergen Festival and has made several L.P.'s, C.D.s and T.V. appearances. Ray has appeared with BBC Radio Orchestra, Norwegian Radio Orchestra (on five occasions), the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra (on a World Wide TV program), Sandnes Symphony Orchestra (as Principal Conductor) and Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra in an exciting concert of French music.