Lance Eccles was born on 17 March 1944. He is a senior lecturer in Chinese at Macquarie University in Sydney. From 1982 till 2002 he was a member of the Reluctant Consort.
Besides writing recorder music, he is very interested in languages, both ancient and modern. He has published books on the Shanghai dialect of China, on the Coptic language of Ancient Egypt, and on the Tetum language of East Timor. He has just finished writing another book, a grammatical commentary on the Syriac version of the Gospel of Mark.
Besides teaching Chinese, he also teaches Coptic each year at the Macquarie Ancient Languages Summer School.
Here are descriptions of the music he has published with Orpheus Music.
Solo with piano
* Moonlit Garden
In the early 80s, Lance was most impressed on hearing Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs, and this solo for recorder and piano was a response to that. It's not that the style resembles Strauss in any way, it's just that Lance liked the continuous modulation in unexpected directions and wanted to imitate that. In 2002 it was revised for a recorder competition, and that is the version published by Orpheus.
* Spangled Sonata
This is a sonata for two trebles in three movements, originally written in 1987, but revised and made a bit more compact in 2002. It demands quite a high technical standard, and although "modern" in style, it calls for no non-traditional techniques. There are three movements: Shower of Amethysts is based on a tiny scrap of plainchant psalm tone, being broken up and repeated at various pitches. Bar lengths constantly change. Crystal Towers
is a stately piece in which the intervals of fifth and second between the two parts predominate. Shattered Moonlight is woven from a six-note phrase. It's fast and frequently changes bar length.
* On the Forest Floor
A set of five duets for trebles, easier than the Spangled Sonata, describing things that might be found on a forest floor:
Silent on the forest floor,
Lichens moulder, seeming dead,
But within their dessication
Denizens are born and bred:
Cockroach eggs and beetle grubs,
Hexapods of varied hue,
Silverfish, and earwigs too.
Toads on Stools
Pink and white, in umber lighting
Grow the stools in clumps inviting,
Where a toad, with cares forgotten,
May retire and rest his bottom.
Wombat, wombat, fat and brown,
Rising when the sun goes down,
Eating breakfast in the night,
Choosing, by the starry light,
Roots and tubers, sedges, grass,
Succulents that none surpass.
Should he need to drink a brew,
Dewdrops on the leaves will do.
Careless of danger and heedless of doom,
Grasshoppers gather wherever there's room.
Spiders and scorpions, sparrows and cranes
Eagerly seize them till not one remains.
When the weather drops to minus,
Then the little antechinus,
Weary from exertions tiring,
Falls among the leaves, expiring.
All the summer he has mated,
Ever seeking, never sated,
Till the winter, unforgiving,
Plucks him from among the living.
* The Nations
These are easy- to intermediate-level arrangements of European and Asian folksongs for two descants and a treble. They are ideal for the classroom or for the intermediate-level consort. There are 20 pieces altogether, each representing a different nationality: Russian, Taiwanese, Hungarian, English, Chinese, Polish, Czech, Austrian, Kazakh, Japanese, Danish, Highland Scots, Occitan, French, Croatian, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, Irish.
These "promenades" are for treble, tenor and bass, and are meant for the more experienced amateur consort. In style they are quite conservative, the only thing out of the ordinary being the rhythms of the last of them. Promenade of Goddesses has wide leaps and a gently seductive rhythm. Promenade of Nymphs is undulating and romantic, and Promenade of Satyrs is a fast piece with frequently changing bar lengths.
* In Brazilian Style
These are for quartet without bass (descant, two trebles and tenor). Chords are also provided for an optional guitar accompaniment. For a fuller sound, the consort that has a great bass in C available could double the tenor line on this instrument (this is the way the Reluctant Consort performed it). The individual pieces are Little Horses, Birds in the Forest, Capybara Heaven and Ladies of Paradise. They are in the style of the Brazilian choro, a popular instrumental form that arose during the 19th century and has continued to develop up till today. The rhythms are bit tricky in places, so they are best handled by a consort with a fair amount of experience.
* Four Sephardic Songs
These quartets (without descant) are based on songs of the Sephardim, descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain in the 15th century, most of them moving to the eastern Mediterranean. The melodies are poignant and retain much of the character of the music of Spain. They are at intermediate level.
Six quartets (without descant), each depicting a different metal: Platinum (fleeting false relations in the inner parts), Copper (a slightly chromatic waltz), Radium (quite dissonant because of extra notes added to the triads), Gold (the same theme three times, varied each time), Iron (chromatic and spiky), Mercury (fast and pentatonic). The level of difficulty is upper intermediate.
These SATB pieces depict three of Australia's spiders.
The Redback waits beneath a log,
Elegant and shining black;
With careful tread she moves to seize
A slater struggling on its back.
As helplessly it waves its limbs,
The spider slowly lifts it high,
Then pierces it with needle bite
And gently, gently sucks it dry.
The Orb Weaver
Higher up among the trees,
The Weaver in her arbour lies;
With open arms she greets a guest
And kisses him until he dies.
Then back and forth, and round and round,
Encasing him in silken skeins,
She leaves him hang, and clambers back
To where, unmoving, she remains.
The Funnelweb, when first awake,
Emerges slowly from his lair;
The summer night is filled with scents
That waft on eddies in the air.
A sudden urge invades his heart ?
The torpor from his body shed,
He thinks of love, and hurries forth
To celebrate the night ahead.
* Rabbit Farm
A set of nine pieces (SATB) depicting life and its tribulations on the bunny farm. The standard is advanced intermediate.
Baby Bunny Creche
Baby bunnies, how well they fare!
They spend the day in professional care.
Good Mother Rabbit
Good mother rabbit knows what's best:
A well-fed husband and a babe at the breast.
Bad Mother Rabbit
If babies get boring, and things start to drift,
Her social life needs a paradigm shift.
Bunnies at Church
Attentive they listen, these hymn-singing vermin,
While Reverend Rabbit delivers a sermon.
Bunnies' Graveyard Picnic
Happy bunnies, unaware
Of a ghostly chorus in the air.
(This one is based on a Dies Irae cantus firmus.)
Bunnies at School
Little bunnies, soft and gentle,
Learning to be non-judgmental.
Miss Elegant Bunny
When dining or riding with princes and earls,
Miss Elegant Bunny wears twinset and pearls.
Freedom of choice for every bunny
Signals a future bright and sunny.
Wolves and Weasels
When wolves and weasels gather near,
the Rabbit Farm is seized with fear;
Helpless bunnies, helter skelter,
Run in panic, seeking shelter.
Three descriptive movements without descant or bass (for treble and three tenors): Dolphins, Mudflats, Petrels. Mudflats is a very short (24-bar) link between the outer movements. Oceania is not easy because of the tricky counting: the parts overlap in articulating arpeggi and chromatic scales.
* Alleycats' Picnic
A single movement (quartet without descant) in a slightly "blue" style, depicting what goes on round the garbage tins in back alleys. For the more experienced consort.
* Feeding Time at the Zoo
These twenty pieces began life in the early 90s as music for meetings of the Sydney Society of Recorder Players. In 2001 they were revised and published by Orpheus. The animals being fed at the zoo are: Sparrows, Wombats, Snakes, Sharks, Slugs, Peacocks, Butterflies, Swans, Tadpoles, Queen Bees, Glow Worms, Seagulls, Tortoises, Wolves, Salamanders, Kangaroos, Maggots, Carp and Horses.
* Four Korean Folksongs
These first appeared in 1993, and were recorded in Armidale by Batalla Famossa on their CD The Great Emu War (1998). In 2002 the music was substantially revised for publication by Orpheus. The four songs are Song of the Birds (whose scale is only four notes: ABCE, with a G# thrown in for colour), Arirang (a melody known to absolutely every Korean), Spinning Song and Nilliriya (a word that has no meaning). This is for the more advanced intermediate consort.
* An Evening or Chaconnes
A chaconne is a piece in which the same chord pattern is repeated throughout. This collection of ten original chaconnes was originally written for a meeting of the Sydney Society of Recorder Players, and was completely revised in 2003 for publication by Orpheus.
These are for a moderately advanced consort that can cope with triplets and a little syncopation and chromaticism. There are three movements: Infra-Red (with a lot of triplets in the descant, and a tune that pulls against the underlying harmonies), Sunlight (a tune on the descant plays over repeated canonic patterns in the other parts), and Ultra-Violet (in a jaunty 12/8, becoming more complex as it progresses).
Shaanbei means "Northern Shaanxi Province", and these are traditional tunes from that part of China. During the 1930s the Chinese Communist Party set up its base there and adapted many of the local songs to its own political purposes. In later decades these tunes became well known all over China. In arranging them, Lance has been careful to preserve their Chinese quality. The third piece, Chairman Mao's Love is Deeper than the Sea, requires 3/4-tone intervals from the top two parts, and the fingerings are provided for these. Shaanbei appears on Batalla Famossa's After the Battle CD (2001).
* Five Ukrainian Folksongs
Ukrainian popular melodies, like Russian ones, tend to be very attractive, and the five in this collection have been chosen for their tunefulness and appeal. Most of these arrangements extend the melodies by neans of key changes or small development sections. They are for the consort with some experience. They appear on Batalla Famossa's Great Emu War CD.
* Verbunkos Dance Suite
The verbunkos was a recruiting sergeant who, in the eighteenth century, used to go round the Hungarian countryside gathering in volunteers for the army. On his rounds he took with him a gypsy orchestra, and their playing attracted people to hear what he had to say. The style of the music was a blend of the popular with the courtly, quite similar to what we today recognise as Hungarian Gypsy music. This Dance Suite is an medley of six verbunkos tunes played without a break and forming a single lengthy movement. The originals on which the suite is based were for solo violin, and here they have been arranged for recorder quintet. The upper parts demand fairly good players.
* Five Italian Folksongs
These were originally written for a concert that the Reluctant Consort gave for the Dante Alighieri Society. The tunes are attractive, and there are not too many technical challenges, except perhaps in the last piece, Young Girl Who Comes to the Fountain, which is in the style of a tarantella and has a few tricky cross-rhythms.
* The Planets' Feet
This suite of three pieces was written for the Reluctant Consort and first performed in Canberra in 1990 at a concert in the High Court of Australia. The three movements depict the footwear of various gods: The Boots of Mars (a march), Venus' Silk Stockings (constantly sliding from one key to another), and Mercury's Joggers (a quick 12/8 piece). This is for the more advanced consort, that can handle the occasional chromatic scale.
* The Planets' Feet: part 2
In 2001 the Reluctant Consort requested two more Planets' Feet movements, and so Lance wrote Neptune's Ice Skates (a waltz) and Jupiter's Skateboard (fast and with a lot of chromaticism).
* Purple Neon
Purple Neon began life as a quintet, but when Zana Clarke asked Lance for a "big" piece, he decided to rewrite it, turning it into a nine-part piece, demanding recorders from sopranino to bass. It's basically a little "blue" in style, but has a Vivaldiesque section in the middle, in which triplets are played against quadruplets.