Fanfare for St Edmundsbury
The Fanfare for St Edmundsbury is a piece of music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

 written by the British composer Benjamin Britten
Benjamin Britten
Edward Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten, OM CH was an English composer, conductor, and pianist. He showed talent from an early age, and first came to public attention with the a cappella choral work A Boy Was Born in 1934. With the premiere of his opera Peter Grimes in 1945, he leapt to...

 for a "Pageant of Magna Carta" in the grounds of St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds in 1959.


The fanfare
A Fanfare is a relatively short piece of music that is typically played by trumpets and other brass instruments often accompanied by percussion...

 is scored for three trumpet
The trumpet is the musical instrument with the highest register in the brass family. Trumpets are among the oldest musical instruments, dating back to at least 1500 BCE. They are played by blowing air through closed lips, producing a "buzzing" sound which starts a standing wave vibration in the air...

s. The parts are notated for modern trumpets in C; however, they are actually written using only the notes of three different harmonic series
Harmonic series (music)
Pitched musical instruments are often based on an approximate harmonic oscillator such as a string or a column of air, which oscillates at numerous frequencies simultaneously. At these resonant frequencies, waves travel in both directions along the string or air column, reinforcing and canceling...

 based on F, C and D and could thus be performed on three natural trumpet
Natural trumpet
A natural trumpet is a valveless brass instrument that is able to play the notes of the harmonic series.-History:The natural trumpet was used as a military instrument to facilitate communication ....

s in those three keys. The natural trumpets were not specified by the composer; indeed it may have been a bit early in the rediscovery of natural trumpet playing for it to be safe to do so. This technique had been used by the classical composers in horn section writing, to enable lines to be played outside the natural scale (eg. 2 horns in C and 2 horns in D or E flat). Some of the first experimentation of this technique is demonstrated by F.G.A. Dauvernè from around 1850. Dauvernè was Arban's teacher (the father of modern day trumpeting) and wrote one of the last methods for the dying art of natural trumpet playing, including some of the first exercises for the cornet and valved trumpet. Nevertheless the scoring is sometimes taken as signal enough to justify playing it on natural trumpets, on which it works well. This multitonal use of natural instruments is an interesting trick which might have caused some surprise at the height of the natural trumpet's power in the Baroque era, when three playing together would almost always have been in the same key. Performance of the fanfare on modern valved instruments remains the norm and does not lessen the effect: the parts still feel like natural trumpet lines. Britten commented, "The trumpeters should be placed as far apart as possible, even when the Fanfare is played indoors."


Each trumpet plays one solo "verse" in turn. These are not only separated from each other in key but also in style: although they all include some long notes at phrase ends, overall one is a bouncy 6/8, one a martial-sounding, bold statement, and one a series of smooth arpeggios. So when they all come in together at the end and play their verses simultaneously the initial effect seems chaotic. As the last playthrough progresses it gradually dawns on the listener that a unity is emerging from the chaos as the long notes start to settle and overlap: by the last few bars the three trumpets are playing triumphant block chords together.


Many recordings are available, but nearly always on compilations of modern brass or fanfare music - the piece is so short that it almost never receives separate billing. Recordings have been made by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
The Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, founded in 1951 by trumpeter Philip Jones, was one of the first modern classical brass ensembles to be formed. The group played either as a quintet or as a ten-piece, for larger halls...

and similar groups.
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