One of Ernest Tomlinson’s most
delightful offerings is the short Silverthorn Suite, completed during
the 1950s. Gardeners will know that Silverthorn is a large, fast-growing shrub that
is often planted in hedgerows or along roads, as it can quickly give screening.
Yet, despite the horticultural overtones, Tomlinson did not derive his title
from any such pastoral musings. It is much more prosaic than that. Back in the day,
when BT was called the GPO, telephone exchanges had names, rather than numbers.
Many bore some relation their location, others did not. For example NAT was National
and covered the City of London (Moorgate): REN was Renown for the Fulham area.
At the time of writing the Suite, Tomlinson was living in Chingford, Essex. The
telephone exchange there was SILverthorn.
The Silverthorn Suite is written
in three short movements, lasting for about ten minutes. The opening Alla
Marcia is flamboyant and extravagantly scored. The middle section is a little
more relaxed. The Marco Polo CD liner notes by Tim McDonald rightly point out
that this march is “singularly un-martial in character, notwithstanding the prominence of a
side-drum.” It is the sheer exuberance of the Essex countryside on a hot summer’s
day. Evening comes with the second movement. This is a lushly orchestrated
Canzonet. This title means quite simply “a little song” perhaps a light
songs or short and simple air from an opera. Tomlinson has created a wistful
little number that is “shot through with lyricism.” It is the heart of this Suite. The finale is a
Concert Jig, that is full of vivacity. Once again, the listener will be
struck by the elaborate scoring and a sense of momentum as the work reaches its
Ernest Tomlinson’s Silverthorn
Suite can be heard on Marco Polo 8.223413. It has been uploaded to YouTube: Alla Marcia, Canzonet, Concert Jig.