Tony Haynes, composer/director of the Grand Union Orchestra, tells the inside story of his music for the orchestra, its musicians and colourful history.

60: Twelve Days of Christmas – a MixTape!

My sixtieth blog post – a milestone worth celebrating! Mix tapes are back in fashion, so why not a collection of favourite pieces I’ve written for the Grand Union Orchestra over the years? Rather than videos, which I’ve been using rather a lot recently, I’ve chosen some audio tracks from our various CDs and BBC Radio 3 broadcasts, and focussed on recordings featuring the GUO professional musicians and singers alone. For once there is no musical analysis, but links are given to posts where I have written about these pieces; there you will also find some background on the shows they are drawn from, details of the performers, some GUO history and related anecdotes.

 Happily, it’s coincided with Christmas/New Year, so this compilation is also a kind of aural greetings card! However, I’ve not been too literal or dogmatic about matching the traditional 12 days – rather, I have tried to produce a structure that suits the material, which I think works really well in its own right. (The entire sequence can also be played via this Soundcloud Playlist without a break.) So here we go:


For the 12 Days of Christmas Grand Union gives to you…

1 for all and all for oneÇa ira (Post 21). The marching song of the French Revolution seemed an appropriate piece to open with!


2 wary travellersMirage (Post 61)


different world views – The Golden Highway (Post 13)


4 poignant voicesThe Flame of Love (Post 31)


5 dancers whirling Bhangra Brass (Post 24)


scents beguiling –  The Perfumes of Paradise Blues (Post 4)


workers toiling Riding the Iron Tiger (Post 35)


8 empires fallingMusic and War (Post 9)


9 conflicts escalatingCollateral Damage (Post 16)


10 musicians harmonising – The Song of Reconciliation (Post 10)


11 singers hoping – If Music Could… (Post 1)


12 drummers drummingEleggua Kó, Eleggua Rá (Post 3). I couldn’t resist this authentic reference to the original song to finish – and it’s an African 12/8 rhythm!

The whole sequence of tracks can be heard without breaks on this MixTape


A Ghost of Christmas Past!

The illustration at the head of this Post comes from about 1986 – a generation ago. It was drawn by a celebrated young illustrator and cartoonist Hunt Emerson; more about his extraordinary work can be discovered on his own website largecow.com. All the musicians sketched are featured in these audio tracks, and most are still regular members of the Grand Union Orchestra!

GUO cartoon


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