The Flower of Cities was commissioned by John Williams to mark the 50th Anniversary of the City of London Festival. The title comes from William Dunbar’s poetic tribute to England’s capital: “London, thou art the fl ower of cities all.”
More famous for its landmark buildings such as St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Gherkin, the square mile of the City of London is also home to around 200 areas of open space. The Flower of Cities explores this maze-like array of secret gardens, churchyards, and plazas, which is concealed within the densely developed heart of London. From Finsbury Circus (London’s oldest public park) to Bunhill Fields (a burial ground for over 1,000 years), each space reveals its own story and unique contribution to the history of the City of London.
The six main movements (based on places) are linked by solo cadenzas representing the five City bridges over the River Thames – Tower Bridge (guitar 2), London Bridge (violin), Southwark Bridge (double bass), the Millennium Footbridge (guitar 1) and Blackfriars Bridge (percussion). In Broadgate Sculptures each player’s part is characterised by a specific public sculpture, for example, the violin part is a portrayal of Barry Flanagan’s Leaping Hare on Crescent and Bell, and the monolithic bass part suggests Richard Serra’s Fulcrum. All the melodies in The Cries of London are authentic street cries from 17th and 18th Century London. Bartholomew’s Fair is an arrangement of an old Broadsheet Ballad dating from the 17th Century. The fair itself was a rowdy affair that ran annually from 1133 to 1855 in the Smithfield area. Inner Temple Garden provides a peaceful resolution, where the river meets the city.
The Flower of Cities was first performed at The Fishmongers’ Hall, London, on 10th July 2012, by John Williams and Friends: John Williams and Craig Ogden – guitars, Max Baillie – violin, Tristan Fry – percussion, Tim Gibbs – double bass.
1. Broadgate Sculptures
2. Tower Bridge (guitar 2 solo)
3. Finsbury Circus
4. London Bridge (violin solo)
5. Bunhill Fields
6. Southwark Bridge (double bass solo)
7. The Cries of London
8. Millenium Bridge (guitar 1 solo)
9. Bartholomew’s Fair
10. Blackfriars Bridge (percussion solo)
11. Inner Temple Garden