The Sword and the Star is a concert overture for brass band which features the Scottish lament “The Flowers of the Forest”. It was written for Middleton Band and the title refers the Assheton family crest which features in the arms of the town, and the ‘Flodden Sword’ captured at the battle in 1513 and still kept in St Leonard’s Church in Middleton.
The Sword and the Star was written in 2006 for the Middleton Band at the request of their Musical Director, Carl Whiteoak. The inspiration for the work was the band’s badge, which features a medieval archer. The town of Middeton’s historical link with the symbol of the Archer came from the English victory at the Battle of Flodden in September 1513, where bowmen from Middleton and Heywood under the command of Sir Richard Assheton played a vital part in crushing the invading Scottish army. Sir Richard captured one of the Scottish commanders and presented the prisoner’s sword to the St Leonard’s church in Middleton in recognition of the town’s contribution. As long time Lords of the Manor, the Assheton family crest was for centuries featured in the coat of arms of Middleton council, and when Middleton became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale the black star from the Assheton crest was used to represent Middleton in the new borough’s coat of arms. Hence the title The Sword and the Star, for a piece which attempts to give an impression of the town as it was then and as it is now.
The music is in three short sections – a fanfare, a lament and a bright scherzo – and simply aims to contrast the medieval hamlet of Middleton with the bustling urban centre it has now become. The central lament features a Scottish song called “The Flowers of the Forest”, written to mourn the loss of so many of Scotland’s young men on the field of Flodden; the song returns in a much more positive form at the end of the piece.
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