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Alan Barnes

Saxophone, Clarinet and Bass Clarinet

Bruce Adams


Mark Nightingale


Robert Fowler

Saxophones and Clarinet

Karen Sharp

Saxophones and Clarinet

David Newton


Simon Thorpe


Clark Tracey



David Copperfield by Charles Dickens was first published in serial form from May 1849 to November 1850.

The cast of vivid and memorable characters seemed perfect for depiction in a new musical suite. Knowing the musicians intimately meant I could once again write to their strengths and personalities.

Copperfield Theme

We start with a depiction of David’s happy childhood spent with his attractive, kind yet impractical widowed mother and their loyal and loving housekeeper Clara Peggotty. The clarinet states the main theme but we are introduced to other soloists as the music becomes more playful.

Mr Peggotty’s Boat House

Mr Peggotty is a fisherman who lives in an inverted boat house in Yarmouth with Little Em’ly and Ham. The brass speak out in the moaning voice of another resident, Mrs Gummage: I’m a lone lorn creetur and everythink goes contrary with me.


Barkis is Willin’

David is sent away to school, being transported there by the phlegmatic carrier Barkis who wishes Peggotty to know that Barkis is willin’. Simon Thorpe on double bass willingly takes the part of Barkis.


Creakle and Tungay

At School, David meets the fiery-faced and furious headmaster, here played by Bruce Adams. Karen Sharp takes the part of his one legged assistant Tungay.


Tommy Traddles’ Skeletons

A fellow student Tommy Traddles, when sensing a wrong or miscarriage of justice, doodles skeletons with great fervour. A clarinet dance macabre for the skeletons in the margin with Robert Fowler soloing.

Murdstone and Grinby’s

David is set to work in a wine bottling factory in London. We can feel the anguish of Dickens himself, consigned as he was at 12 years old to work in Warren’s Blacking Factory, pasting labels on the pots.


Mr Dick Flies his Kite

Mr Dick is disturbed by the troubles in King Charles the First’s severed head. The only release from this mental torment is to write the troubles on an enormous kite and fly it high in the sky. Bruce Adams and Mark Nightingale both soar with the kite but eventually return to earth.


Mr Micawber

Mr Wilkins Micawber is relentlessly optimistic but always impecunious. Based on Dickens’s father John, his guiding principle is that something will turn up. What actually turns up is Alan Barnes on the clarinet.

Little Em’ly

We return to Em’ly’s exotic and yearning theme on clarinet which was briefly heard at Mr Peggotty’s house. Bruce Adams speaks Steerforth’s words of seduction with his plunger mute and Robert Fowler helps the lovers
take flight.


Steerforth’s theme starts in a stately manner with the face he presents to the world, but the music soon changes to reveal something darker. At the end David continues to remember him, despite the evidence, as a noble character.


Uriah Heep

A character notable for his sycophancy, obsequiousness and insincerity. I am well aware that I am the umblest person going, said Uriah Heep modestly, but have much to be thankful for. The oily chalumeau bass clarinet takes the  unctuous theme and the brass plungers voice ever so umble at the end.

Dora and Jip

David falls in love with the pretty and girlish Dora Spenlow who is inseparable from Jip, her irritable, spoilt, little dog. A depiction of David’s comic and obsessive courtship. Bruce Adams gives us the benefit of his Canine cadenzas at the end.


David finally comes to his senses, realises the path he should always have taken, and marries his soul-mate Agnes Wickfield. A tender ballad shared around the orchestra.

A New Life

Many of the characters sail off to a new life in Australia, Heep is in prison and David is happily married, successful, and respectable.



Like the Dickens classic itself, Alan Barnes’s “Copperfield” has something for everyone.
A great night out that is also a treat for the jazz connoisseur; it will delight anyone who loves music or literature – or just being entertaine

This new suite of pieces, touring for the first time this year, takes the audience through the characters and scenes of ‘David Copperfield”.  Readings from the original Dickens tell the story, and after each scene eight virtuoso musicians bring the characters and scenes to life, switching audiences from hilarity to pathos with a skill that would have done credit to Dickens himself!

A cheery clarinet plays Copperfield, the lost orphan Little Em’ly is a lyrical tenor, Mr Dick flies his kite in the personage of a soaring flugelhorn and trombone, Mr Micawber expresses “Something will turn up!”on the piano and Uriah Heep writhes around on the bass clarinet. Just as we see David progress through the trials of his life, so the movements of this suite seem to develop along with him.

The music and readings inspire the full range of Dickens’s imagination and emotion: from loneliness and remorse through to love and then irresistible joy.  

“Barnes is a true Dickensian.  He is a serious reader of the novels.  It is a clear blunder of providence that he was born too late to appear in their pages!” Hot News.

Forthcoming Concerts

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