Although the English composer, Frank Bridge (1879-1941), enjoyed success with his earlier works, as his style evolved following the First World War his audiences became less receptive. Luckily by 1923 he found financial security in a wealthy American patroness – Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge – and he was able to enjoy conducting trips to America and also built himself a quiet country retreat in East Sussex where he composed most of his later works. Following Bridge’s sudden death in 1941 his work was virtually forgotten but, largely due to the continuing efforts of the Frank Bridge Trust his music is enjoying a growing following.
Bridge wrote Sir Roger de Coverley (A Christmas Dance) in 1922. It is based on an old, probably Scottish, country dance and first appeared in printed form in ‘The Dancing Master’ in 1695 and also cleverly interweaves the melody Auld Lang Syne. The dance depicts a hunted fox running in and out of cover and was often used to signal the beginning or end of dances. It was clearly a popular dance as it is mentioned in numerous novels including: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, George Eliot’s Silas Marner, D H Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers and the children’s books The Rescuers by Margery Sharp and Clive King’s Stig of the Dump.