Zodisc Dances - Six Miniatures based on animals from the Japanese 'Junishi'

Zodiac Dances was commissioned by the Izumiotsu City Band, Osaka, Japan to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They gave the premiere, conducted by the composer, during their 50th Anniversary Concert on 20th November 2016 in Izumiotsu City Hall.

Sparke had previously written Prelude to a Celebration for the band and in composing a new piece for their 50th anniversary wanted to personalise it to reflect the band’s history. He chose to write a set of six miniatures based on the decades following the band’s foundation and the equivalent signs from the Japanese’ Junishi’  (the twelve-animal cycle which, among other things, forms the oriental zodiac) reflecting both the characteristics attributed to those who are born under the various zodiac signs as well as the characters of the animals themselves. The six dances describe the following cycle:-

1966 (The Year of the Horse)

Those born in the Year of the Horse are skilful in paying compliments and talk too much. They are quick thinkers, wise and talented. This dance also portrays the elegance of a prancing horse.

1976 (The Year of the Dragon)

The Dragon is the only mythical animal in the ‘Junishi’, represented here by a quirky march which changes mood quickly.

1986 (The Year of the Tiger)

Those born in the Year of the Tiger are sensitive, deep thinkers and capable of great sympathy. This dance reflects that wisdom in a simple melody, sparsely accompanied.

1996 (The Year of the Rat)

The fourth dance depicts the quick movements of a busy, scurrying rat, rarely still and always looking for something new.

2006 (The Year of the Dog)

People born in the Year of the Dog have all the fine qualities of human nature. Their noble character is reflected in the music of this dance.

2016 (The Year of the Monkey)

Those born in the Year of the Monkey are the erratic geniuses of the Zodiac cycle. They are clever and skilful and to reflect this, this dance cheekily steals material from previous dances to provide an energetic close.