The Prime Minister Was Already Squiffy


Gavin Wayte

Piano Solo

c. 2 minutes

The Prime Minister Was Already Squiffy

The title of this piece is a line from an imagined chamber opera, set in Britain in the 1950s, but recollecting a now tired, Bell Époque – faded wallpaper and dusty chandeliers, though forming a glorious past, at least in the minds of the characters. It’s acutely observational though without irony – empathetic rather than derisory, and witty. Funnily enough recent political and constitutional events chime in with it. The section titles of the piece, “It doesn’t go with the furniture…”, “He kissed the teeth of George V”, and “The seals of anecdote are broken” are from the projected libretto and mark key points in the drama. I used the opportunity of writing the piano piece to unwrap and develop the themes for the chamber opera which had circulated in my mind for a while.

The Prime Minister Was Already Squiffy was my contribution to the 70th birthday festschrift for my composition tutor at the University of Manchester, John Casken, and was premiered along with around 20 other new pieces by composer friends in January 2020. Knowing John’s operas well I thought the theatrical basis of my piece might make a fitting tribute. The pianist is David Fanning, also a huge influence in my student days,  teaching me much of what I know about how to play the piano.

Photo by Lāsma Artmane on Unsplash