This suite for brass ensemble is derived from a sequence of incidental music that the composer Wilfred Heaton composed in the early 1950s for a dramatisation of the ﬁrst part of Bunyan’s allegorical work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, by South African Salvationists. The manuscript was discovered in 2009 among the eﬀects of Wilfred Heaton’s sister, Hilda Heaton (1916-2012). Major Heaton had entered the Training College of the Salvation Army in 1939 and served as an SA Oﬃcer throughout the United Kingdom, and was on the staﬀ of the SA Training College in London (Denmark Hill) and for a number of years the SA Headquarters in South Africa (Johannesburg).
The music comprises 19 short pieces for piano, brass ensemble and four part chorus. Three of the hymns have been published and recorded. I also constructed a suite using Heaton’s title, Pilgrim’s Song, for narrator and brass band for volume 6 of The Wilfred Heaton Collection (Doyen Recordings). However, ever since reading through the score, I have considered the larger instrumental cues (piano and brass) suitable for adapting into a work for brass band alone. Pilgrim Variations is the result. I have scored the piano and brass ensemble using the SA’s brass band instrumentation. Heaton based all the items on the tune Monksgate -‘He who would valiant be’; hence my title.
At the heart of Pilgrim Song if one of the most beautiful and poignant melodies Heaton composed – and the chief reason why this ‘new’ work has been prepared.