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I wrote ‘Midlands Dances’ some time around 2010 for the Robson Duo, twins Kevin and John Robson. Their style of performance is very flamboyant and energetic, and I tried to exploit that in the music. I also wanted to create a piece that encapsulated the vigour and energy of the Black Country, with its industrial heritage and landscape of factories and canals. I came across a number of songs written by anonymous members of the Black Country Society, modelled on the folk songs collected by Vaughan Williams and Cecil Sharp, and so I decided to arrange them into a lively and sharply contrasted fantasia, ranging from ‘The Dudley Boys’ on a rowdy night out, to the poetic scene of a quiet moored barge ‘The Rosemary’. ‘Heave Ho’ is a song about bargees (canal boatmen) pushing a barge through the narrow tunnels around Dudley, lying on their backs and pushing against the walls with their legs. The music is whipped up to a final crescendo with another group of young men out on the tiles, ‘Birmingham Lads’.