image of smugglers

The tone poem “Moonfleet” is based on the novel of the same name by J Meade Falkner. It is set in the south of England in a seaside village, Moonfleet, which is named after the once-prominent local family, the Mohunes, (pronounced “Moon”). Their coat of arms includes a symbol shaped like a capital 'Y' which is represented musically in a motif occurring at bar 26 and throughout the piece.

The piece opens with the ominous theme of the sea (bars 1 -10), a sea which has a particularly nasty tidal undertow
It is hardly surprising that the villagers of Moonfleet turn to religion to offset the constant threat of the sea. Musically, this is represented by a hymn-like melody which appears in fragments between figures 1 and 2 and which is given fully at figure 5 and again at the conclusion of the piece.
And being a story of the sea, there have to be smugglers! Their theme first appears at figure 3, capturing the furtive nature of the activity (solo horn and accompaniment), and the omnipresent danger of the pursuing excisemen (trombones).
John Trenchard, our hero, discovers that the verses from a locket he found earlier contain a code that will reveal the location of a famous diamond, apparently stolen from King Charles I by one Colonel “Blackbeard” Mohune.

Ten years later, while they are being transported to the Dutch colonies, their ship is wrecked just off the coast of Moonfleet. While trying to reach the beach Elzevir helps John to safety, but falls victim himself to the notorious undertow of the sea and is drowned. However, there is a happy ending. John is reunited with and marries his childhood love, Grace. The piece ends triumphantly with the reiteration of the hymn tune.

View and/or download


Listen to the complete piece here