Making Waves

Five Movements for a Seaside Orchestra

Scarborough Spa Orchestra past and present.


Scarborough is the last seaside resort in the UK to offer its visitors and residents a professional orchestra. From May to September it performs programmes of orchestral, classical, light and jazz music in 10 concerts a week set against the backdrop of Scarborough’s South Bay.

The Orchestra was created in 1912 by Alick Maclean. This first ensemble of 35 professional musicians gave daily concerts in the Grand Hall and Suncourt. Concert programmes included music from the classical repertoire, Viennese waltzes, operettas, and popular songs of the day.

In 1995 Scarborough Borough Council with funds from Yorkshire Arts commissioned Nigel Morgan to compose a new work for the orchestra. Making Waves was not only to be an entertaining sequence of light music miniatures suitable for listening to from a deckchair at Scarborough’s famous Spa, but also a work that could feature in the orchestra’s education activities in and around North Yorkshire.

from V. Making Waves



The five pieces that make up Making Waves became part of Composing and Improvising, a handbook for students studying for the GCSE examination in Music. The main focus of this handbook was to encourage fledgling composers to develop very particular listening and improvising skills so they could master the technique of writing down their imagined music accurately.


All five movements are based on a pentatonic theme that cunningly incorporates a sequence of rhythms
that act as modular building blocks for composing or improvising. The movements also progress through a sequence of common musical styles: country music, ballad, funk, rock and Latin jazz, blues and minimalist. 

from I. On the Prom



There is also much to be learnt from Making Waves about the musical mechanisms composers use to keep their music interesting for the listener. The list of such devices is a long one but includes


canon, inversion, augmentation, diminution, retrograde, transposition, multi-part counterpoint, syncopation, and additive rhythms.

Clarinet solo  from IV. Blues for Alice.


Orchestration and the special techniques and sounds associated with the standard orchestral instruments
are another attractive feature of this work. Although written for professional players the instrumental parts are not too demanding for student musicians of between Grade III-V. This makes the music ideal as a workshop piece for school performances enabling tutors and students to make music together.Making Waves has proved particularly popular with instrumental teachers from LEA or city-based music service organisations as a lively item for informal concerts focused on Junior School age children.


The Composing and Improvising handbook is now replaced by a study score in C with annotations by the composer detailing all the techniques and devices as they appear in the course of the music.



Study Score in C [pdf]

Annotatated score [pdf]