Five Rackets for Trio Relay

For Double Piano Trio
(2012) 12 minutes
Orchestration: pf:4-hands/2vn.2vc

Commissioned by the Lawson Trio and premiered by the Lawson Trio with members of Chethams Music School at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester on 7th February 2012.

Programme note

The idea for Five Rackets for Trio Relay came in response to a competition for funding in connection to the London Olympics. Even though we werenʼt successful in our application, by this time the Lawson Trio and I were so invested in the project that we were determined to find other ways of making it happen. I had had such a wonderful time writing a short work for Chamber Music 2000 in 2010 (the first piece Iʼd ever written specifically with young people in mind) and was really keen to write a bigger piece. This work sees a new departure for the project in that it is the first piece Chamber Music 2000 has commissioned for both young/amateur and professional players playing together. We were privileged to be visited by some wonderful musicians at the Yehudi Menuhin School (where I studiedʻcello for ten years) and I remember how much one could learn from playing chamber music with a more experienced musician. It was with this in mind that Five Rackets was composed.

Each movement is inspired by a sport or sports, and is suitable for a different age group and/or standard. In running order, they are: Archery and Curling, (suitable for Grades 6-8), Ping Pong, Table Tennis and Wiff Waff (Grade 1), Sailing (Grades 2-3), Boxing (Grades 5-7) and Marathon, Relay, Walk, Sprint! (Grade 7-8). In the student string parts of Ping Pong, only the open strings are used (with occasional glissandos from randomly placed notes) and in Sailing, the amateur parts are limited to one hand position in both the piano and strings. I had an absolutely wonderful time writing this piece, and learnt a great deal about many sports which Iʼd previously been ignorant of! The depictions in the work are too numerous to list here, but everything from various ping pong techniques, through the heel-toe-heel-toe action of the 50k Marathon walkers, to the way that a curling stone and broom are used, are represented in the music, and marked in the score for the players to see.

© Cheryl Frances-Hoad, 2012


"I’m baffled that Cheryl Frances Hoad’s witty Five Rackets for Trio Relay didn’t win funding for the Cultural Olympiad project: each piece is cleverly tailored to string players of different abilities. It’s fresh and funny."

Helen Wallace, BBC Music Magazine

"The most engaging had been heard before, though not in London: Cheryl Frances-Hoad's Five Rackets for Trio Relay was composed for a competition associated with London 2012; although it didn't win, it does use its Olympic connections to witty effect.

Composed for double piano trio, with the three joined by instrumentalists from the Junior Royal Academy of Music, the five movements take their titles from Olympic events, translating them into musical gestures – glissandi for the ice-sweeping in curling, Debussyan swirls for sailing, constant changes of tempo for a movement that combines marathon, walking and sprinting. The pianists (four hands at one keyboard) constantly swap positions, and there's an air of busy fun about the piece. But, typically for Frances-Hoad, it's her knack of making the simplest ideas seem freshly imagined that is so captivating." Andrew Clements, The Guardian

"Written in response to competition funding for the 2012 London Olympics, Five Rackets for Trio Relay is scored for the unusual arrangement of double piano trio; composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad makes full use of the multitudinous textural opportunities and contrasts afforded by the instrumentation.

There’s a bold opening to the suite, a strident beginning in Archery and Curling. Subsequently, skeletal piano figures are answered by string glissandi as the music begins to explore whole-tone scales.

The buzzing opening to the second movement contrasts with pointillist steps, and throughout the movement Frances-Hoad indulges in an enthusiastic exploration of different articulation techniques across the instruments – glissandi, tremolo, staccato, pizzicato.

By contrast, the third movement, Sailing, displays wonderful colours in rippled piano chords, with a lyrical violin melody over sonorous cello shapes. Clever handling of widely-spaced textures creates a rich yet clear ensemble sound, with an harmonic language that is accessible yet evocative. The tranquil nature is resolutely dashed in the bold, rhythmic strokes of Boxing, in which Torke-esque block chords and homophonic textures abound. The spiky opening of the final movement, Marathon, Relay, Walk, Spring!, sees oscillating piano figures beneath repeating string shapes in an exciting musical language that is brash and vigorous.

Written for both professional and amateur musicians, the music is sympathetic to the needs of younger players without compromising on the tonal language or the inventive rhythmic nature of the piece. In spirit, the work feels like a twenty-first century answer to Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It’s an entertaining, spirited and inventive piece..." 

Dan Harding, The Shock of the New

Performance history (post-premiere)

9th March 2013 (Marathon, Relay, Walk, Sprint! only) - The Lawson Trio and members of the Junior Royal Academy of Music at Kings Place, London, UK

3rd May 2012 - The Lawson Trio and students at the Yehudi Menuhin School at Menuhin Hall, Stoke d'Abernon, UK

10th April 2012 - The Lawson Trio with members of the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department at The Purcell Room, London, UK

13th March 2012 - The Lawson Trio and members of Yorkshire Young Musicians at the Howard Assembly Room, Leeds


Buy The Long Way Home, The Lawson Trio's CD featuring Five Rackets for Trio Relay

Download from iTunes

Stream on Spotify


Watch an excerpt on YouTube