New music by Stephen Bartlet-Jones to celebrate Chambers’ 40th birthday.

28 Nov 2018

To mark Chambers’ 40th birthday, Stephen Bartlet-Jones has composed a piece of music telling the story of a court hearing in the Royal Courts of Justice.



What you’re listening to…

It’s a piece in the style of a short ‘ballet’ telling the story of a court hearing before a high court judge, between a clever but rather austere barrister for the applicant and, for the respondent, the sort of grounded, compassionate and tenacious practitioner of whom 1 PumpCourt is proud to have so many.

It starts early in the morning with the bells of St Clement’s, just between chambers and the RCJ, ringing out “Oranges and Lemons”.  I recently visited Michèle O’Leary in her chambers when she was sitting in the West Green building and from up there, they’re impossible to ignore: I can’t think of a better reminder of the absent child’s voice to a deliberating family judge!

Anyway, the court is soon teeming with activity, and we are shortly introduced to the respondent’s counsel in conference,  her good advice tempered by humour.  The relaxed feeling suddenly changes with the arrival of the judge, whose theme is rather stately and grand, but certainly not lacking in wit.

Soon, the contest begins in earnest.  I’ve visualised the court process as being like a wizard’s duel: counsel’s weapon is words, but words – uttered in the right way and at the right time – can have amazing power.  First comes the proficient and relentless submissions of the applicant on the trumpet and horns.  Soon the battle is joined with the nimbler woodwind contributions of the respondent’s counsel (represented by a reprise of her theme) skipping around the applicant’s counsel’s theme polyphonically.

The music follows the cut and thrust of the arguments, and it seems the applicant has the upper hand until the respondent’s counsel changes tack.  Her closing submission – an extended version of her theme – is a stripped back account of the plain, poignant truth.

The short adjournment is marked by the ringing of the St Clements bells again.  During lunch, as the judge deliberates (in a harp/vibraphone reprise of his theme), our counsel’s final submission (reprised by the percussion section) haunts him.  When he returns to court, they are still tinkling away in the back of his mind and eventually he gives judgment in the respondent’s favour – taking up the melody of respondent counsel’s closing submission but injected with a bit of judicial gravitas.

Following the judgment comes that moment of queer calm (on the harp) as both barrister and client try to contain their excitement at the win just long enough to get out of court and out of sight before the mutually congratulatory conference that always follows a win.  But once out of court, the bells of St Clements mark the end of a successful day with a crescendo of excitement.

Back to News