Hubert the Clockmaker

1980 10 minutes
Brass Band or Orchestra and Speaker
Text Kit Powell
Commissioned by New Zealand Army Band

In 1979 I was approached by a representative of the NZ Army Band asking for a piece. l was reluctant to write an entertainment piece, but after a visit to my father (who had always been an amateur clockmaker) in January 1980, l realized that I could write a piece which would have both serious and light-hearted elements.

Extra-musical Themes:

• Old age is often regulated by the hours of the day. This is all the more obvious in Hubert’s case because of all his clocks.

• If this old-age world seems odd or unsatisfactory to us it is probably because we are seeing it only from our own point of view. Hubert (and all grandmothers and grandfathers) has achieved the ultimate. He has created a world, which really works for him. lf at times it seems to go wrong it is probably because we have entered it and disturbed it.

• The clocks are amoral. Their job is to tell the time and they will do that with complete disregard for Beethoven or their colleagues. That's how they behave during the day anyway perhaps at night they behave differently?

Musical Themes
Musical Themes
Hubert the Clockmaker
Kathie Harrop Speaker, New Zealand Army Band
Hubert the Clockmaker

Hubert the Clockmaker lives in a tiny house full of clocks. There are small clocks, and large clocks, Chiming clocks, and striking clocks, Skeleton clocks, and … cuckoo clocks-

Hubert has spent his whole life making these clocks, they are his friends and they help him order his day.

He wakes at six, dozes till seven, has breakfast at seven fifteen and works till ten.» Morning tea is at ten … and then, back to work till twelve. Just imagine the sound at midday!

Now one sad thing I‘ve forgotten to tell you: if ever Hubert opened his front door the noise of the traffic would drown out the sound of all his beautiful clocks … And if a train went by on the nearby track it would even out-thunder the traffic.

But to continue with Hubert‘s day; at twelve o‘clock he has lunch and at twelve thirty a siesta … until three. And at three o‘clock he has afternoon tea and at three fifteen he pops the roast in the oven, and then back to work.

Today he is working on two new tunes for two new chiming clocks.

Five o'clock is sherry-time. This is Hubert's favourite time of the day. He sets the table, carves the roast. and sits down to enjoy his meal –– and his clocks, of course. At six o'clock he washes the dishes and dries the dishes, pours a glass of port, and watches the news. Then he pours another drink, switches on his tape-recorder and relaxes with Brandy and Beethoven. Then tea and cake at eight thirty and into bed at nine.

But Hubert sleeps uneasily. Tomorrow his routine will be broken Tomorrow arrive his son and wife and two children.

Of course he is so pleased to see them. And they are so pleased to see him. But they don‘t understand his timetable at all:

They get up late, sit in wrong chairs drink coffee instead of tea. They forget his siesta, leave clothes lying about and forget to close the door.

But they really try hard, they want to please him they especially make him tea, but he doesn‘t drink tea, when he's eating his lunch and never at twelve o'clock!

The jolt to his timetable is really quite awful, what should poor Hubert do? He looks to Beethoven for some small comfort, but that's not the same anymore.

He springs to his feet and staggers off balance, he knows he is going to fall, he grabs at the nearest thing to support him and tears his cuckoo clock right off the wall!

What can he do but go to bed? too late to repair it now.’ So at eight o'clock he is asleep and dreaming dreaming of clocks.

And a great parade of maddened clocks come out of their places and march towards him:

Big ones small ones, striking and chiming, grandmothers, grandfathers, wall-clocks, skeletons, friends of the cuckoo, wildly enraged are bearing down on him wanting revenge.

He can bear it no longer and in spite of his rule for the right time to work, goes straight to his bench … and still in pyjamas he starts to mend his bent cuckoo clock.

He hammers and saws and straightens and oils till his faithful friend is ticking, then back to bed, exhausted and cold but he sleeps his best sleep ever.

And when he awakes it is already late, his son and family are packing. they wave him goodbye, he‘s sad they are going, but strangely he feels so much lighter,

He walks back inside, and closes the door, sits down in his chair by the table. He smiles at the clocks and they smile back, ready to enjoy the old timetable.

Kit Powell
Hubert Powell with one of his own clocks – 1980
Hubert Powell with one of his own clocks – 1980