by Amy Beach/arr. Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 3:53)
Bal Masque, a charming little work for solo piano which dates from 1894, is emblematic of Beach’s early style. It contains all of the elegance, humor, and good cheer found in much of her music, and this orchestration for wind band by Patrick Burns reflects the colorful spirit of Beach’s original composition.
by Cecile Chaminade, arr. Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4)
Cecile Louise Stephanie Chaminade (1857-1944) was a virtuoso pianist and and an extraordinarily prolific composer, producing over 400 works nearly all of which were published during her lifetime. Although she composed pieces in a variety of genres from large orchestral works to more intimate pieces for voice and piano (about 100 of those), she is best remembered today for her solo piano music, perhaps with one notable exception – the Concertino for Flute and Piano, Op. 107 (1902), which remains her most performed composition.
I ran across Cortège while studying a number of the composer’s solo piano pieces in the summer of 2013. Chaminade manages to cover a vast degree of musical ground in only about four minutes in this delightful miniature; a fanfare-like motive and three main tunes dominate the piece in a tightly woven formal structure typical of music composed in this time period (around 1912). Chaminde’s affinity for imitative counterpoint is expressed through her highly adept fugal treatment of the third main tune of the piece, which first appears at measure 39 and returns in even more intricate form later on in the work. The piece, then, is possessed of two distinct characters – one playful and jaunty, and the other serious and demanding.
My arrangement attempts to preserve, as closely as possible, the linear integrity and voicing used by the composer in the original work for solo piano. I changed as little as possible throughout the piece, and my orchestration technique is meant only to bring forth what I believe to be Chaminade’s original musical aim. It’s my hope that many bands and audience members will enjoy this little gem and all it has to offer.
Patrick J. Burns
by Carl Holmquist (Grade 4+, 7:30)
Emeritus is a musical gesture of heartfelt thanks to William Webb, and his predecessor, Ed Melichar, for their remarkable contributions to the band program at Edina High School (Minnesota). Theirs is a legacy of enthusiasm, musicianship, and love that has profoundly impacted the lives of generations of students.
FANFARE TO “THE HAMMER”
by Anthony O’Toole (Grade 4+, 2:30)
Fanfare to “The Hammer” was written as a musical tribute to Hank Aaron the legendary baseball player. Hank Aaron’s long career in the sport is full of notable achievements and milestones. While foremost paying tribute to this great slugger and his achievements, overall the piece evokes the imagery and experience of attending a baseball game and playing a game at the playground on a hot summer day or even just playing catch with your father in the backyard. I remember all those things a kid; playing in little league, playing in the street with friends and collecting the cards. Baseball holds a special place in the heart of most Americans. It is more than just a sport; it’s our pastime. – Anthony O’Toole
FANTASY ON SALVE REGINA
by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 5:35)
Fantasy on Salve Regina was written for the Ohio Northern University Wind Orchestra, directed by Dr. Thomas Hunt, and is based on the chant, Salve Regina. The melody dates back to around the 11th century and has been a part of the Catholic liturgy since the 12th century. I have had great interest in the Salve Regina for some time, since my college days, in fact. It is at once severe yet gentle; expressive yet meditative; vast in character, yet personal and intimate. This setting attempts to relate to the listener all of these varied elements which are germane to the original work.
FROM THE BANKS TO THE BLUE RIDGE
by Carl Holmquist (Grade 4, 7:30)
For those who have not traveled to North Carolina, two of the state’s most breathtaking natural features are the Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the Banks to the Blue Ridge attempts to express the beauty of these places through styles of music that are rooted in the rich culture and history of North Carolina – Appalachian folk songs, African American work songs, and hymn singing.
by Drew R. Fennell (Grade 4+, 7:30)
The composer writes: “Hometown Miniatures was begun in the morning of Sunday, March 3rd, 2002. I “penned” the first notes into my computer at 9am in the morning, before leaving the house to go to church. I must admit, my mind was far from the church that morning. During the following ten days, I worked ten to fifteen-hour days, finishing the piece. I completed it on the evening of my thirtieth birthday, March 13th, 2002, and began copying parts that night. With the help of my friend, Dave, I got all the parts completed for its first rehearsal on March 14th.
I tell you all of this not because I think it is particularly interesting, but because I think it shows how the creation of a piece like this can underscore a period of your life. For me, my thirtieth birthday will always be connected to the completion of Hometown Miniatures. I remember completely the moment I started and the moment I completed the piece. And I definitely remember the first time I heard the piece; they say men can’t give birth, but I imagine (aside from the absence of physical pain) hearing for the first time a piece you wrote feels just a little like that.
I feel I got pretty lucky with this piece – beginner’s luck. It seems to speak to people. And I think it tells them something kind of reassuring: that amid all the turmoil of the world today, we all have a warm and safe place we call home. That was my intent with the piece, and, happily, it came through in the music.
The piece talks about my experiences, which were not all that long ago. Many of the best memories of my hometown stem from the summer of 1987, during the Centennial Celebration of my little town. I was fifteen, and the events surrounding our Centennial seemed almost “Norman Rockwell-ian” to me then (and even moreso now).”
LET THE FUTURE BEGIN
by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 3:12)
Let the Future Begin was commissioned by the Eastern Arizona College Band, Geoff De Spain, Director, in celebration of EAC’s 125th Anniversary Year. The story of EAC is a remarkable one of endurance and perseverance. Chartered in 1888, over two decades before Arizona became a state, this institution has experienced nine changes to its name and serious threats of closure on more than one occasion. Whatever the challenge, EAC has managed to not only survive, but also to thrive while fulfilling its mission of providing an outstanding educational experience to generations of residents in the Gila Valley. The school’s motto, “Let the future begin”, reflects the spirit of the college, and of this piece which honors its longevity.
by Anthony O’Toole (Grade 4, 4:15)
The composer writes: Longing began as a choral piece based on the poem of the same name by British poet Matthew Arnold. In 2012, I took the choral work and expanded the material to create this work for band. Longing is a beautiful lyrical work depicting the feelings most all have dealt with in their search for love and companionship. When reading the poetry, the reader can imagine a person so desperately in love that it’s all they can think about, but there is a feeling that this love is not meant to be and that it exists only in their mind. The piece creates a very lush and dreamy soundscape but in the end leaves the listener wanting more. Longing was premiered by the University of Portland Wind Symphony, Patrick Murphy conductor in October 2012.
LONGING – Matthew Arnold
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
Come, as thou cam’st a thousand times,
A messenger from radiant climes,
And smile on thy new world, and be
As kind to others as to me.
Or, as thou never cam’st in sooth,
Come now, and let me dream it truth.
And part my hair, and kiss my brow,
And say–My love! why sufferest thou?
Come to me in my dreams, and then
By day I shall be well again.
For then the night will more than pay
The hopeless longing of the day.
PRELUDE IN F MINOR from Three Improvisations for Organ
by Nadia Boulanger, Arranged by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 5:15)
Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was one of the twentieth century’s most influential musical figures. A skilled and deft composer, she became far better known as a teacher of composition and music theory, and for her profound influence on hundreds of young composers, many of whom would eventually be recognized among the greats in their field. The American composer and author Ned Rorem has called her the most influential teacher since Socrates; while composer and music critic Virgil Thomson only semi-jested that every American town had two things – an Esso Gas Station and a pupil of Nadia Boulanger. Among her diverse list of students were Aaron Copland, Elliot Carter, Walter Piston, Quincy Jones, Karel Husa, George Antheil and Burt Bacharach, just to name a few. Her music is highly chromatic and reflects the substantial influence of an early contemporary of hers, Claude Debussy.
The Prelude in F Minor is the first movement of Boulanger’s Trois Improvisations for organ, composed in 1911, and published in 1912. The music is pensive and reflective, and, at times, dramatic and highly expressive. Boulanger’s conservative and lean writing is counterbalanced by her astonishing use of timbre throughout the piece. Colors change frequently and with great subtlety throughout the work, allowing each new musical phrase to be cast in a slightly different light. This technique moves Boulanger’s economical musical ideas forward in an effective compositional way, and also enables the listener to maintain a high degree of interest for the duration of the work.
Mr. Burns’ setting is more of a transcription than arrangement, in that he has attempted to match Boulanger’s color changes as exactly as possibly, using the traditional instrumentation of the modern wind band. His goal was to remain as true as possible to her original conception of the piece, over a century ago.
RHAPSODY for Solo Clarinet and Band
by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 10:30)
RHAPSODY for Solo Clarinet and Band was commissioned by the New Jersey City University Consortium for New Music, led by Professor Joseph D’Auguste, clarinet professor at NJCU. The premiere performances were given in November and December 2015 by the NJCU Symphony of Winds and Percussion under the direction of the composer and with Professor D’Auguste as soloist. The work is consists of one large movement with three contiguous sections following a brief introduction: Comodo – Lirico – Meccanico. The character of each section is quite different, one from another, but so is the compositional style and harmonic vocabulary. Each movement explores various traits of the clarinet’s “personality”, if you will – and affords the soloist ample opportunity to be expressive in both highly technical and sweepingly lyric passages throughout virtually the entire range of the instrument. The ensemble itself maintains a very active role throughout, and is often on equal footing with the soloist in terms of the evolution of the piece.
by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 3:25)
Shimmering Chesapeake was commissioned by the Bel Air Community Band (Bel Air, Maryland), in celebration of their 50th season making music together. The opening rhythm, played by the vibraphone, is a Morse code repetition of “BACB” (concert G), which serves as a unifying thread for the entire first part of the work. Later on, the same rhythm returns (again in the vibraphone, but also aided by the flutes), this time concurrent with another Morse code reference, “1964”, tapped out on a concert F in the bells and reinforced by the piccolo. These two elements serve as threads which essentially bind the entire work together.
by Jean Sibelius/arr. Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 8:00)
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) was perhaps Scandinavia’s most prominent composer of the 20th century, his music reflective of the waning but still prominent late Romantic style of orchestral writing. He composed highly expressive, impassioned music on a grand scale, often using as inspiration the national legends and natural beauty of his native Finland.
Spring Song (1902 version) is a relatively short symphonic poem which has its roots in a composition from 1894 entitled Improvisation for Orchestra, a work which has unfortunately been lost. A substantial revision was made to this original work in 1895, at which time Sibelius changed the title to Spring Song – a version which survives and is performed with some frequency. Upon hearing this revision, the Finnish music critic Nya Pressen wrote, “Whatever Mr Sibelius may have imagined before about this music creation…it now illustrates so perfectly those spring feelings and hopes that a better name than ‘Spring Song’ can hardly be given to this youthfully fair composition.”
In 1902, Sibelius pared down all he could from the 1895 iteration of the piece and we are left today with a slightly shorter and very much simplified composition when compared to the earlier piece. The music is much more direct in its approach: the introduction shortened, the melody devoid of syncopation, and the harmonic language more conservative. Sibelius has stripped away all of the complexity and ornamentation of his earlier work and has left us with the undiluted, dramatic essence of his impression of the arrival of the Nordic Spring. The addition of a curious subtitle, La tristesse du printemps, (“The sadness of spring”), perhaps suggests a tinge of regret at the faded memory of days gone by, even as the world awakens to a new day.
TAKE THE STAGE
by Michael Mahadeen (Grade 4, 2:00)
Take the Stage, a short, declamatory fanfare, was written for the John J. Cali School of Music (Montclair State University) in celebration for the opening of their new facility in Chapin Hall. Beginning with bright, strong, syncopated chords in the brass intended to announce the beginning of a concert, the piece quickly gives way to a sweeping, majestic and triumphant melody in the clarinets and horns accompanied by an unceasing, energetic ostinato, echoing the feeling of confidence and adrenaline common before the beginning of a performance. After a repetition of this melody in the trumpets and flutes, a lighter, softer section of reverse pyramids is heard in the woodwinds. The theme then returns, quietly at first then fully orchestrated, building to a return of the original brass chords. The piece concludes with another reverse pyramid and short push to the final measure.
THE BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM
by George F. Root/arr. Anthony O’Toole (Grade 4.5, 2:30)
One Hundred and fifty years ago, while our great nation was divided and engaged in a war with itself, American composer and songwriter George Frederic Root of Illinois was creating some of the most iconic tunes of the era. His songs; ‘The Vacant Chair’, ‘The First Gun is Fired’ and ‘The Battle Cry of Freedom’ were huge hits, and not just for the North. ‘The Battle Cry of Freedom’ is undoubtedly the most famous tune of Root’s wartime musical output of 35 songs. This work is a rousing call to arms, an anthem for stirring feelings of patriotism and devotion to the cause of freedom for all.
In my setting of this tune, I chose to treat the material differently than a typical march style as, it was conceived originally by the composer, instead drawing my inspiration from the more subtle aspects text. The work begins by setting the musical atmosphere of staggered entrances in the winds of open intervals (4ths and 5ths) outlined by the harp and percussion. These sounds are reminiscent of a distant memory of the sounds of bugles on the battlefield. Amidst this texture, brief solos by English horn then French horn introduce a fragment of the melody. The first full statement of the tune is presented by the solo clarinet and bassoon. The melody is embellished only slightly with meager harmony before blossoming into a fuller statement with more expansive harmonies. This portion of the work is inspired by the following line of song’s text:
“And although they may be poor, not a man shall be a slave…”
This one line embodies seemingly everything this war and this country is built on – the concept that all men are created equal. To oppress anyone for any reason is morally reprehensible and a country that endorses slavery is not holding true to one of the most important principals of its creation. Although many will conjecture as to the reasons for the American Civil War, it is clear that slavery was the largest issue. An entire race of people subjugated, for financial gain, to work and live without freedom and treated as subhuman, enduring some of the most horrific conditions. It is the most basic of rights – freedom – and it’s inalienability despite an individual’s social and economic status, religious beliefs, ethnicity or skin color. It’s a very simple concept, but it is so very crucial.
After the full statement by the woodwinds and horns, the key changes and the orchestration shifts to the brass, as they intone the next verse inspired by the following line of text:
“We are springing to the call of our brothers gone before…”
The full brass marked ‘full and rich’, create a noble sound yet play at such a low dynamic creating a somber mood which I associate with military funerals. This portion of the phrase, although elegiac, serves as a testament to the comradery unique to those that serve our country in these tragic times, and that a death in the defense of our social and moral principles is never a loss in vein. Our country was made possible by the bravery of its patriots and men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that countless generations may continue to thrive. Another key change brings us to the next strain of the tune, with more active contrapuntal lines accompanying it. This section is inspired by the following text of the song: “We will welcome to our numbers the loyal, true and brave…”
At rehearsal marking 35, the texture of the orchestration consists of fluttering flutes and piccolo accentuating the subdued metallic keyboard percussion (bells and chimes) which allude to church bells in the distance. During the Civil War many church bells we used for their metals and repurposed into artillery, leaving many houses of worship without. At the conclusion of the war church bells resounded in every town to celebrate the long awaited end to a conflict that had devastated the country and had affected nearly every family.
The piece then transitions into a tremendous build from the depths of the ensemble, with statements of the tune staggered every other beat, arriving at a full ensemble declaration of this melodic fragment.
“Yes we’ll rally round the flag, boys, we’ll rally once again…”
Everyday people answering the call to arms…soldiers rallying to the symbol of the Stars and Stripes…The flag embodies all those great qualities that make up this great American nation; carrying with it the emotions and patriotism of every loyal citizen. On April 15, 1861 President Abraham Lincoln requested of the north 75,000 volunteers to fight for the Union cause. His request was exceeded and Lincoln is credited with rallying almost half a million volunteers!
The guttural attacks of the drums sling us forward into the heroic fanfares and flourishes of the brass and woodwinds. This section depicts the heroisms of battle, with the material foreshadowed in the very beginning now played with great force by the horns against the bold fanfares of the trumpets and trombones. The drums interject with hard blows and the metallic percussion revive the church bells from earlier, along with fast flourishes by the upper woodwinds and harp. The music unifies and builds towards the climax of the work as the tune is stated by the entire ensemble. Trumpets proclaim the tune while the low brass descends in scalar fashion, to the beat of the drums marching cadence and the upper woodwind fife-like decorations. The horns play a counter melody that morphs into quotations of ‘Dixie’ and ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’, specifically ‘Glory, Glory, Hallelujah’ in celebration of the war’s end.
The piece ends the way it began, echoing the textures and fragments presented at the onset of the work, gradually fading into the final gesture from the triangle, harp and metallic percussion; leaving a sense of the infinite with the audience and affirming the belief that even if an American nation no longer exists – which it almost didn’t – the principals of its existence remain universal. The United States is often referred to by historians as ‘The Great Experiment’; it is a country like no other, and the progress its founding enabled was revolutionary in the advancement of human rights and society. And although we may still struggle with equality and human rights, the principals for which the American Civil War defended serve as our guiding light in our ‘great experiment’.
– Anthony O’Toole
THE CLIFFS AT ETRETAT
by Andrew Allanson/arr. Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 4:45)
Inspired by a series of paintings by French Impressionist artist Claude Monet, The Cliffs at Etretat is a serene yet highly expressive musical portrait of the striking geographical landscape of the coastline near Etretat in northern France. Composer Andrew Allanson originally conceived this piece as one of 24 preludes for piano, and arranger Patrick Burns has endeavored to maintain the integrity and simple beauty of the original work in this colorful and setting for wind band.
THE QUIET LIGHT
by Carl Holmquist (Grade 4, 5:00)
Commissioned by Dr. Jack Stamp on the occasion of his retirement from Indiana University of
Pennsylvania, The Quiet Light is a lyrical work that is intended to be reflective in mood, looking back
on a profoundly impactful tenure as a conductor and educator. The work takes its inspiration, in title,
metric feel and dramatic arch, from Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “Voluntary.” The woodwinds
begin the piece with a calm, serene delivery of the main melodic theme, which is then passed to the
brass, who deliver the tune in a richer, majestic presentation. The theme is then transformed into a
somber, minor key setting, delivered by trumpet duet and out of that the ensemble crescendos into a
powerful release, fading upward as if the sustained pitch in the upper woodwinds represents a shining
star in the night sky. The low voices then bring the work to a peaceful close, harkening back to the
quiet serene beginning.
Here in the quiet eve
My thankful eyes receive
The quiet light.
I see the trees stand fair
Against the faded air,
And star by star prepare
The perfect night.
And in my bosom, lo!
Content and quiet grow
Toward perfect peace.
And now when day is done,
Brief day of wind and sun,
The pure stars, one by one,
Their troop increase.
Keen pleasure and keen grief
Give place to great relief:
Farewell my tears!
Still sounds toward me float;
I hear the bird’s small note,
Sheep from the far sheepcote,
And lowing steers.
For lo! the war is done,
Lo, now the battle won,
The trumpets still.
The shepherd’s slender strain,
The country sounds again
Awake in wood and plain,
On haugh and hill.
Loud wars and loud loves cease.
I welcome my release;
And hail once more
Free foot and way world-wide.
And oft at eventide
Light love to talk beside
The hostel door.
THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS
by Patrick J. (Burns Grade 4, 6:00)
There Will Come Soft Rains was commissioned by the Kent County (Delaware) Music Educators Association for the KCMEA 2016 High School Honor Band Festival. The work is inspired by a poem of the same title written by American poet Sara Teasdale:
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
Written in 1920, in the aftermath of The Great War (World War I), the poem reflects Teasdale’s musings about the passage of time after a global cataclysm. In the near future, nature rights itself and returns to normal after suffering the ravages of war. But Teasdale extends her imagination much further into the far-distant future when the whole of mankind is but a memory. And nature remains blissfully unaware of our ever having existed. The music is not intended as a line-by-line sonic representation of the poem, but rather is my attempt to convey my general impressions of the overall impact of Teasdale’s words. There are, however, some direct parallels between the poem and the music: the violent entrances of the snares combined with fanfare-like passages in the introduction allude to war; the high woodwind and trumpet line at measure 45 refer to singing birds; and the final section (measure 106 to the end) refers to the peaceful awakening of Spring. In a larger sense, the music is simply a means to convey my impression of Sara Teasdale’s view of what the world was – and might become – in the wake of “The War to End All Wars”.
by Samuel R. Hazo (Grade 4, 6:54)
Dedicated to the memory of Matthew Shiner, Professor Emeritus Brass Studies, Duquesne University, To Be was posthumously commissioned by Dr. Edward Kocher, Dean of the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University and conducted in its premiere by Dr. Robert Cameron, Director of Bands. The premiering ensemble was the Duquesne University Wind Symphony with recitation by Dr. Samuel J. Hazo. The composition includes a poem of the same title by Dr. Hazo, father of the composer, friend and colleague of Professor Shiner, and first and only Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania.
by Patrick J. Burns (Grade 4, 4:30)
Transformed Spring was commissioned by the Montclair State University Wind Symphony, directed by Dr. Thomas McCauley, for its 2009-2010 concert season. This piece is essentially an expression of the endurance of the human sprit through adversity and personal trial. It was inspired by my research into a memorial commission which I based on a line from The Prayer of Saint Benedict, “Always we begin again.”
The human soul is on a path of constant renewal and regeneration which is reflected in Transformed Spring’s lyric and dramatic metamorphosis from E minor to E major. There are many personal elements of my own life in this piece, most especially my walks in solitude on the beach at night as a younger man. These meditative and reflective times live in my memory today and I recall them frequently. The trombone portamenti, which become more and more prominent as the piece evolves, are a sort of sigh from the past which inevitably leads us over the horizon to our future.
I admit that it is extremely difficult for me to put into words what this piece means to me, but I am hopeful that the music will communicate what I really mean. It is a highly personal piece which is meant to be taken personally by everyone who hears it.
by Anthony O’Toole (Grade 4+, 5:30)
Up was completed in the spring of 2013. I had this piece on my ‘back burner’ so to speak for months prior and hadn’t really had the time to sit down and develop it the way I’d like. But the framework was there. And when a colleague contacted me about a new piece, I knew I had to finish it. So after a few days of hard work I had completed the piece. This composition was initially inspired by a picture of hot air balloons I saw; I’ve always enjoyed hot air balloons, the way they float in the sky and the bright colors of the balloons.
The work is a study of sorts in contrast and harmony, although those two elements are not the only focus. Up spins together beautiful melodies, fresh harmonies, a relentless ostinato, whimsical solos, and moments of pure exaltation and affirmation. On a personal level, Up was written at a time when my career was beginning to flourish before my eyes and it seemed like everything was going my way for a change. My music was being performed regularly and I had gained the respect of a lot of musicians and composers that I had idolized only a few years ago as a teenager (and whom I still idolize!). To me gaining this respect and being seen as a serious artist and musical colleague was one of the high points of my life. The thrill of seeing your dreams come true and your hard work and dedication to craft paying off is a personal joy unsurpassed by any other in my life. And this piece, while inspired by hot air balloons, also perfectly depicts the exhilaration I felt those early months of 2013 – On top of the world!
VARIATIONS ON THE “SOLID ROCK”
by Jack Stamp (Grade 4, 5:15)
While sitting in church, I listened to my wife play a prelude on “The Solid Rock.” Embarrassed to say, I spent most of the service singing (in my head) motives from the hymn tune and ways to manipulate the melody. This all coincided with a commission from the Viewmount High School Band (Bountiful, UT) and their conductor, Dan Chaston. The work was premiered on April 20, 2016 and is dedicated to my wife, LeAnn, who is my “solid rock”.
— Jack Stamp
Vignettes for Solo Euphonium and Band
by Patrick J. Burns (Band: Grade 4 — Soloist: Grade 5, 10:00)
The great British composer Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006) devoted a significant part of his career writing music for his friends and colleagues in the music world. He once said, “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.” It’s this very sentiment that has animated my long musical and personal relationship with the Ridgewood Concert Band, and which inspired the creation of this piece.
VIGNETTES was commissioned by – and is dedicated to – the RCB, Chris Wilhjelm, and euphonium soloist John Palatucci, and the consortium of ensembles which have contributed to the cost involved in the piece’s creation. In May 2016, after the successful premier performances nationwide of my RHAPSODY for Solo Clarinet and Band, John asked me, “So, when are you going to write something for euphonium?” Not long after that initial conversation I started to work.
VIGNETTES is exactly what the title implies: a series of short musical scenes in which the euphonium reveals certain elements of its character and personality, with the active assistance of the band. The listener may draw some comparisons to a concerto (though the piece really isn’t one) in that the two elements – soloist and band – remain of equal importance to each other throughout the duration of the work. There are six sections to the piece which connect to each other seamlessly; there are no pauses between each section, as in a traditional multi-movement work:
WAVES is based on undulating, sweeping figures which introduce the piece and develop briefly from there. GYMNASTIC (no “S” on the end!) is a movement introduced by the soloist’s first real technical challenge, with leaping triplet figures and angular melodies. A WORD IN PRIVATE – a very brief passage which may be likened to a short cadenza – is the only section of the piece in which the voice of the euphonium speaks alone. After a few intonations of a D#, which is sort of suspended in time, the soloist leads us into the LULLABY, which is the longest single section of the work in terms of playing time. The music here is at once tender and dramatic; bittersweet and peaceful. A BRIEF REFLECTION functions as a brief coda to the lullaby during which the band plays a series of chords around a melody played by the solo bassoon and solo horn, in unison. The soloist weaves in another line related to the others and they settle peacefully in F major – though not for long. The timpani is quick to interrupt the calm with a brash and brief solo which introduces the TOCCATA, the final movement of the work, in which everyone has some sort of technical display to show off. All the bravado and fireworks lead to a big (and hopefully satisfying) conclusion.