2012 was a tremendous year of writing for me. Choral works, wind ensemble, suite for solo violin, an exploration of Cole Porter’s music, and the finale, setting the text of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to original music. This included three World Premieres. Some of the music is posted on this page, with a brief description of the music, thoughts behind the music, and the remarkably talented musicians with whom I shared the stage.
I was invited by Dr. Stephen L. Gage, Director of Bands at the Dana School of Music of Youngstown State University to be Artist in Residence, Guest Conductor with the Dana Wind Ensemble and also to work with Dr. Hae-Jong Lee, Professor of Voice and Director of Dana Chorale and University Chorus. Quite frankly, I could list every known superlative and still not adequately describe the brilliant musicianship and sterling leadership qualities of these two people. With that, here is what we were about:
The “Packard Concert Band” is located in Warren, Ohio. Dr. Stephen L. Gage is the conductor. This is a magnificent ensemble comprised of the best of the best. It’s always an interesting experience writing for, or guest conducting with the Packard Band, as they are comprised of folks with whom I attended high school, college and some who were on the faculty at the Dana School of Music when I was a student. The Executive Director of the Packard Band is Mr. Thomas A. Groth. I did my student teaching for Tom at Boardman High School, Boardman, Ohio in 1975. Tom is a great saxophone instrumentalist, educator, conductor and he possesses extraordinary organizational skills. I will, in the very near future, have some sound files from the Packard Band which will include their superb vocalist, Ms. Helen Welch.
“Foundations:” I love hymns because of their simplicity. Used as thematic material, they lend themselves to great melodic, harmonic, rhythmic and form development. This particular hymn, “How Firm a Foundation” is actually an early American melody later harmonized as a hymn. I chose French Horns to first state the theme because I was a horn major at the Dana School of Music, which is my foundation. The first three notes of the hymn in the original key of Ab are; Eb, F and Ab. This same interval relationship is used in the development throughout the composition. Dr. Steve Gage did a magnificent job of preparing “Foundations” with the Dana Wind Ensemble. As guest conductor, all I had to do was step up on the podium and enjoy it all!
Blood of Gettysburg
“Blood of Gettysburg:” The Dana Chorale, University Chorus, Chamber Winds, Percussion and pianist premiered “Blood of Gettysburg” under the direction of Dr. Hae-Jong Lee. I scored it for chorus, piano, 2 flutes, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, oboe, English Horn, 2 bassoons, acoustic bass, field drum with snares off, bass drum, timpani, vibes and suspended cymbal. (Winds are one-on-a-part.)
What is “Blood of Gettysburg” about? In reading about the Civil War over the past many years, I tried to find out how many lives were lost during that war. The number that keeps surfacing is “well over 600,000 lives lost.” A direct quote from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” in my humble opinion begs the question; in light of all the blood spilled and lives lost at Gettysburg, the other horrific battles during the Civil War and indeed, all the bloodshed and lives lost by Americans during struggles for rights and freedoms in the ensuing years in our country, “how far have we really come in terms of real freedom?” How far do we yet have to go?
Dr. Hae-Jong Lee in his preparation of this composition elicits a profound depth of feeling and meaning that is very poignant.
One Hundred Eighty Seven
“One Hundred Eighty Seven” was my first commission by the New England Wind Symphony. Late in the summer of 2009, the conductor and musical director of the New England Wind Symphony, “Skip” Poole called me and asked if I would consider the short story “Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) as the theme for a Christmas composition for the group. The composition would be written for wind ensemble, Ms. Kathleen Lyon-Pingree, harp; Mr. Benjamin Bloomfield, bass-baritone voice and Ms. Stephanie Kruskol, soprano voice. I thought about it and quickly accepted the challenge. The story begins with the narrator of the story saying “one dollar and eighty seven cents.” “That’s all there was.” Of course, that’s all the money that “Della” had to buy a Christmas gift for her husband “Jim.” We know the story and how it eventually plays out. The real challenge was, what to use as motivic material. The answer was in the first three words of the story. Translated to “One Hundred Eighty Seven” cents, I used those number “1-8-7” as the motif. Thus, tonic, octave and major seventh became the basis for the song.
A Christmas Carol
I’m extremely fortunate to write for a wonderful ensemble based in Concord, New Hampshire, the New England Wind Symphony. The conductor and musical director is Mr. Clayton J. Poole and he is an outstanding conductor. He first called me in the fall of 2009 to write original music based on “The Gift of the Magi,” the short story written by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter). He commissioned me to do the music for it, we performed it and we have, ever since, had a wonderful musical relationship and great friendship. He has never discussed with me, what is to be on the score, but rather, here is our audience, let them be your guide. It works!
At the end of the Christmas Concert of 2011, Clayton, or actually, Skip as he prefers, asked if I would consider editing the text of “A Christmas Carol” and setting it to a mixture of original and traditional music. The target time for the text was to be about 25 minutes. Charles Dickens had a short version of the book that he used during his recitations in various cities which was about two and a half hours long. Ours would be two hours shorter. Never being one to turn down a challenge, I said “SURE” let’s go for it. The marvelous narrator, Ms. Laura Knoy did the recitation honors.
Improvisations for Flute, Vibraphone, Piano & Concert Band
A newly commissioned composition, which will be performed by The United States Navy Band on their 2009 National Tour.
Tre Canzone Italiana
Renowned Euphonium artist Roger Behrend asked me to write a feature for him to perform on national tour. I chose Leoncavallo’s Mattinata, Puccini’s Musetta’s Waltz and Verdi’s Libiamo. Determined to deliver more than "just a transcription,” I altered much of the harmonic concept and gave each song its own development as a vehicle for Roger's virtuosity. This was recently performed at the 2009 Tuba Euphonium Conference. Here is an excerpt from a 2006 recording of The United States Navy Band performing "Tre Canzone Italiana" featuring Euphonium soloist, Roger L. Behrend.
French Horn Feature
Here is an excerpt from an arrangement that features the French Horn section with concert band.
Laura’s Wedding Processional
When our daughter Laura was to be married, I was honored to compose her
wedding processional. I wrote a brass quintet with organ processional. No recording
survived the onslaught of festivities. However, this is me playing the organ part and a
synthesized brass quintet is set along with it.
United States Navy Band Opener
When asked to write a new opener for the band, I had no idea in which direction to go. I had been listening to a lot of Copland and James Newton Howard. My decision was guided by their influences. The opener is still in use today.
Remembrance and Prelude
Composed in honor of CAPT Ralph M. Gambone, USN, RET, for his retirement ceremony. The above sample is not the complete piece, but a compilation from different sections.
The Stars and Stripes Forever
When asked by the leader of the Navy Band to write a “different” ending to Sousa's “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” I had a moment of disbelief and then decided to accept the challenge. It would be the final selection of the band’s 2007 concert at the Mid-West Band and Orchestra Convention in Chicago, IL. “Oh by the way," he added, "since this is the 125th anniversary of Percy Grainger’s birth, whatever you write needs to reflect that.” Tall challenge.
After the piccolos played their solo, the SRO crowd clapped and started leaving to avoid the rush. When the band embarked on the new ending, audience members looked at each other thinking (and probably saying,) “what the……..” They looked at their programs to see if they’d missed anything and sat down, disbelief on their faces. When the horn section nailed the Grainger quote to the wall, the audience “got it” and the place went crazy. The ending applause said it all.
Make sure you listen to the entire march to get the full effect.