From the lone asphalt ribbon crossing the Hellroaring Plateau, a landmass on the northeast extremity of the Absaroka mountain range straddling the Montana-Wyoming border, one may note a distant narrow peak rising to the sky like a bear’s lower canine. Appropriately known as The Bear’s Tooth, this 300 foot pyramidal spire rises from the flank of Beartooth Mountain to a height of 11, 920 feet. It’s set amid stunning vistas stretching over a hundred miles lying underneath indigo skies with clouds seemingly within one’s grasp. Thus, the Bear’s Tooth earns its place as the inspiration and namesake for this movement of the Absaroka Suite, The Beartooth. The music is less programmatic than the other movements of the suite. To put it in other words the music doesn’t tell a story. Rather, developing themes introduced in Eastern Ascent, it reflects emotions sparked by the alpine landscape: wonder and awe at the massive landforms, a sense of life, freedom, and spaciousness amid the big skies and clear air polished with serenity in nature’s reflection of its Creator’s glory. The landscape’s heights and verticality are represented with persistently rising and contrastingly plunging motives. Bold punctuations evoke the awe of such a vast expanse. The cantering main theme expresses sensations of freedom, danger, and smallness, so unfamiliar to we technologically immersed, which must have been the staple diet of early explorers and natives in this land, lying much as it has for millennia. The theme’s upward leaps portray the peak’s sudden rising. The closing, fittingly marked “Serene,” imparts the utter peace one feels having come to know such an extraordinary place, to agree with the writer of Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”
Andaluza, taken from Manuel de Falla’s piano suite Cuatro Piezas Españolas, is aimed at the mainstream high school band in the United States at the grade 4 level. Boisterous tuttis, intimate solos, and passionate melodies make for an engaging excursion into Spanish folk music that allows students to explore the adventurous harmonies of de Falla’s impressionistic vocabulary. The variety of colors and energy available in the modern concert band amplify the life, drama, and humanity de Falla poured into his piano version. Andaluza will thus prove a thrill for both performers and audience as it celebrates this life, drama, and humanity.
Soprano Sax is called for on an expressive solo but is fully cued in oboe. The absence of this instrument need not prevent an integral performance of the music.
Optional parts are provided for Eb Clarinet, Treble Clef Baritone, and Double Bass for those bands having these available.
Jesus Loves the Little Children is a fresh interpretation of the beloved children’s song set as a choral anthem. New text, based on several gospel stories of Christ’s interaction with children, complements and extends C.H. Woolston’s poetry to charge the church with caring for these little ones. Amid heightened emphases on our differences in recent days, Woolston’s text came to mind as a pithy and poignant means to remind ourselves to look at each other through Christ’s eyes. And, if we do so, we will regard, not one another’s immutable external characteristics but, the imago Dei (image of God) common in us all. This music is meant to bring us toward this perspective through contemplation on how precious all the little ones, red and yellow, black and white, are in His eyes.
A Prayer of Beauty is a re-imagining of “America, the Beautiful” written for professional, college, or advanced high school brass quartet. Independent lines, mixed meters, and adventurous harmonies will challenge musicians. But the familiar melody, rich colors, and glowing resolutions provide a delectable reward for the effort. The pathos, introspection, and hope found in the music will also leave listeners feeling enriched for the experience.
The music’s message is timely and urgent and works well for programming as commentary on current events but is also sufficiently broad and deep to complement varied concert themes. It has sufficient artistic merit to hold its own with other art music while still holding wide audience appeal.