Scherzo No. 1in C-minor is a short, rapid-fire, and light-hearted piano solo for nimble fingers. Despite the minor key-center, the heavy syncopation, headlong tempo (allegro furioso!), and brief foray into F-major, give the scherzo a happy and amusing disposition, which is fitting for scherzo’s original meaning of “musical joke.” The piece is not complex but its pace requires good dexterity to play it well at tempo. Scherzo No. 1 will provide an excellent change of pace/mood for a concert or recital program.
Fingal’s Fantasy is an original work for solo piano using three, synthesized, seven-pitch scales derived from the first three variations of the opening theme in Felix Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, better known as Fingal’s Cave. Fingal’s Fantasy is a three part work in which each section uses one of the three scales with each section appearing in a contrasting style. Mendelssohn’s original motive can be clearly heard in the treatment of the first scale and appears more heavily disguised in other sections. Despite the use of synthetic scales, the piece ends with a strong declaration of B-minor in homage to Mendelssohn’s selected key for Fingal’s Cave. Fingal’s Fantasy is only moderately difficult but will engage even advanced performers with an excursion into 21st century composition. It is suitable for concert or recital repertoire.
for:Brass Quintet (2 Bb trumpets, horn in F, trombone, tuba)
duration: approx. 3:40
This fresh setting of the Welsh tune, HYFRYDOL, works perfectly for an offertory, prelude, or devotional function. Although written for the Advent season, the multiple familiar hymns set with this tune make the piece suitable throughout the church year. It is readily performed by high school or higher musicians yet still contains sufficient variety and artistic expression to be rewarding for even advanced performers. The familiar melody is stated clearly throughout and accompanied with interesting and sonorous harmonies so as to be accessible to all audiences.
text & music:Traditional African-American Spiritual
The origins of this traditional African-American spiritual likely predate the Civil War. Since its first publishing in 1899 it has become prevalent in the hymnals of nearly every American Christian denomination. Its simple lyrics and haunting melody hardly fail to strike a personal and intimate chord within Christians as they sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Sometimes is causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”
This arrangement was set to fill a particular need. When the search for an arrangement of sacred tuba material suitable for the considerable talents of our church’s personnel produced little fruit, creating a brand new arrangement became the obvious solution. Thus, necessity and inspiration came together to produce this piece in just a few days. It makes three statements of the melody in contrasting harmonic settings, opening with polytonal language reflecting the grotesqueness and irony of man crucifying his God. The burial stanza is portrayed in a minor key with a dirge-like pulse. For the resurrection, the music moves to a major key while swelling to a climax. It closes with a nebulous tonal center and omits the final melodic phrase to leave the listener contemplating how these events often cause our hearts to tremble, tremble, tremble.
for:String Ensemble: Solo Violin, Solo Cello, Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cell, Double Bass
duration: approx. 6:00
text:Psalm 13 (adapted)
music:PICARDY, 16th Century French Song
The hymn, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” may have origins as far back as the 4th Century church, being long used both as a Christmas hymn and to focus worshippers on the mystery of the incarnation and the Eucharist. Thus, this piece is well-suited for Advent, Christmas, or any observance of communion. The tune, PICARDY, comes from a 1680 French song book.
This arrangement maintains the original melody in three contrasting settings bookended between rich sequences of tonal clusters. Solo violin makes the first statement of the melody in silvery harmonics over static chords. Solo violin and solo cello take the second statement in a contrapuntal fashion over homophonic harmonies. The third statement changes tempo and style to reflect the heavenly adoration of the Lamb portrayed in the text. Here the melody is taken by ensemble violins while solo violin adds countermelody and low strings provide a rhythmic pulse.
This arrangement is meant for players of mixed abilities. The ensemble parts are easy and intended for beginning and early music students. The solo parts are suitable for intermediate to advanced players. Thus, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is well-suited for a string studio with a range of abilities, a student-faculty group, or a typical church ensemble with a mixture of young and mature, student and professional.
MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM is an instrumental doxology (Trinitarian hymn of praise) with unique leitmotifs of adoration and praise for each member of the Trinity. God the Father is portrayed in unisons and octaves symbolizing His perfections; God the Son is portrayed in descending perfect fourths and fifths along with tritones displaying His complete divinity along with being a man of sorrows; God the Holy Spirit is set in free-flowing lines combining elements of both prior motives as if emanating from the Father and the Son.
MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM features Organ and Timpani , requiring competent musicians on both instruments, but includes characteristic and unusual colors and accents from across the percussion family. It is a moderately large work allowing development of each theme in a broad spectrum of expressions from each instrument. The work climaxes on a reharmonized quotation from the tune NICEA, better known as “Holy, Holy, Holy”, expressing worship of the Godhead as “blessed trinity.” MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM is suitable for the concert stage or for instrumental worship.
Psalm singing dates back at least to the time of King David. It was adopted as a primary musical form of the early church as evidenced by Col. 3:16 and was maintained in the Western church throughout Medieval times. Psalms were the featured texts of most of the Reformers and were the sole mode of sacred singing among the first American settlers. Unfortunately, Psalm singing became passé with 19th century revivalism and the adoption of popular music during the 20th century. THIRTEEN is one member of Robert Myers’s first suite of new Psalm settings, offered as a musical exposition of Scripture, to help the church bring Psalms back into modern worship.
The thirteenth Psalm contains a complaint, a petition, and a confession of faith in God. THIRTEEN portrays each of these sections with text painting appropriate to the psalmist’s words. A relentless, limping timpani beat undergirds the choir’s “how long” plea in the complaint. The petition is presented in a dissonant recitative which transitions through a shimmering tonal cluster into a joyful, major-key, confession of faith blended with a New Testament perspective from Eph. 3:20-21. THIRTEEN is moderately difficult but uses a very light orchestration in an effort to complement the vocal performance with rich instrumental color that can be easily programmed. It is well suited to advanced scholastic ensembles or adventurous church choirs.
Here’s my live recital choir creating the first performance of this work.
Psalm singing dates back at least to the time of King David. It was adopted as a primary musical form of the early church as evidenced by Col. 3:16 and was maintained in the Western church throughout Medieval times. Psalms were the featured texts of most of the Reformers and were the sole mode of sacred singing among the first American settlers. Unfortunately, Psalm singing became passé with 19th century revivalism and the adoption of popular music during the 20th century. TWELVE is one member of Robert Myers’s first suite of new Psalm settings, offered as a musical exposition of Scripture, to help the church bring Psalms back into modern worship.
The brief twelfth Psalm is a lament painting a bleak scenario of utter depravity and vanishing righteousness. It could just as well have been commentary on the decline of morality in Western society. Further, rather than offering resolution to the psalmist’s lament, the Psalm merely assures that “the words of the LORD are pure words.” TWELVE attempts to capture the chaos and despair of the twelfth Psalm through open voicings, mild dissonances, hemiolas, and antiphonal sprechstimme. The psalmist’s assurance is portrayed in a contrasting section of subdued peacefulness painted with flowing themes and conventional harmonies. TWELVE is moderately difficult but uses a very light orchestration to complement the vocal performance with rich instrumental color that can be easily programmed. It is well suited to advanced scholastic ensembles or adventurous church choirs.
Here’s my live recital choir creating the first performance of this work. It’s a little rough, as we had a short time to work up the piece but this captures most of the spirit of the work:
FIRST IMPRESSIONS; ON SECOND THOUGHT is an excursion into the impressionistic world of French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel with seasonings borrowed from 20th Century pioneers such as Charles Ives and Paul Hindemith. It is set in a rondo structure where the adventurous and tonally unstable ‘A’ sections surround distinct, sweet, and lyrical passages. The work is not particularly difficult but it allows the adventurous pianist to explore unique artistic expressions that are still accessible to the casual listener. Suitable for concert stage or recital hall.
This solo piano setting of the beloved Christmas carol applies fresh and distinctive harmonies to the traditional melody. A haunting, and slightly dissonant introduction sets a contemplative mood that heralds a unique approach to the carol. Set in ABA form, the A sections contain lush harmonies and delicate lyrical phrases which contrast with the syncopated and ornamented melody of the up-tempo B section. The work is easily within the grasp of the advanced pianist without extensive rehearsal but still contains sufficient challenge to provide a rewarding experience for performer and listener alike. THE FIRST NOEL is an excellent piece for offertory, instrumental praise, candlelight service, or any occasion reflecting on the miracle of Christ’s incarnation during the Christmas season.