The Hellroaring Plateau is a landmass on the northeast extremity of the Absaroka mountain range straddling the Montana-Wyoming border. Its relatively flat topography and high elevation lead to intense winds and unpredictable storms bestowing the plateau’s colorful moniker. Contrary to the title, the music reflects a compilation of impressions from multiple visits over a decade’s time, gathered with my son’s first-hand reports of overnight stays, rather than a single day’s experience. My original objective for the music was to portray the stark and stony landscape alternatively caressed and buffeted in a stew of breezes and gales, sunshine and storms. However, as I was writing the piece it became apparent the true theme of the music is rather a daily high-altitude drama between light and darkness, a drama staged on the plateau’s rocks, meadows, streams, and lakes depicting a perpetually shifting kaleidoscope of distinctive lighting unlike any I have experienced elsewhere. The transparent, thin air reveals indigo blue skies and scalding-white clouds overarching stunning vistas stretching a hundred miles or more. The landscape glitters under the radiance of high-latitude sunlight. The only word I can think of to describe the golden glow of sunbeams slicing through a summer snow squall is ethereal. The utter absence of artificial light makes for the darkest night skies and brightest stars one can experience on earth.
Of course, it is impossible, or at least beyond my meager skills, to capture all of this in a few minutes of music. Still, the lasting impression this singular example of creation has made on my heart compels me to make the attempt. I hope the result lets you experience at least a touch of the sensation of being there.
concert band realization by Evensong Productions, Inc.
For Concert Band
Prepare for a dramatic musical journey along one of America’s most beautiful backroads, the Beartooth Highway. Eastern Ascent takes a white-knuckled climb from the lush forest floor of Rock Creek Canyon up steep switchbacks past sheer 2,000 foot drops to the highway’s summit amid the alpine tundra at 10, 947 feet of elevation. The music’s tension matches the roadway’s rising elevation in incremental shifts from calm sonorities to raucously intense dissonances. Brief roadside respites appear as islands of quiet lyricism. The band unites in jubilant exultation as it depicts the extraordinary other worldliness and wildness viewed at the highway’s peak. Listen for hints of the motive from the classic hymn tune HAMBURG in the respites and in the climax. Eastern Ascent is set for large scale concert band or wind ensemble and is suitable for advanced high school and higher players. Purchase price includes full score and set of parts.
Foundation is part of my Americana Miniature series of early American hymns and folk songs. These are short and fairly simple settings of well-known American music intended for church or community venues and are playable by intermediate level musicians. Foundation is set for trombone or low brass quartet with rich harmonies, varied meters, and melodic interest in all parts.
In 1861, the sight of Northern troops assembling in Washington, D.C. inspired Julia Ward Howe to pen the words to The Battle Hymn of the Republic, which begins, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.” Although originally intended to stimulate patriotic fervor, the text’s potent depiction of biblical themes – God’s certain and final defeat of evil, the looming eternal judgment of all souls, Christ’s atonement on our behalf, and a clear call to sacrificial evangelism – the work became prominent in many American hymnals. As summer approaches with the major American holidays of Memorial and Independence Days you may be seeking appropriate music to use in recognition of God’s providence and sovereignty. Here is one option for you, my arrangement of Ward’s hymn titled Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, set for trombone/low brass quartet. It’s a short piece, suitable for prelude, offertory, postlude, or other moments in your service, or would make a marvelous addition to a patriotic service or a summer bandstand concert. It is accessible and enjoyable for intermediate and higher level musicians. With rich harmonies and shifting colors, a twist on the traditional meter, and variations in tempo, it is a delight to the ears that underscores the implications of the unvoiced lyrics.
Some would say Oh, Shenandoah is the quintessential American folk song. But almost everything about the song is clouded in confusion and obscurity. When was is written? No one knows. It was first published in 1882 but is almost certainly much older than that. What is it about? Many people associate it with the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia but its lyrics repeatedly refer to the Missouri River which is hundreds of miles from Virginia. Many think that Shenandoah was an Indian chieftain and the song is about a love-sick frontiersman pining for the chieftain’s unnamed daughter. Whatever the case, it’s a song Americans love to hear and to sing. So, when looking for a traditional American tune to arrange for trombone quartet, Oh, Shenandoah was a very natural choice. Listen to this colorful and emotive arrangement for trombone/low brass quartet and see if images of the American countryside don’t spring to mind!