8 Ball is an exploration of the emotional swings of grief — shock and sorrow, emptiness and isolation, pain and finality — mixed with wistful, treasured memories recognizing the blessing of sharing life with a loved one, and added to this the hope of eternal reunion. It’s written in memory of my brother, Tex, who we lost to COVID in 2020. In homage to his passion, dirt track racing, there is a contrasting section of paint-swapping, fender-bending frenzy, which comes to an all too sudden end as did his life. The title has nothing to do with billiards but refers to his long-tenured racing number and logo. The music uses unconventional scales which are actually six-tone pitch sets treated as different key centers that produce a lush mixture of consonance and dissonance that at turns feel comforting and unsettling. Writing 8 Ball was a cathartic experience to explore my own emotions, cement my brother’s proper place in my memories, and produce a tangible expression of my love for him. It was written as an assignment in the 2023 summer composition workshop at Tarrant County College. I’m grateful to my instructor, Dr. Aaron Kline, the music department at TCC, and the musicians of our performing quartet for their part in bringing this music to life.
Looking for a sacred bassoon solo? Well, you’ve found it! Utilizing the melody from Morning Has Broken(the traditional Gaelic tune BUNESSAN) A Hymn of Beginnings presents a familiar yet fresh treatment of the tune in this setting for solo bassoon and piano. Suitable as a prelude, postlude, offertory, meditative, or other functions in a sacred service it is also at home in a recital or concert program.
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.
At the Cross is a simple arrangement of the beloved hymn with fresh and poignant harmonies. Set for SATB choir with piano accompaniment, it is moderately easy but rewarding of good musicianship. The light, delicate accompaniment directs the focus onto the text while providing the perfect amount of color and interest. It allows a choir to show artistic merit without enduring exhaustive preparation. This arrangements portrays the traditional first and fifth stanzas of Isaac Watts’ hymn with a statement of an amended version of Ralph Hudson’s gospel refrain.
It was one of those accidents where you find something useful when you’re looking for something else. While reading on the nature of worship, a particular blog article ended with Adoniram Judson’s early 19th Century baptismal poem, “Come Holy Spirit, Dove Divine.” The flowing text called out (at least to me!) for a musical setting. Accordingly, some melodic and harmonic ideas began to percolate in my thoughts. However, before getting very far along in writing a tune, there were two surprises in store. First many others had already set the text to music before (with a multitude of tunes) going back to at least 1833. Second, despite being a Baptist for over forty years, I discovered that this hymn has been in the Baptist Hymnal since 1956 yet I have no recollection of every singing it! Well, chagrined at my ignorance, I carried on writing a new melody and harmony for this deserving text. I sought to make it friendly to congregational singers while still containing rich and sing-able harmonies and so aimed for a four-part hymn-style form. However, as I suspect my ignorance of the hymn is a common condition, a fresh and modern tune which would be at home in varied musical styles and have popular appeal was also pursued. The result is a delightful and uplifting tune, easy to sing, with an optimistic and forward momentum, commensurate with the meaning of believers’ baptism, “Buried with Him in baptism; raised to walk in new life.” The music is flexible in application to many church music styles: praise team and band, choir and organ, congregation and piano, or mix and match to fit your needs. May you find Come,Holy Spirit, Dove Divine, singing a much needed text, a means for your congregation to joyfully join with new believers in celebration of their baptism!