Near the end of his career, Erik Satie wrote five pieces for piano designated as nocturnes. Contrary to most of his oeuvre, these five pieces lack the satire, wit, and non-conformity Satie usually exhibited. Still, they are unmistakably Satie: soothing,floating, and very French. This work is a straightforward arrangement of Satie’s 4th Nocturne, applying the color and dynamic ranges of the orchestra to his piano writing while maintaining the enchanting dance-like character of the original work.
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.
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.
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!