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.
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.
It Is Not Death to Die, is a setting of French poet Henri Abraham César Malan’s Non, ce n’est pas mourir as translated by George Washington Bethune. This text first came to my attention through Dan Wells’ choral arrangement of Bob Kauflin’s popular setting. Although Kauflin’s treatment of the text is lovely and effective I sensed that there were still depths of Malan’s poetry to be probed, especially the tension between the Christian’s certain transition into eternal bliss and the inevitability of tasting death. This moved me to attempt a fresh musical setting that captures the mixture of dread and hope borne out in the acclamation that “death is swallowed up in victory!”
If you have an adventurous church choir or advanced academic singers you’ll want to consider using this setting of It Is Not Death to Die, with deep pathos in its musical progression that matches the text’s narrative, in your upcoming programming. Available with orchestra (this version) or piano accompaniment, It Is Not Death to Die makes a fitting close to the Easter season, or is suitable for Ascension Sunday, funeral, memorial service, or any time in the church year to remind Christians of the central hope of our faith, eternal life in Christ. Its artistic treatment of humanity’s universal appointment with death works as a moving component of a concert program as well.
Make His Praise a Glorious Thing is a new setting of the English language’s great doxology from the pen of Thomas Ken. It builds on his words with references to the Psalms’ multitude of exhortations to exuberantly praise God in manifold ways with glorious praise. The character of the piece reflects this with a joyous and spirited aesthetic above a driving tempo. The text also juxtaposes our contemporary praises within the historic stream of doxologies from saints past and future as a precursor to the eternal, magnificent, and heavenly doxologies portrayed in Revelation 5 and 7. The melody correspondingly has roots in the traditional Old 100th Psalm tune as well, although it will take a keen ear to catch it.
Although set for SATB choir, it is hoped that this accessible melody will find a place in your congregational singing also. Make His Praise a Glorious Thing is a wonderful call to worship, responsorial, or sacred concert opening or closing.