OK, to answer your first question, call it “suh-JEE-nuh.” Rhymes with Regina. This arrangement is a colorful and moving setting of the Charles Wesley hymn, “And Can It Be,” for traditional orchestra. The beauty of the music, the prominence of the familiar tune, and the text painting of Wesley’s poignant lyrics will find immediate acceptance in the hearts of its hearers. Aside from frequently shifting asymmetrical meters the difficulty level is very basic yet your musicians should still find it interesting and fulfilling to play.
In 1825, Thomas Campbell published a collection of twenty-three tunes under the title of The Bouquet. Campbell gave each of these tunes the name of a botanical species. One, titled SAGINA, was named for the family of flowering plants that includes baby’s breath and carnations.
Almost a century ealier, in 1738, Charles Wesley wrote six stanzas for his hymn titled “And Can it Be” as a reflection on his conversion to Christianity. By the mid-twentieth century, Campbell’s tune had become irrevocably wedded to Wesley’s verse in Christian hymnody. Two of Wesley’s stanzas along with the refrain, shown below, were chosen as inspiration for the music in this arrangement of the classic hymn tune.
Three accommodations make the music more accessible to church and community orchestras. First, important passages are liberally cued to keep the music workable even without full instrumentation. Second, several optional parts for band instruments are provided to allow current and former band musicians take part beside your orchestra players. And third, the piano/synthesizer part doubles key passages from most of the less common instruments such as harp, vibraphone and chimes.
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.
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.
For SATB Chorus, Clarinet, Timpani, Percussion, Piano, Cello
There are 150 psalms in the Bible, each one originally meant to be sung; and so they were for most of the last 3,000 years, beginning at the Jerusalem Temple. They were adopted as the primary song text of the early church as evidenced by Col. 3:16 and 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. Of late, hymns and choruses and popular songs with human texts have almost entirely replaced the singing of God’s word in many churches. This scarcity of Psalms in the Church’s song is a great loss which frequently motivates me to promote their increase. Thus, THIRTEEN , one member of my first suite of new Psalm settings, is offered as a to help bring the Psalms back into modern worship.
The thirteenth Psalm holds a complaint, a petition, and a confession of faith and the music of THIRTEEN portrays each with text painting appropriate to the psalmist’s words. A staggering timpani ostinato buffets away beneath the choir’s tripartite “how long” complaint, followed by a dissonant recitative petition which transitions through shimmering tonal clusters into a joyful, major-key, confession of faith blended with a NT perspective from Eph. 3:20-21.
THIRTEEN is challenging music, both in music and message, but for the adventurous music department it provides the opportunity to plumb the depths of scripture with artistry worthy of the rich heritage of Psalmody to use music to express the full message of God’s revelation. THIRTEEN is fitting to program liturgically as a musical exposition of the Psalm or in a sacred or secular concert setting. The very light orchestration complements the vocal performance with rich instrumental color without overwhelming the voices.
David’s Kyrie is a setting of selected verses from Psalm 51. It is a challenging piece suited for advanced choirs in an academic or concert setting or for adventurous ensembles in sacred services. It mixes ancient and modern forms and sonorities to depict the contrition, repentance, absolution, and salvation portrayed in the psalm, juxtaposing medieval chant with Whitacre-esque clusters and dissonances. In structure, David’s Kyrie roughly follows the Kyrie of the Christian mass and even borrows a melodic line from a medieval Kyrie.
The heading for Psalm 51 states that it is “For the director of music ” underscoring the fact that all 150 psalms in the Bible were meant to be sung, as they have been for most of the last 3,000 years. It is my hope that David’s Kyrie will be an encouragement to continue that great heritage.