Jesus Loves the Little Children is a fresh interpretation of the beloved children’s song set as a choral anthem. New text, based on several gospel stories of Christ’s interaction with children, complements and extends C.H. Woolston’s poetry to charge the church with caring for these little ones. Amid heightened emphases on our differences in recent days, Woolston’s text came to mind as a pithy and poignant means to remind ourselves to look at each other through Christ’s eyes. And, if we do so, we will regard, not one another’s immutable external characteristics but, the imago Dei (image of God) common in us all. This music is meant to bring us toward this perspective through contemplation on how precious all the little ones, red and yellow, black and white, are in His eyes.
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.
CONJUNCTION interprets the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn near the end of the year 2020 as a celestial metaphor for the good news of Christ’s birth in a replay of the Star of Bethlehem. Hence, its subtitle of “The Christmas Star of 2020.” The music, along with narration from selected Old and New Testament scriptures, delivers a message of hope amid the turmoil and chaos of current times.
It’s written for smaller concert bands hungry for challenging music. Ample cues and doubling allow for flexible instrumentation while mixed meters, varying tempos and textures, and interesting solo lines provide opportunities for your musicians to display their “chops.”
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.