Concert Overture, "Of Prayer and Praise"

When the Alexandria Symphony (Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.A., Kim Kluge, Conductor) requested a concert overture dedicated to the memory of my friend and colleague, Russell Woollen, I knew the way to proceed.  I would be open and express the grief of loss, write this sadness, and then get on to celebrating his memory.  I then knew the source for the work's first half.  Farewell is an anthem that first appeared in American hymnals in the early 19th Century: it has a quality of lamentation that is quite extraordinary in its expressiveness.  Spirituality was a fundamental element of Russell's life, and the symbolism of the hymnal's use enhances the work's dimension.  I selected fragments from just one other hymn from which to construct the remaining body of the work.  Olney spoke to me of both the intense radiance and the ineffable lightness that goes with the sureness of step, nearly a march, toward a preordained place.  With this hymn I took several risks,  using short, literal fragments at climactic junctures.  I even ended the composition with a near quote.  I use the word "risk" because I had known Russell to wince at obvious references.

This is a composition built not only from our music's components, but also from our music's history - the symbolism of it.  The work thus applies a broader meaning, a deeper reverberation: to attempt to speak with relevance in the present using an American language forge from elements of our character.  It speaks to us, yes, but also for us.  This work went on win The Louisville Prize, an international competitionsponsored by the University of Indiana, Terre Haute.  Duration: 6' 50".

 

Theme and Variations

This is also a short piece, five minutes in length.  It was requested by the conductor John Eells, formally of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Community Orchestra.  The recording presented here is a realization by Jack Rametta of StarTrek Studios in Warwick, Rhode Island.  This piece is the second movement of a projected four movement symphony.  Until the other movements are completed it will have to stand on its own, which it does quite nicely.  Duration: 5'.