Benediction for Orchestra

Simple yet soulfully bittersweet adagio, suitable as a farewell or memorial. For orchestra, begins with celli in three-part harmony before swelling to the full string choir. The woodwinds feature in a contrasting section, which gives way to a return of the main theme in the full orchestra. The work closes with a gently rising solo line shared by the trumpet and trombone. Originally written for brass choir.

Orchestra | Grade 4 | 5:00

Performance materials available from J.W. Pepper:

Sound file also available for streaming and download on Bandcamp:

About the piece

I wrote Benediction in 2012 while at Concordia College. In practice it was to function as a closing piece for my senior composition recital, but symbolically it grew into a token of farewell to my friends in the music department, to whom I had become very close over the preceding four years. Since it followed my capstone work Tetra on the program, I decided to orchestrate it for the same large brass choir voicing.

Although musically uncomplicated, the piece seeks to convey a deeply bittersweet sense. Indeed, my goal was to find an intersection between ultimate simplicity and great emotional impact. The melody, such as it is, is little more than the rise and fall of a scale, but the harmonies and dynamics render it much more compelling listening than the basic theory would suggest. The form is straightforward as well, essentially a long ballad (AABA), with a coda of plagal cadences evoking the “amen” at the close of a hymn.

“Benediction” is a Latin-derived word for an expression of good wishes, especially as a closing prayer in a religious context. Possibly the most famous example is the Aaronic Benediction from Numbers 6:24-26, which has been set numerous times for choral and liturgical use. One of these settings, by Peter C. Lutkin, was sung by the Concordia Band to close all of their domestic tour concerts. Its title (and opening line of text) is “The Lord Bless You and Keep You”. The ascending trumpet and trombone line at the very end of the piece is designed to be an instrumental rendition of this text.

Benediction was premiered on April 15th, 2012 by the Concordia Brass Choir, the composer conducting.

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