An original work of epic scope and dramatic tone, with strong roots in both the Romantic and cinematic styles. Memorable themes are woven together with bold textures to create a transcendent listening experience.
The third movement of Symphony no. 1 was selected for the 2017 Young Composer and Conductor Mentor Project through the National Band Association, featuring a performance by the United States Air Force Band.
Concert Band | Grade 6 | 40:00
Performance materials for the full symphony are available on J.W. Pepper:
The finale (13:30) is also available for purchase as a stand alone performance piece:
About the piece
Symphony No. 1 developed from three short themes I composed during my undergraduate studies at Concordia College. Of the three tunes, the sprightly opening of what is now the second movement emerged first; the primary themes for each of the first and third movements were separate attempts at crafting a slow introduction to complement it. I knew they warranted a larger treatment than I could initially give them, and I kept them in my sketchbook for several years until the time was right. That opportunity came in the form of my final composition project at the University of New Hampshire, and over the course of a year the piece grew from the original sketch to its full realization. As it stands now, each theme intersects and morphs into the other two, and the symphony truly comprises one interconnected whole rather than three complementary, yet separate, movements.
While the piece is quite evocative of many different emotions, visions, and scenarios, there is only one intentional extra-musical element. This occurs in the second movement and is ideally the emotional centerpiece of the entire work. The second movement is a rondo form, in ABACABA (where A is the primary theme, in three highly contrasting moods; B is a meditative chorale – first stated in part, then in full; and C is a preview of a moment yet to come). The chorale (B) is an instrumental statement of the Lord’s Prayer, where each articulation in the melody directly corresponds to one syllable of the text. When composing the piece I used the following variation:
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name;
Thy kingdom come; thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever.
The first instance of this chorale is in G-flat major and only reaches the line “on earth as it is in heaven” before transitioning to the next “A” section. The second instance contains the full prayer and emerges from the moment of greatest tension in the entire symphony. It begins in a somber C minor, and horn calls from the first movement interject after “hallowed be thy name.” The text continues, and gradually more sonorities add to the initial low brass texture. An oboe solo joins at “lead us not into temptation,” and most of the instruments are present for the final crescendo at “thine is the kingdom.” The entire ensemble reaches a triumphant E-flat major on “forever” before returning to a more somber, reflective mood to conclude the prayer.
My first entry into the symphonic world displays many cinematic influences, both in scope and in tone. In the spirit of Mendelssohn and other composers who wrote “songs without words,” a fitting epithet for the piece might be “score without film.” There’s definitely a narrative here, but it is one that neither words nor images can unravel. Rather, it is a journey to take, a place to go and explore. From intimate to cosmic, from delicate to overwhelming, this sort of music speaks for itself in ways that are simultaneously ineffable and specific.
Symphony no. 1 was premiered May 4th, 2016 by the University of New Hampshire Wind Symphony, Andrew Boysen, Jr. conducting.
Any ensemble with interest in commissioning the choral edition of Symphony no. 1 should contact the composer.
Request a free score for perusal.
Click to view a performance excerpt by the CCM Wind Symphony, Kevin Michael Holzman conducting. November 28, 2017: