Works for Advanced Concert Band & Wind Ensemble

 


Common Threads (Grade 5, 8:00)Chris Werner (UN-L alumnus), Carolyn Barber (UN-L Director of Bands), Kim Archer, and Pat Dunnigan (CBDNA president) at the "Common Threads" premiere

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

YouTube Video (start at 30:20)

Perusal Score

for Carolyn Barber and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Wind Ensemble

Premiered at the 2016 North-Central CBDNA Regional Convention in Ames, IA  (download the concert program here)

Dr. Barber contacted me in August 2015 to ask if I'd compose something for the UN-L Wind Ensemble's invited performance at the 2016 CBDNA North Central Convention in Ames, IA. I was flattered and eager to get started, of course. Still, it's amazing but true that nothing shuts off my creativity spigot faster than the word "commission." It can be so much pressure!

After many false starts, I found myself sitting at a piano, banging repeatedly on an F and growling to myself, "If I play this F long enough, something has to come out of it!" (Perhaps also, "This F-ing music!") What ultimately came out was a work that meanders through many keys, meters, and styles, but is unified by the common thread of a repeated pitch. Usually it's that F, finally making good on its potential.

As the larger form and character of this music began to take shape, I realized its goofy humor, carefree spirit, and unabashed joy exactly reflected what I have seen for myself and love so much about the UN-L Wind Ensemble and their conductor, both in rehearsal and performance. Indeed, I can't recall a premiere performance where the musicians and the audience shared such fun and energy!

 


Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble (Grade 5, 29:00)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

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Concerto for Piano and Wind Ensemble was commissioned by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville: Dr. John Bell, conductor.

It was April 2007, during rehearsals for the premiere of my Symphony no. 3. The head of the consortium and my best friend, Chris Werner, asked in a quiet moment if I knew what my next project would be. I admitted feeling so fatigued it was hard to imagine composing again, but I’ve always wanted to try a piano concerto with wind ensemble. Of course it’s one of those nearly obligatory “composer benchmarks,” like writing a string quartet. Certainly, since I do not play the piano, there is an interesting challenge inherent in approaching the instrument and proving I’m capable of writing for it. Perhaps most important, though, is that the term “piano concerto” virtually always assumes “with orchestra.” I, on the other hand, find that the timbral qualities of the piano meld particularly well with wind instruments and keyboard percussion (such as the marimba and vibraphone), and that its versatility as both a melodic and percussive instrument opens a myriad of colorful possibilities.

As I began composing the first movement, a strikingly plaintive theme of equal importance to the piano emerged, which could only be for solo cello. In November 2007, Chris and I had observed rehearsals of David Maslanka’s Trombone Concerto, and were both deeply touched by the cello’s voice within the wind ensemble. At the time, I mused on what the combination of cello and euphonium (my own instrument) might sound like, tucking that away for future use. Chris, however, seemed unusually, powerfully affected. He shared with me the soundtrack to the television series Lost shortly after that, which also features the cello and piano, and commented often, emphatically, that the cello is for him the embodiment of loneliness. I realized as I continued working on that first idea for my own concerto that not only would this cello theme be the motivic foundation and the heart of the work, but also a loving acknowledgement of a shared solitude between Chris and me. It was only natural, then, to dedicate the finished concerto to him.

 

Concerto for Tuba and Wind Ensemble (Grade 5, 24:00)

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

Recording: Mvt 1  Pervertimento (score)

Recording: Mvt 2  Existential Crisis (score)

Recording: Mvt 3  Shades of Gray (score)

Recording: Mvt 4  Culmination (score)

Concerto for Tuba and Wind Ensemble was commissioned by Illinois State University: Dr. Stephen K. Steele, conductor.

Certain personality types tend to gravitate toward compatible instruments. For example, virtually all musicians know the jokes about trumpet players’ ego and competitiveness or percussionists’ low employment rate. Even conductors have a stereotypical type. What strikes me about tuba players, in particular, is that their associated personality – indeed, for every tuba player I know – is so fun-loving and down to earth.

This work was written for Andy Rummel, Assistant Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at Illinois State University. I have to admit I didn’t know Andy very well when I started composing. As I tried to form a picture of him in my mind, the person who ultimately took shape was no doubt partially Andy, but perhaps mostly my impression of “every tubist”: a wild youngster (“Pervertimento”) who reaches a critical life juncture (“Existential Crisis”). In Andy’s case, I did happen to know that his young son, Grayson, suffered several complications immediately after birth, and was frequently hospitalized. It seemed important to offer a small tribute to the little guy in the third movement (“Shades of Gray”), so the third movement is far more directly pointed to reality than the others. The story then returns to the “every tubist,” who, at then end of the journey through youth, crisis, and struggle, emerges as a mature human being: a culmination of all that he has been, now also quietly and seriously looking ahead to the future.

 


Eternal Fanfare (Grade 4, 1:05)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

Eternal Fanfare was originally written for the Bowling Green State University Trombone Choir. At the premiere performance, Director of Bands Bruce Moss mentioned that it would be a good fanfare for full wind ensemble, as well. The addition of percussion and piccolo are particularly interesting to me, since these are sounds I never considered in the trombone version.

 


Fanfare Aureus (Grade 5, 3:00)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

(Commissioned by and dedicated to the Florida State University Summer Music Camps, in honor of their 70th Anniversary)

One of my favorite expressions is “The sun rises and sets on Florida State.” However, I first set foot on the campus of my beloved alma mater not as a music major, but as a music camper – three summers now a quarter century ago.

My most vivid memory is from 1990. The Senior High Band conductor at the time, Dr. Jim Croft, invited me to his office, thrust his own French horn into my hands, and declared an unspoken truth: “Kimmer, you’re a good trumpet player but you’re never going to be great. You need to play the horn, so let’s have a lesson.” He added a sales pitch I’ll never forget: “The horn is god’s own instrument, you know. In fact, it’s the world’s very first instrument. The trumpet used to be a horn. I bet you didn’t even know the snare drum used to be a horn ….”

Needless to say – although I have since realized the euphonium is actually god’s own instrument – a young composer’s love of the horn was born in that moment! Thus, when asked to compose a work in honor of the 70th anniversary of the FSU Music Camps, my first thought was of that impromptu lesson, of how deeply I still trust and love my FSU mentors, and how shining and warm my memories of FSU remain. My time in Tallahassee, as both a camper and a student, is the foundation of virtually all of the good experiences, opportunities, and friendships in my life.

The Latin word aureus means “gold.” I could not resist overlapping allusions to “Garnet and Gold,” the golden sun that shines brightest on Tallahassee, and the flashing gold of a glorious FSU horn section.

 


for those taken too soon …. (Symphony no. 1) (Grade 5, 20:00)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

Full Recording

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 for those taken too soon .... (Symphony no. 1) is composed in memory of Dennis Kusy. He was an inspiring conductor, a passionate band director and educator, and one of the most gifted musicians I have ever known. He was also my best friend. He was twenty-four years old when he was killed in a car accident on November 10, 2000.

The piece is composed of five seamless sections representative of the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The key structure is descending thirds, which starts in E-flat minor, arrives in B-flat major at the climax, then shifts up to D major ("D" for Dennis) at the coda. The melodic basis of the piece is the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul," although it is never stated outright until the climax. It is a tune Dennis first encountered in David Holsinger’s On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss, and used to have me play on the piano for him whenever we were together.

Although I chose to end the work on a somber note, in acknowledgment of losing such a good friend and colleague, for those taken too soon …. is meant to be a tribute as much as a working out of my own grief: a celebration of Dennis's life, even in the shadow of his death.

One of the things I found most helpful in organizing this music was a text written by St. Augustine when he was in his 20’s. In this excerpt, he discusses the loss of his own best friend, and sums up the experience as well as words can: 

Through this pain, a deep darkness came over my heart, and wherever I looked, there was death .... Everywhere my eyes searched for him, and he was not there …. I became a single great question, and I searched in my soul to know why it was so sad, why it so confused me, but my soul knew not how to answer. And when I said to it: "Have faith in God," it did not obey, and it was right not to, because this friend, whom it counted as most precious and had lost, was better and truer than the illusion I held out to it as hope. Only weeping was still sweet to me, and among the joys of my heart took the place of my friend.

Within me ... an emotion of the most contradictory nature came to life: a complete weariness with life side by side with a fear of death. I believe that the more I loved him, the more I hated and feared death, which stole him from me ... and I imagined death would suddenly devour everyone, because it had been able to devour him .... It surprised me, in other words, that we remaining mortals continued to live while he whom I loved so much had died, as if he might not have had to die, and even more I wondered at the fact that I, as his other ego, survived his death. Someone once called his friend the half of his soul: "For I have felt mine and his soul as one in two bodies." For this reason, I shuddered in the face of life, because I did not want to live as half a man; and for this reason, I was afraid to die, because he, whom I loved so much, would then have died completely.

 


Humoresque (Grade 5, 3:30)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

This is the "March" from Symphony no. 2, sold separately. Please see Symphony no. 2 below for program notes.

Review by Timothy Reynish (http://www.timreynish.com/conferences/wasbe-2011.php):

"Kimberly Archer has done what few composers achieve which is to write a really amusing march, to be put alongside the great march by Marcel Wengler or those commissioned by the Norwegian Military to celebrate the millennium. I would love to hear the whole Symphony."

 


Irish Blessing (SATB, Winds, and optional Strings, 2:30)

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

Irish Blessing may be performed by instrumentalists of widely varying abilities, from difficulty spanning Grade 2 (3rd parts), Grade 3 (2nd parts), and Grade 4 (1st parts). The work was commissioned to conclude a weeklong summer music camp of band, orchestra, and choral students at Lakeland College in Sheboygan, WI. Having attended and enjoyed many such camps in my own youth, I wanted to offer a concert culmination of joyful song using an Irish blessing – preferably one that actually references the Irish’s great love of music:

Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play –
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song –
And gladness waiting everywhere
All your whole life long!



Moorscape (Grade 4, 7:30)

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

Recording

Score

Moorscape in many ways represents an escape from writer’s block. Because it was commissioned shortly after the premiere of my Symphony no. 3, by the same school that commissioned the symphony (albeit a different conductor, for the second band), it was hard for me to come down from the euphoria of a major musical experience and get to work on a whole new piece. In fact, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it at all – that perhaps I had spent so much effort on the symphony that I simply had nothing left. Then, in the summer of 2008, I had a dream that involved passing through a quiet, yet somewhat ominous landscape during a murky twilight. In fact, it was a landscape that much resembled the Hadrian’s Wall area of northern England. In the course of the dream, I met one of my early composition teachers, who prodded me until I admitted, much to my surprise, that my problem was not with lack of ideas or even exhaustion, but instead, with fear of failure. The dream was so vivid and powerful, I held onto the image of this landscape, cast purple and orange under a fading sun, and allowed my imagination to fill in even more details. This experience rekindled my creativity and allowed me to start composing again. Thus, Moorscape is a musical portrait of this dark and unsettling dream landscape, but also a reminder to myself about overcoming fear – particularly the unfocused kind.

 


Scotia: Trilogy for Band (Grade 6, 28:00)

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

Recording of Mvt 1: The Caledonian Forest

Scotia: Trilogy for Band is dedicated to Scotland and its people. It is a tribute to their historic struggles and triumphs, as well as to their enduring humor, courage, and national pride.

I. The Caledonian Forest (score sample)

(this movement commissioned by Calvin Hofer and the Colorado Mesa University Wind Symphony with the generous support of Karen Combs)

After the last ice age, vast pine woodlands covered central and northern Scotland. By the time of the Roman invasion in 43 AD, these forests were filled with rivers and waterfalls, leafy canopies, the now endangered Scots pine, and a multitude of indigenous wildlife. Also flourishing there were the peaceful Caledonian people, who first defined Scotland as their  Kingdom of Alba. Dubbed “Picts” by the Romans for their extensive tattooing, the Caledonians were the only people in history able to resist Roman invasion. In fact, they forced the Romans to retreat and built Hadrian’s Wall across the whole country to protect Britannia from the “barbarians” in the north.

The music depicts the misty pre-dawn of the pinelands just before the sun bursts over the mountains. The forest awakes and frolics, eventually drowsing in the afternoon sun. From far away comes the sound of a marching legion, followed by a battle between the Romans and Caledonians. The forest is left devastated and smoldering.

II. Loch Lomond (score sample)

During the failed Jacobite uprising of 1745, two MacDonald brothers were captured by the English. The commander decided that one would be executed and the other sent home. The brothers had the night to decide who should die, and argued until the elder fell asleep. The younger – knowing he had only a fiancé at home, while his brother had a wife and family – then slipped away to sacrifice himself. The note he left behind is the lyrics of Loch Lomond

Although “Loch Lomond” is often performed in an upbeat compound meter, it is truly a song of loss and grief. This setting resonates with the brothers’ struggle against the English, their love and loyalty for their home and each other, and the terrible choice they faced.

III. The Pipers (score sample)

There are bagpipers on every corner of the tourist areas in Scotland. Some are wretched but others are quite talented. How can you tell the difference? First, bagpipes require constant, forceful airflow to produce a sound: air in through the pipe in the player’s mouth and air out via steady pressure to the bellows tucked under his arm. One way to tell if a piper is good is if his tone/airflow is consistent. (This is also why bagpipes can only be “loud” or “off.”) Second, there is no way to articulate repeated notes, since that interrupts airflow. To compensate, pipers have developed an elaborate system of “false notes” (grace notes) to give the illusion of articulation. For example, the first two notes of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” are repeated. On a bagpipe, this would sound like one long note unless the player flicked a different note in between them. A good piper can do this so quickly, the result sounds like a chirp instead of an extra note.

When you know how it works and what to listen for, the bagpipe can be both haunting and boisterous, fit for a state funeral or an outdoor party. The traditional tunes represented in this movement are drawn from military, civic, and pub repertoire, including Flowers of the Forest (played at JFK’s funeral), Green Hills of Tyrol, High Road to Gairloch, Balmoral Castle, Highland Laddie, Black Bear, Clumsy Lover, and Scotland the Brave.

 

Songs of Longing and Solitude, Book 1 (Grade 5, 16:30)

for tenor (opt. soprano) with chamber winds and percussion

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

View Texts

I. We Set the Pace: score and recording

II. Evening: score and recording

III. To Say Before Going to Sleep: score and recording

IV. You, Who Never Arrived: score and recording

 


Songs of Longing and Solitude, Book 2 (Grade 5, 17:30)

for tenor (opt. soprano) with chamber winds and percussion

 

THIS WORK HAS NOT YET BEEN PREMIERED

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

View Texts

V. Premonition (score)

VI. The Solitary (score)

VII. The Hour Strikes (score)

VIII. Quiet Friend (score)

 


Symphony no. 2 (Grade 5, 21:00)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

C. Alan Publications: "March" from Symphony no. 2 ("Humoresque")

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Symphony no. 2 is my doctoral dissertation. At this significant point in my life and career, I felt it important to offer a tribute to three people who have been critical in my getting this far, both personally and professionally:

I. March (sold separately as "Humoresque") is dedicated to Andy Waggoner, my first composition teacher in graduate school. By form it is a march, but by style, a scherzo. It is intended to be playful and humorous (reflective of our personal relationship), but also makes use of several of the concepts and skills he taught me, including how to use octatonic collections.

II. Passacaglia is dedicated to Pat Dunnigan. Pat first taught me to use Finale, premiered several of my early band compositions (including my first symphony), and has been my friend and mentor for more than ten years. His movement is composed in the style of Philip Glass -- one of his favorite composers. There are also allusions to the Star Trek theme and Mahler's Symphony no. 1.

III. Theme and Variations is dedicated to my father, who is a former church organist, and particularly fond of the hymn "Blessed Assurance." All three movements of the symphony include elements of the hymn in some form, thus adding unity to an otherwise eclectic work, but the third movement takes the hymn as its outright theme. Some of my earliest musical experiences were listening to my dad practice, or having him accompany me for solos and auditions. I doubt I would have pursued music professionally, or have survived graduate school, if it had not been for my dad.

 


Symphony no. 3 (Grade 6, 30:00)

Contact the Composer (unpublished)

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Mvt 1 Recording        Mvt 1 Score

Mvt 2 Recording        Mvt 2 Score

Mvt 3 Recording        Mvt 3 Score

Mvt 4 Recording        Mvt 4 Score

(notes by Chris Werner) It all began on the couch in the summer of 2006, at what we affectionately call "Camp David," or "The Summer Retreat for Stressed Composers and Conductors." Kim had just completed her first year of teaching at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and I had finished my first year at Central High School in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We were both exhausted in every sense of the word, and looking to David for guidance and rejuvenation. I drove to Missoula, MT, and spent a week on David’s couch; Kim flew in from St. Louis and took the guest room.

Our meeting was a coincidence, inasmuch as anything involving David can ever be called that. When we arrived, she had not heard of me or of the Central Wind Ensemble, and I had never programmed any of her music. But you know, when you share a bathroom with a complete stranger for a week … well, you get to know one another.

During that week, David put us on his version of a vegetarian diet, which meant we also had no contact with wheat, and certainly not with caffeine. To this day, we both crave spelt flour and mineral water & apple juice cocktails. We each had lessons with David, and many long, mountainous hikes. Kim and I took an extended trip to Glacier National Park, and frequented the local Missoula coffee shops (we had to have a caffeine fix), where we’d spend hours composing, studying, and talking. We both practiced breathing and attended a Buddhist Walking Meditation and Tea Ceremony with David and Alison. We also met the rest of the Maslanka family of "critters," one of whom – Agnes, the 21-year-old cat – was upset that I took over her home on the couch!

The three of us listened to and shared thoughts on music frequently. One evening we listened to David’s "Black Dog Songs," a song cycle for baritone and piano. It was an electric musical moment: one of those you don’t EVER forget. The music affected everyone in the room, and especially Kim, who was sitting next to me on the couch. I was taken by the whole event, perhaps because at the time, I don’t think I "got it." However, it was at that point I knew Kim was the composer to commission for our first consortium, in a series, from the La Crosse High Schools. She did "get it." And to this day, we still talk about that powerful night.

Since Camp David, Kim and I have shared hundreds of phone calls and e-mails. We speak frequently about our respective professions and views on music, composing, conducting, life, Battlestar Galactica, cooking, you name it. Our meeting and our friendship certainly don’t seem coincidental anymore.

The commission for Symphony no. 3 or "the piece," as we called it for a long time, was designed as the most open-ended commission our consortium could allow. No instrumental specifications, no time restraints, not much limit on difficulty. The commission could have easily resulted in anything from a 2-minute fanfare to an hour-long concerto. We started talking about "the piece" in the fall of 2006, and Kim made a special visit to La Crosse in early 2007 to see and hear the Central Wind Ensemble, and to meet the students. It’s been fascinating to observe a composer’s process, and to watch the music gradually take shape over the course of a year.

Kim asked early on if "the piece" could be dedicated to David. For as much as David has meant to all of us involved in the genesis of Symphony no. 3 – and for as deeply as Kim and I cherish his mentorship, his music, his friendship, and his freakish Scrabble-playing prowess – my answer was an immediate and resounding "absolutely!" As David later wrote to Kim (albeit not knowing yet that the work is dedicated to him), "Your symphony already has me in it in a big way." Yes, that’s absolutely true, and we knew it before she’d put the first note on paper.

Someday soon, I will return to Missoula, have a spelt flour scone, sneak out for coffee, and crash on the couch after a long day. I do hope Kim will be there, and this time, we’ll sit on that couch and listen to Symphony no. 3 with our friend David.



Westward Sentinel (Grade 5, 15:00)

C. Alan Publications: Score and Recording

From the very first time I saw it with my own eyes, driving through St. Louis in 2000, I have been enthralled by the Gateway Arch: its almost incomprehensible size, its timeless simplicity. When asked to write a piece of music celebrating the Arch and its 40th anniversary, I was overwhelmed. There’s simply too much to express, from its connections to Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition through the amazing architectural, engineering, and construction work that brought it to life. How is it possible, in only one musical work, to capture all of that, much less the sparkling majesty of the Arch on a perfect fall day, or backlit by July fireworks, or gently illuminated, silent in the snow?

Finally, I realized that rather than try to merely describe the Arch or comment on its history, I would need to explore my personal relationship with it, as a resident of the St. Louis metro area. Therefore, although Westward Sentinel is not exactly programmatic, there are a few images that stayed in my mind as I composed:

The first section of the piece speaks to my relationship with the Midwest. I am a native of northern Illinois, where I grew up surrounded by cornfields. It is a significant personal image, of which I have only recently become aware, to stand alone and at peace in the center of a July cornfield under an endless blue sky, breathing the warm summer air, where the only sounds are the subtle hum of insects and the wind rustling the leaves. Now, in my southern Illinois home, there is still corn, but I can also actually see the Arch on the western horizon. Obviously, that changes the feel of my home: with the presence of the Arch, however distant, comes the promise of bustling, urban St. Louis. It is a stark contrast to what I feel as my roots and my place in the world, and yet the Arch definitely calls to me.

I love to drive into St. Louis on I-64. The second section of the piece speaks to this journey. Along that stretch of highway between Edwardsville and downtown St. Louis, the Arch teasingly ducks behind hills and buildings, only to burst back into sight, sparkling in the sun. Then, where I-64 crosses the Mississippi River, the first sight of the Arch in its entirety – steadfast at its post on the western bank, looming over the highway – is nothing short of glorious!

Finally, there is the first breathless moment of standing at the base of the Arch, trying to take in its enormity. That’s impossible – it’s so big! I will always remember the first time I did this, though; all I could think was, '"Wow …."