Concerto for Brass Band
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Audio Excerpts (MP3)
My Concerto for Brass Band was conceived as a conscious departure from my previous two brass band works, Great North Overture and Impressions. Both works were, in their own ways, personal attempts at addressing my own inexperience in writing for the brass band medium; as such, they paid tribute to the brass band tradition without ever stepping beyond my own musical comfort zone. With this piece, I wanted to pursue somewhat more adventurous (and perhaps edgier) horizons, both in terms of what the brass band was capable of as well as what my musical imagination had to offer.
The resulting work is a miniature brass symphony in two movements (slow, fast) which explores the various characters of the ensemble in depth. Each family of instruments has a chance to shine, lyrically and virtuosically: hence the ‘concerto’ aspect of the title. There is no overt programme or narrative beyond an emotional arc that hopefully engages the listener from the outset of the first movement till the close of the second.
The first movement, “Haven,” opens serenely; a lone cornet solo glides above a landscape of lush, chromatically decadent harmonies. But this externally placid environment is soon disrupted by inner demons, and the music takes on an anxious, harried quality. The second movement, “C-A-G-E,” is built on an obsessive motive consisting of those four notes—or more specifically, C#, A, G#, E, strongly implying C# minor. Throughout the course of this ferocious Allegro, the music constantly struggles to escape the confines of this harmonic ‘cage’—symbolized by a fugue-like refrain that embeds statements of the motive throughout the ensemble like a hall of mirrors. The climax of the movement offers a glimpse of hope, with a key change that naturalizes the notes (C-A-G-E), suggesting the emergence of C major. But at the last moment, the music reverts back to its original form. The movement ends on an altered statement of the motive (A-G#-E-C#) that ends resoundingly on the tonic, like the final nail in a coffin.
- April 17, 2016 - Hannaford Street Silver Band. Jane Mallet Theatre; St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto
Commissions and Awards
- Commissioned by the Hannaford Street Silver Band with generous assistance from the Ontario Arts Council.