Circular Marches

Movement II, From Symphony No. 3, "Shaker Life"

Dan Welcher

Rental
Performing Ensemble: Wind Ensemble
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Circular Marches is a companion piece to my work Laboring Songs, written earlier in the same year. Both share a common source for musical motives and inspiration: the religious practice and the music of the Shakers, a nearly-extinct religious community that flourished in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America.

Like Laboring Songs, Circular Marches is named for a certain kind of worship that was practiced by the Shakers. A ?circular march? was a kind of elaborately choreographed patterned march, almost like a square dance ? or even a Halftime Show in contemporary secular usage. The vocal band would stay in place, singing a certain kind of marching song, while the other worshippers executed wheels-within-wheels, counter-marches, and other elaborate patterns ? often so detailed and difficult that outsiders were amazed at the memory required. (The ?marching? was more akin to step dancing, but since the Shakers did not allow the latter kind of activity, they referred to it as marching).

My work does not attempt to illustrate this religious practice. Instead, it uses the title to present a rather cyclic piece, in which a single march-tune is played repeatedly between other contrasting tunes, somewhat like a rondo. The first music heard is the famous ?Shaker Shout? ? a stylized building-up of triads with a crescendo and an almost-yodeled breath release, sung without words, as a kind of ?call to worship.? Following that, the piece traverses some eight minutes of marching music of various kinds, plus shuffles and further appearances of the Shaker Shout. Some of the music is quoted Shaker melody (the repeated refrain is a song called ?The Sealed Promise,? which in its purest form changes meter in virtually every bar) and other music is entirely my own. There are several places where two or even three different marches appear to be going on at once, which could be loosely descriptive of the worship activity itself.

Midway through, the flutes intone a rather stern little part-song called ?Come Contentment, Lovely Guest,? which will return in a full-blown brass chorale near the end of the work. The feeling one gets in hearing this melody is that Contentment is definitely NOT here yet... but that if the faithful march devoutly enough, it may actually arrive. By the end of Circular Marches, it has. The work concludes with antiphonal (and polytonal) Shaker Shouts, with a spirit of unbounded joy.

Circular Marches may be performed by itself, or as the final movement of a two-movement symphony (Symphony No. 3, ?Shaker Life?) with Laboring Songs as the first movement.

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Circular Marches - Full Score - Study
Circular Marches - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the American Bandmasters' Association
Composition Date 1997
Duration 9:00
Orchestration 5(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 5(Eb Cl., B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) Sop.Sax. AltoSax. Ten.Sax. Bar.Sax. - 4 4 4 1 Euph.; Timp. Pno.
Premiere March 8, 1998. US Air Force Band.