Of Ceremonies, Pageants and Celebrations

William Kraft

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Publisher: Theodore Presser Company
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

Three aspects were paramount in my minds as constructive elements: 1. A celebrative character; 2. The interior architecture; 3. Relationship to performance edifices of the past.

Of course the celebrative aspect is carried through the character of the music, but I was intrigued by the idea of expressing all three aspects in the same format. This is accomplished by the use of two musical quotations, the first being a medieval dance called ?ductia.? The reason for using the ductia (besides my great fondness for early music) is to draw reference to the castles, courts and palaces where musicians (minstrels, troubadours and minnesingers) were invited to entertain ? certainly the precursors to current public performances. The second quote "In ecclesiis" (pronounced ?excelsis? and often spelled that way now) by Giovanni Gabrieli is central to all three aspects: first of all it is very grand sounding ? suggestive of a ceremony, pageant or celebration; secondly, it was written for the most magnificent of all performance structures, the Cathedral of St. Mark in Venice; thirdly, spatial performance (placing musicians in various positions in the cathedral was one of Gabrieli?s most impressive practices and one of his great contributions to the development of antiphonal music). This draws one?s aural and visual attention to various parts of the structure.

"Of Ceremonies, Pageants and Celebrations" has six percussionists positioned around the auditorium. The piece begins with the furthest percussionist bowing a crotale (a pitched antique, or finger, cymbal developed for current usage). The other five follow suit filing out six notes of a mode that is rather fundamental and pervasive. They become engaged in a dialogue with the on-stage percussionists ?a dialogue which increases in intensity culminating in the entrance of the strings.

In the second section the orchestra takes up the earlier dialogue of the percussionists and leads back to the offstage percussionists and leads back to the offstage percussionists now concentrating on chimes. In the third section the chimes, harp and strings form a tapestry against which solo flute and clarinet have brief interchange followed by the rest of the woodwinds taking us into the first quote ? the medieval ductia. Attractive as is the upper voice it is the lower which carries the melody.

The ductia is soon combined with material from the fist section which, after a brief interplay with the ductia, takes over and builds to the entrance of Gabrieli?s "In ecclesiis". This marvelous piece of Gabrieli?s forms the core of this final section which becomes more joyous and grandiose, propelling the work to its conclusion.

"Of Ceremonies Pageants and Celebrations" is dedicated to my principal composition teacher, Otto Luening, who, in those early days at Columbia University, gave me just the right kind of guidance and encouragement plus a few epigrammatic comments that still come to mind as I approach a compositional chasm (and which I find useful in my own teaching).

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Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Orange County Performing Arts Center
Composition Date 1986, rev. 1987
Duration 00:12:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(EbCl./B.Cl.) 2 - 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(Cel.) Hp. Str., off-stage: 6Perc.
Premiere 19th September, 1986. Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta conducting; Los Angeles, CA