for Wind Ensemble

Dan Welcher

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

Quick Overview

In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and William Clark?s Corps of Discovery to find a water route to the Pacific and explore the uncharted West. He believed woolly mammoths, erupting volcanoes, and mountain of pure salt awaited them. What they found was no less mind-boggling: some 300 species unknown to science, nearly 50 Indian tribes, and the Rockies.

I have been a student of the Lewis and Clark expedition, which Thomas Jefferson called the ?Voyage of Discovery?, for as long as I can remember. This astonishing journey, lasting more than two-and-a-half years, began and ended in St. Louis, Missouri?and took the travelers up more than a few rivers in their quest to find the Northwest Passage to the Pacific Ocean. In an age without speedy communication, this was akin to space travel out of radio range in our own time: no one knew if, indeed the party had even survived the voyage for more than a year. Most of them were soldiers. A few were French-Canadian Voyageurs?hired trappers and explorers, who were fluent in French (spoken extensively in the region, due to earlier explorers from France) and in some of the Indian languages they might encounter. One of the voyageurs, a man named Pierre Cruzatte, also happened to be a better-than-average fiddle player. In many respects, the travelers were completely on their own for supplies and survival, yet, incredibly, only one of them died during the voyage. Jefferson had outfitted them with food, weapons, medicine, and clothing?and along with other trinkets, a box of 200 Jaw Harps to be used in trading with the Indians. Their trip was long, perilous to the point of near catastrophe, and arduous. The dream of a Northwest Passage proved ephemeral, but he northwestern quarter of the continent had finally been explored, mapped, and described to an anxious world. When the party returned to St. Louis in 1806, and with the Louisiana Purchase now part of the United States, they were greeted as national heroes.

I have written a sizeable number of works for wind ensemble that draw their inspiration from the monumental spaces found in the American West. Four of them (Arches, The Yellowstone Fires, Glacier and Zion) take their names, and in large part their being, from actual national parks in Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. But Upriver, although it found its voice (and its finale) in the magnificent Columbia Gorge in Oregon, is about a much larger region. This piece, like its brother works about the national parks, doesn?t try to tell a story. Instead, it captures the flavor of a certain time, and of a grand adventure. Cast in one continuous movement and lasting close to fourteen minutes, the piece falls into several subsections, each with its own heading: The Dream (in which Jefferson?s vision of a vast expanse of western land is opened); The Promise, a chorale that re-appears several times in the course of the piece and represents the seriousness of the presidential mission; The River, The Voyageurs, The River II, Death and Disappointment, Return to the Voyage, and The Rive, III.

The music includes several quoted melodies, one of which is familiar to everyone as the ultimate ?river song?, which becomes the through-stream of the work. All of the quoted tunes were either sung by the men on the voyage, or played by Cruzatte?s fiddle. From various journals and diaries, we know that the men found enjoyment and solace in music, and almost every night encampment had at least a bit of music in it. In addition to Cruzatte, there were two other members of the party who played the fiddle, and others made do with singing, or playing upon sticks, bones, the ever-present jaw harps, and boat horns. From Lewis? journals, I found all the tunes used in Upriver: Shenandoah (still popular after more than two hundred years), V?la bon vent, Soldier?s Joy, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier, Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy (a hymn sung to the tune Beech Spring) and Fisher?s Hornpipe. The work follows an emotional journey: not necessarily step-by-step with the Voyage of Discovery heroes, but a kind of grand arch. Beginning in the mists of history and myth, traversing peaks and valleys both real and emotional (and a solemn funeral scene), finding help from native people, and recalling their zeal upon finding the one great river that will, in fact, take them to the Pacific. When the men finally roar through the Columbia Gorge in their boats (a feat that even the Indians had not attempted), the magnificent river combines its theme with the chorale of Jefferson?s Promise. The Dream is fulfilled: not quite the one Jefferson had imagined (there is no navigable water passage from the Missouri to the Pacific), but the dream of a continental destiny.

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Upriver - Full Score - Study
Upriver - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Commission Upriver was commissioned by a consortium of College Band Directors, and is dedicated to Dr. Timothy A. Paul, who spearheaded the commission. The commission partners are:Dr. Timothy A. Paul, University of Oregon Bands (Eugene, Oregon); Dr. Wesley J. Br
Composition Date 2010
Duration 14:00
Orchestration Solo Fiddle; 2Picc. 2Fl. 2Ob. E.H. EbCl. 3BbCl. B.Cl. 2Bsn. Cbsn. SATBSax. - 4Hn. 3Tpt. 3Tbn. Euph. Tu.; Timp. 5Perc. Hp. Str.Bass
Premiere March 6, 2011University of Oregon Wind EnsembleTimothy Paul, conductor


The Dream
The Promise
The River
Les Voyageurs
The River, II
Death and Disappointment
Return to the Voyage
The River, III

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