Tag Archives: Dan Welcher

DAN WELCHER
Symphony No. 6
(“Three Places in the East”)
(2016)

For Wind Ensemble

Duration: 34′
Orchestration: Picc. 2Fl. 2Ob. E.H. EbCl. 3Cl. B.Cl. Cb.Cl. 2Bsn. Cbsn. – S.Sax A.Sax. T.Sax. B.Sax. – 4Hn. 4Tpt. 2Tbn. B.Tbn. Euph. Tba.; D.B. Pno. Timp. 5Perc.
Commission: A consortium commission, including the University of Georgia at Athens.
Premiere: September 20, 2017. UGA Wind Symphony, Jaclyn Hartenberger, conductor; Hodgson Hall, Athens, GA.
Movements: I. Everglades (“River of Grass”)
II. Great Smoky Mountains
III. Arcadia

Program Note
Ever since the success of my series of wind ensemble works “Places in the West”, I’ve been wanting to write a companion piece for national parks on the other side of the north American continent. The earlier work, consisting of GLACIER, THE YELLOWSTONE FIRES, ARCHES, and ZION, spanned some twenty years of my composing life, and since the pieces called for differing groups of instruments, and were in slightly different styles from each other, I never considered them to be “connected” except in their subject matter. In their depiction of both the scenery and the human history within these wondrous places, they had a common goal: awaking the listener to the fragile beauty that is in them; and calling attention to the ever more crucial need for preservation and protection of these wild places, unique in all the world.

With this new work, commissioned by a consortium of college and conservatory wind ensembles led by the University of Georgia, I decided to build upon that same model—but to solidify the process. The result, consisting of three movements (each named for a different national park in the eastern US), is a bona-fide symphony. While the three pieces could be performed separately, they share a musical theme—and also a common style and instrumentation. It is a true symphony, in that the first movement is long and expository, the second is a rather tightly structured scherzo-with-trio, and the finale is a true culmination of the whole.

The first movement, “Everglades”, was the original inspiration for the entire symphony. Conceived over the course of two trips to that astonishing place (which the native Americans called “River of Grass”, the subtitle of this movement), this movement not only conveys a sense of the humid, lush, and even frightening scenery there—but also an overview of the entire settling-of- Florida experience. It contains not one, but two native American chants, and also presents a view of the staggering influence of modern man on this fragile part of the world. Beginning with a slow unfolding marked “Heavy, humid”, the music soon presents a gentle, lyrical theme in the solo alto saxophone. This theme, which goes through three expansive phrases with breaks in between, will appear in all three movements of the symphony. After the mood has been established, the music opens up to a rich, warm setting of a Cherokee “morning song”, with the simple happiness that this part of Florida must have had prior to the nineteenth century. This music, enveloping and comforting, gradually gives way to a more frenetic, driven section representative of the intrusion of the white man. Since Florida was populated and developed largely due to the introduction of a train system, there’s a suggestion of the mechanized iron horse driving straight into the heartland. At that point, the native Americans become considerably less gentle, and a second chant seems to stand in the way of the intruder; a kind of “warning song”. The second part of this movement shows us the great swampy center of the peninsula, with its wildlife both in and out of the water. A new theme appears, sad but noble, suggesting that this land is precious and must be protected by all the people who inhabit it. At length, the “morning song” reappears in all its splendor, until the sunset—with one last iteration of the “warning song” in the solo piccolo.

Functioning as a scherzo, the second movement, “Great Smoky Mountains”, describes not just that huge park itself, but one brave soul’s attempt to climb a mountain there. It begins with three iterations of the UR-theme (which began the first movement as well), but this time as up-tempo brass fanfares in octaves. Each time it begins again, the theme is a little slower and less confident than the previous time—almost as though the hiker were becoming aware of the daunting mountain before him. But then, a steady, quick-pulsed ostinato appears, in a constantly shifting meter system of 2/4- 3/4 in alteration, and the hike has begun. Over this, a slower new melody appears, as the trek up the mountain progresses. It’s a big mountain, and the ascent seems to take quite awhile, with little breaks in the hiker’s stride, until at length he simply must stop and rest. An oboe solo, over several free cadenza-like measures, allows us (and our friend the hiker) to catch our breath, and also to view in the distance the rocky peak before us. The goal is somehow even more daunting than at first, being closer and thus more frighteningly steep. When we do push off again, it’s at a slower pace, and with more careful attention to our footholds as we trek over broken rocks. Tantalizing little views of the valley at every switchback make our determination even stronger. Finally, we burst through a stand of pines and—-we’re at the summit! The immensity of the view is overwhelming, and ultimately humbling. A brief coda, while we sit dazed on the rocks, ends the movement in a feeling of triumph.

The final movement, “Acadia”, is also about a trip. In the summer of 2014, I took a sailing trip with a dear friend from North Haven, Maine, to the southern coast of Mt. Desert Island in Acadia National Park. The experience left me both exuberant and exhausted, with an appreciation for the ocean that I hadn’t had previously. The approach to Acadia National Park by water, too,
was thrilling: like the difference between climbing a mountain on foot with riding up on a ski-lift, I felt I’d earned the right to be there. The music for this movement is entirely based on the opening UR-theme. There’s a sense of the water and the mysterious, quiet deep from the very beginning, with seagulls and bell buoys setting the scene. As we leave the harbor, the theme (in a canon between solo euphonium and tuba) almost seems as if large subaquatic animals are observing our departure. There are three themes (call them A, B and C) in this seafaring journey—but they are all based on the UR theme, in its original form with octaves displaced, in an upside-down form, and in a backwards version as well. (The ocean, while appearing to be unchanging, is always changing.) We move out into the main channel (A), passing several islands (B), until we reach the long draw that parallels the coastline called Eggemoggin Reach, and a sudden burst of new speed (C). Things suddenly stop, as if the wind had died, and we have a vision: is that really Mt. Desert Island we can see off the port bow, vaguely in the distance? A chorale of saxophones seems to suggest that. We push off anew as the chorale ends, and go through all three themes again—but in different instrumentations, and different keys. At the final tack-turn, there it is, for real: Mt. Desert Island, big as life. We’ve made it. As we pull into the harbor, where we’ll secure the boat for the night, there’s a feeling of achievement. Our whale and dolphin friends return, and we end our journey with gratitude and celebration.

I am profoundly grateful to Jaclyn Hartenberger, Professor of Conducting at the University of Georgia, for leading the consortium which provided the commissioning of this work.

–Dan Welcher
DAN WELCHER
KMFA: A Celebratory Overture
(2016)

For Orchestra – 2(2 dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 2Perc. Str.
Duration: 6′
Commission: KMFA Classical 89.5, Austin, in celebration of its 50th birthday
Premiere: January 13, 14, 2017. Austin Symphony, Peter Bay, conductor; Dell Hall, Austin, TX.
Program Note:
KMFA: A Celebratory Overture
(“Klassical Music For Austin”)


The idea of an all-classical music radio station on the American FM band is a relatively new phenomenon. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, classical music was regularly featured on “regular radio”, with some networks even having their own in-house orchestras (the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini being a prime example). But in the 1960s, local radio stations affiliated with the fledgling National Public Radio network began featuring classical music for at least part of the day, and some stations became “all-classical” for their entire broadcast day. The presence of classical music on the Big Networks slowly disappeared (on network television as well, which had been heavily involved with arts programming in earlier times), and classical broadcasting began to be seen as a niche audience. In some communities, it was not the NPR stations that went “all-classical”; it was a loose affiliation of local listener-owned radio stations who picked up the baton.

Radio station KMFA (Classical 89.5) in Austin, Texas was one of those stations. Going on the air for the first time on January 29th, 1967 (with the rousing notes of Rossini’s WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE as the first piece broadcast), it originated in donated space with donated equipment and a volunteer engineer. Now, fifty years into its history, the station boasts a 24-hour non-commercial all-classical format that exists in a vibrant, rapidly growing community of over two million people. Still proudly independent (it is neither affiliated with the University of Texas nor with National Public Radio), KMFA has been able to maintain its integrity. It is one of a handful of radio stations in the USA that still plays, uninterrupted, entire symphonies—as well as broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago Symphony, and a host of other regular programs from the leading cultural institutions of our time.

When KMFA asked me to write a commemorative overture for the Austin Symphony to play in January of 2017, marking fifty years of classical broadcasting on the air, I decided to do more than just write another rousing short work to begin a concert. I took the four call letters of the station’s name and assigned them musical pitches: K (=C) M (=G) F, and A. These four notes, both in the original key and in every imaginable transposition, become a leitmotif organizing the entire overture. It begins with a fanfare, which ultimately relaxes into a gently singing melody in an undulating 9/8 meter. This melody begins with the KMFA theme inverted, with the intervals turned upside down: C-G-F-A becomes (in transposition) E-A-B-G, and develops from there. After a spun-out exposition, this theme gives way to a jumpy, playful 2/4 episode. When this second tune has finished, the first theme returns to round out the first half of the work.

But it is in the second half that I took liberties with classicism and pre-ordained proportions. Where the normal sonata form would have a “development” section, re-working and playing with the two main themes, this overture becomes, in effect, an impatient radio listener—sampling famous pieces in short bursts to see what’s on. We begin with a tiny fragment of Mozart’s MARRIAGE OF FIGARO overture, but quickly morph into the ever-present KANON IN D by Pachelbel (an in-joke for classical music stations, since the Pachelbel Canon is widely seen as the most-heard piece during fund drives). The Pachelbel eight-bar mantra is repeated three times, with various other works overlaying it (and eventually destroying it) by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Rossini (yes, the William Tell Overture), Bach, Richard Strauss, and more Beethoven— (much more Beethoven; three different symphonies are teased into the fabric). But through it all, the four-note KMFA theme is ever-present: a reminder that classical radio is essential, and that Klassical Music For Austin (and wherever else this piece is played) needs to be kept alive and vibrant.

I am happy to have been associated with KMFA Classical 89.5 for many years now, and to present this overture to the world as a testament to my deep faith in classical radio—and in Beethoven.

–Dan Welcher

Dan Welcher: Spumante

…as full of spirit as the Italian wine after which it is named. How nice it is to hear a brilliant concert opener…

–Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare

Celebrating our Composer’s Awards and Accolades

Over the past few weeks, many of our composers have received honors for their contribution and dedication to music. Below is a brief summary of their most recent awards and accolades.

Carter Pann’s 2013 composition for saxophone quartet, The Mechanics: Six from the Shop Floor, was recently named a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize. Each movement within this work “depicts, in a very colorful way, an aspect of auto mechanics and/or the ‘grease monkey’ lifestyle. Pann effectively uses different styles of music to convey the car parts or mood he is trying to depict” (Audiophile Audition).
Earlier this month Paul Lansky was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters as one of its twelve new members. The Academy, founded in 1898, is an honor society of the country’s leading architects, artists, composers, and writers.
DePaul University has selected composer Ronald Caltabiano to lead its School of Music as its new dean.
Congratulations to all of the Theodore Presser Company, Carl Fischer Music, and Affiliate Publishers winners at the National Flute Association’s 2016 Newly Published Music Competition. This list of awards includes an astounding seven winners – Daniel Dorff, Amanda Harberg, Emmanuel Pahud, Chris Potter, Paula Robison (edited by Frederic Hand), Dan Welcher, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich – twelve finalists, and seven honorable mentions. View the full list of awards here.
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National Flute Association Winners

Winners at the National Flute Association Composition Competition

Congratulations to all of Theodore Presser Company, Carl Fischer Music, and Affiliate Publishers winners at the National Flute Association’s 2016 Newly Published Music Competition.  Here is a list of our awards:

 

Flute and Piano

Winner: Amanda Harberg – Feathers and Wax

Winner: Emmanuel Pahud – Wer hat dies Liedel erdacht?

Finalist: Martin Amlin – Morceau de Concours

Finalist: Valarie Coleman – Wish

Finalist: Amanda Harberg – Poem and Transformations

Finalist: Gary Schocker – Wabi-Sabi

Finalist: Rahbari Fereshteh – Curtain Up!

Honorable Mention: Nicola Mazzanti – Sonata in C, K. 545

Honorable Mention: Adriana Isabel Figueroa Manas – Rhapsodia Andina

Honorable Mention: Henrik Wiese – Märchenbilder Op. 113

 

Solo Works

Finalist: Eric Ewazen – A Night in New Orleans

Finalist: Louis Moyse – Seven Caprices-Etudes for Flute and Piano

Honorable Mention: Anton Pfeiffer – Fantaisie sur Benyovszky, Op. 26

 

Flute Concerto

Winner: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich – Concerto Elegia

Finalist: Robert Stallman – The Magic Flutist, Volume II

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Leshnoff – Flute Concerto

 

Flute Methods

Winner: Chris Potter – Vibrato Workbook

Finalist: John Walker – The Flute in the Attic

 

Chamber Works for Flute

Finalist: Flutronix – Flock

Honorable Mention: Diego Collatti – Tango Flute Duets

Honorable Mention: Derek Charke – Raga Saat

 

Chamber Works for Flute and Other Instruments

Winner: Paula Robison, Edited by Frederic Hand  – La Serenata

Winner: Dan Welcher – Forest Devil Waltzes

Finalist: Gary Schocker – Sextet

 

Woodwind Quintet

Winner: Daniel Dorff – Cape May Breezes

 

Flute Choir

Finalist: Jonathan Cohen – She Flutters Me!

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