Wind Ensemble

Grade 3:

This Cruel Moon

Lightning Field

Foundry

Sheltering Sky

 

Grade 4 / 4+:

Clocking

Hymn to a Blue Hour

Night on Fire

Ringmaster's March

Strange Humors

Undertow

Unquiet Spirits

Xerxes

 

Grade 5 / 5+:

Asphalt Cocktail

Aurora Awakes

The Frozen Cathedral

Fanfare for
       Full Fathom Five

High Wire

Kingfishers Catch Fire

Liminal (NEW)

Redacted

Redline Tango

Sasparilla

Songs from the
       End of the World

The Soul Has
  
   Many Motions

Turbine

Turning

Wine-Dark Sea:
     Symphony for Band

 

Concertos:

Antique Violences:
     Trumpet Concerto

Drum Music: Perc. Cto

Harvest: Tbn. Cto.

Sop. Sax Concerto

 

Chamber Music

Vocal Music

Orchestra

Music for Theater

Works in Progress

 

Sheltering Sky (2012)

Audio & Score

for concert band
duration: 5'30"
Grade 3
/ Texas PML Grade 4

Click to buy : Full set $135. Extra 9x12 score $20.

Commissioned by Traughber Junior High School Band (Rachel Maxwell, director), and Thompson Junior High School Band (Daniel Harrison, director).

World premiere April 21, 2012.

The wind band medium has, in the twenty-first century, a host of disparate styles that dominate its texture. At the core of its contemporary development exist a group of composers who dazzle with scintillating and frightening virtuosity. As such, at first listening one might experience John Mackey's Sheltering Sky as a striking departure. Its serene and simple presentation is a throwback of sorts a nostalgic portrait of time suspended.

The work itself has a folksong-like quality intended by the composer and through this an immediate sense of familiarity emerges. Certainly the repertoire has a long and proud tradition of weaving folk songs into its identity, from the days of Holst and Vaughan Williams to modern treatments by such figures as Donald Grantham and Frank Ticheli. Whereas these composers incorporated extant melodies into their works, however, Mackey takes a play from Percy Grainger. Grainger's Colonial Song seemingly sets a beautiful folksong melody in an enchanting way (so enchanting, in fact, that he reworked the tune into two other pieces: Australian Up-Country Tune and The Gum-Suckers March). In reality, however, Grainger's melody was entirely original his own concoction to express how he felt about his native Australia. Likewise, although the melodies of Sheltering Sky have a recognizable quality (hints of the contours and colors of Danny Boy and Shenandoah are perceptible), the tunes themselves are original to the work, imparting a sense of hazy distance as though they were from a half-remembered dream.

The work unfolds in a sweeping arch structure, with cascading phrases that elide effortlessly. The introduction presents softly articulated harmonies stacking through a surrounding placidity. From there emerge statements of each of the two folksong-like melodies the call as a sighing descent in solo oboe, and its answer as a hopeful rising line in trumpet. Though the composer's trademark virtuosity is absent, his harmonic language remains. Mackey avoids traditional triadic sonorities almost exclusively, instead choosing more indistinct chords with diatonic extensions (particularly seventh and ninth chords) that facilitate the hazy sonic world that the piece inhabits. Near cadences, chromatic dissonances fill the narrow spaces in these harmonies, creating an even greater pull toward wistful nostalgia. Each new phrase begins over the resolution of the previous one, creating a sense of motion that never completely stops. The melodies themselves unfold and eventually dissipate until at last the serene introductory material returns the opening chords finally coming to rest.

Program note by Jake Wallace
Please credit Jake Wallace when reproducing or excerpting this program note