Commissions & Premieres

The Wind Symphony in the Sunderman Conservatory of Music are active in the commissioning and premiering of new works for wind band and chamber winds.  We strongly believe that a commitment to new music for our performing medium contributes to the musical life of the wind band. We are honored to be a part of bringing this new music to life.

Unsung Heroes of the Civil War, Part III: "Yes, I Want to Cross Over" by Craig Thomas Naylor

Premiered at Gettysburg December 7, 2012

Craig Thomas NaylorI. Enduring Honor, for Elizabeth Van Lew and the Richmond (Virginia) Underground and the “fulfillment of prophesy”
II. We Are All Americans, for Colonel Ely S. Parker
III. Yes, I Want To Cross Over, for John Washington

All three of the Unknown Heroes works draw from religious music of the Civil War era. Enduring Honor explores the hymns of Elizabeth Van Lew’s Episcopal tradition: Lead Us, Heavenly Father, Lead Us (from the third Sunday of Easter, when Virginia seceded) and All Glory, Laud, and Honor (Palm Sunday, when Robert E. Lee surrendered). Over this an entire battle is rendered with fife, drum, and bugle calls from the assembly through cease-fire and parlez. Ulysses Grant considered Miss Van Lew to have been his best spy, an effort that cost her family fortune.

We Are All Americans fuses Ely Parker’s Seneca tradition (traditional song fragments), his negotiations with tribes of the West (the piccolo evoking the eagle bone whistle and the Round Dance rhythm at the end) and his Protestant adoption with Lead, Kindly Light, the hymn sung at his funeral. Just after Parker had penned the terms of surrender, Lee, recognizing Parker’s Indian heritage, said, “At least there is one true American here.” Parker replied, “General, we are all Americans.”

Yes, I Want To Cross Over, is a tribute to escaped slave and Union Army member John Washington who became a pivotal part of the rising African-American working and middle class after the War. When Union troops arrived near John’s home in Fredericksburg on April 18, 1862, a soldier yelled over the Rappahannock River, “Do you want to come over?” John replied, “Yes, I want to cross over.” His first night of freedom was Good Friday, “indeed the best Friday I ever had.” The work uses the hymn Cross Over by Leila Naylor Morris (composed in 1899) for the first part of the work.

Cross Jordan’s stream of unbelief, Your doubts and fears give o’er;
From all your wanderings find relief, And Canaan’s land explore.
Cross over the Jordan’s tide, The waters will there divide;

Cross over, cross over, And enter fair Canaan’s land.

The second section uses the traditional hymn O Happy Day.

O Happy Day when Jesus washed my sins away,
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day.

Fanfare and bells punctuate in tones the dates for Washington, D. C. Emancipation Day (April 16, 1862) and the national institution of the decree on January 1, 1863. Both hymns and the dates of freedom come together in the end for a rousing conclusion.

Fireworks by Jim Colonna

Premiered at Gettysburg October 20, 2012

Jim ColonnaFireworks is a composition commissioned by Helen Gimmel as a birthday gift to my sister, Kim.  I set out to write a work that would not quote or use "Happy Birthday to You" in any form.  After a few failed efforts I decided to re-examine the silly song and found that I could develop a series of variations on the theme to create an exciting 5 minute work. 

Although not programmatic by nature the work does have a series of well wishes contained inside.  From the start I imagined champagne bubbles flowing, a clarinet solo, since Kim played incredible clarinet, followed by a group of variations that are celebratory in nature.  This work is very close to me since it is for a great sister, person and best friend. 

Happy Birthday Kim!

-Program note by the composer

There was a Composer of Genius by Daniel Kallman

Premiered at Gettysburg March 2, 2012

Daniel Kallman, ComposerThere was a Composer of Genius by Minnesota composer Daniel Kallman combines the creation of a musical score with one of his hobbies--coining limericks. The result is a four-movement work for wind ensemble entitled There was a composer of genius . . . (A Whimsical Celebration of Four American Composers) to be premiered in 2010 and 2011 by 29 wind ensembles in 13 states through a consortium commission funded by an Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.

The work is an homage to four of Kallman's favorite American composers: Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Charles Ives and John Philip Sousa. Each movement is introduced by the recitation of two limericks highlighting prominent stylistic characteristics of one of the composers. These characteristics are mirrored in the music, along with a few well-known musical quotations. Playful extra-musical effects add to the whimsy, especially in the Sousa movement, where a number of instrumentalists vie for the piccolo solo.

Twilight of the Gods by Andrew Boysen

Premiered at Gettysburg April 8, 2011

Andrew Boysen, ComposerTwilight of the Gods depicts the story of Ragnarok, the end-of-the-world myth from Scandinavian mythology. It can be translated as "final destiny of the gods," or "doom of the gods," a translation used by Richard Wagner in the final part of his The Ring of the Nibelung operas. The story encompasses a series of events, starting with a relentless winter leading to a series of civil wars across the earth, and concluding with a great battle between the gods and their adversaries, resulting in their deaths and the destruction of the earth. The earth then rises once more, new gods take control of the heavens, and the human race is born again through two survivors.

The Ragnarok myth is a complex story, and it has been assembled through different literary sources, providing differing information. Artistic liberties were taken with some of the plot points for the sake of narrative structure and to illustrate the story's cyclical nature. Mythologically, Ragnarok completes the "story arc" of the Norse myths. Its fatalistic take on the Old Norse religion and its final glimmer of hope show a faith that the end of the world is really just the beginning of better times.

Twilight of the Gods was commissioned by a consortium of schools organized by the Western and Northwestern Divisions of the College Band Directors National Association and premiered by the University of Neveda - Reno Wind Ensemble (Mack McGranahan, Director of Bands).

Inferno by Daniel Bukvich

Premiered at Gettysburg by the Sunderman Chamber Winds
October 23, 2010

Dan Bukvich, ComposerThis work from chamber winds was based on the text of Dante's Inferno taken from his work, The Divine Comedy. The piece features interesting rhythms and time signatures inspired by the meter of the poem, both in English translation and in the original Italian. Percussion plays a crucial role, often serving as the primary voice. Inferno also shifts constantly between several modes and key signatures for the three quintets; woodwind quintet, brass quintet, and percussion quintet.

Inferno was commissioned by the Cochran Chamber Commissioning Project, of which Gettysburg College is a contributing member. The driving force behind this project is the strong desire to contribute significant new repertoire to the chamber wind medium, particularly for schools and institutions whose ensembles are challenged, not so much by any limits to their collective level of experience, but by their numbers and instrumentation.