(All notes by the composers)
Sapphire (4 Movements)
by Lee Hartman
commissioned by and written for the Mid America Freedom Band in honor of its tenth anniversary
Premiered April 20, 2013 at Unity Temple on the Plaza
Sapphire is the gemstone of tenth anniversaries but more importantly that brilliant blue represents “harmony” in the LGBTQ+ Pride flag. What a perfect combination!
The piece is built on a four-note motive representing MAFB. “M” can be “Mi” or “Me” in solfege. I chose E-flat—“Me”—from a fixed-Do system. “A” equals pitch A, “F” equals F, and in a German system, “B” equals B-flat. These pitches are used melodically and harmonically throughout the work.
“Fanfare” is a strident display of fast trills and runs with a brief respite of solo woodwinds. A quartet of solo brass players leads back to a restatement of the original material and the trombones close the movement in a blaze of glory.
The middle two movements, “Chorale (for saxophones and brass)” and “Dance (for woodwinds, percussion, and bass),” are played back-to-back without break. A band is only as strong as its members and so I used the names of the all the MAFB members playing in the premiere as the basis for these movements. The “Chorale” uses a musical alphabet in which every letter of the alphabet is assigned a pitch. The “Dance” is a quirky off-kilter quasi-waltz. I used a modified system of Morse code to embed the member names in this movement. With talented piccolo and contrabass players, I could not resist the urge to end the movement with a demented duet between the two extremes.
“Finale” is a Latin-spiced party. It is pure fun and the rhythmic drive of the movement is taken from the natural spoken rhythm of “Mid America Freedom Band.” Luckily for me this rhythm fit perfectly over Latin dance patterns.
Premiered April 26, 2015 at J.C. Nichols Auditorium at the National WWI Museum and Memorial
“Merrily, merrily whirled the wheels of the dizzying dances
Under the orchard-trees and down the path to the meadows;
Old folk and young together, and children mingled among them.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Evangeline
A kolo, which translates to round or circle, is a fast and lively traditional folk dance that originated in the Balkans. The music accompanying a kolo dance is characteristically quite repetitive. The primary melodic material is introduced at the beginning, and it continues to appear and reappear throughout the duration of the dance. Several composers, including Antonín Dvořák, have adapted the kolo into concert pieces for orchestra. These are often fast and exhilarating showpieces that portray the virtuosity of the entire ensemble. My piece, Kolo, continues this concert adaption tradition, and it follows the basic structure of the traditional dance with the exception of the middle section. I was fortunate to spend about two weeks in Zagreb and several days in Dubrovnik during the spring of 2009.
Looking out upon the Adriatic Sea atop of Dubrovnik’s historic city wall, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of tranquility, and that feeling has become the strongest association I have with my time in Croatia. In order to depict this musically, I forewent the continuation of the fast and lively character of the middle section of my Kolo and instead replaced it with music that is peaceful and reflective. The melody used in this slow section comes from a folk song, “Oj, mlađano mlado mom(če),” in Béla Bartók and Albert B. Lord’s folksong collection Serbo-Croatian Folk Songs. This middle section was my chance to return, if only in my mind, to the Adriatic coast.
Premiered April 30, 2016 at J.C. Nichols Auditorium at the National WWI Museum and Memorial
Six was commissioned by the Mid America Freedom Band for a concert with the theme of ‘stories we share’. This piece explores stories from ‘Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-word memoirs by famous & obscure writers (ed. Smith Magazine), in which writers were asked to share their memoir in only six words. The three main sections of the piece respond to the following memoirs respectively:
Section I – “Danced in the Fields of Infinite Possibilities”
Section II – “I still make coffee for two”
Section III – “Traversing the Earth together, chasing elusive answers”
C.M.E. Coronal Mass Ejection
Premiered May 06, 2017 at J.C. Nichols Auditorium at the National WWI Museum and Memorial
Coronal mass ejections (C.M.E.) often accompany solar flares during storms on the surface of the sun. The energy released during these flares can equal the equivalent of 1 billion megatons of TNT. When the plasma medium is heated to tens of millions of degrees Kelvin, these ejections fire clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms through the corona of the sun into space. Though C.M.Es have been known to interfere with our satellites, communications, and power grids, they gift us with the awesome beauty of the Aurora Borealis. When the flare’s electrons collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, they are excited and energized into an electric light show visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres.
This work is meant to invoke the mood and spirit of these cataclysmic events. The alteration between consonance and dissonance is merely a reflection of the beauty, wonder, and ominous nature of these mysterious solar activities.
Premiered October 29, 2017 at J.C. Nichols Auditorium at the National WWI Museum and Memorial
The piece is set out as a day at Silver Lake from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series. Starting with the rustling of the breeze in the grass by the water, and the bird-life waking. There’s lots of call and response ideas–Mary being led around Laura. Laura is asked by her parents to be Mary’s eyes when she goes blind. There are plenty of important, effective percussion parts. The horn line at Figure G is a distant song, sung by the men who work at Silver Lake at the railroad camp. In the book, the reason they move to the lake is because the area is booming and their father gets a job there as a bookkeeper.
At Figure E the main motif comes from the word ‘family’ in braille:
At Figure H, the word here is ‘sisters’:
The Four Swords
Will be premiered 2019
The Four Swords is a commission from the Mid America Freedom Band, as a result of their Call for Proposals to write the ensemble a new piece for concert band’s 2018–19 season, “Colors.”
The tune for “The Four Swords” goes back to the summer of 1990, when my younger brother and I started writing and illustrating our fantasy book, “The Adventures of Zaropeth and Zorogis”, the story of a warrior and a dwarf with a penchant for eating meat and corn, on their circuitous route to Death Mountain to save their parents from imprisonment by the evil and merciless DEATH=ADDER. Over the course of a year, my brother and I wrote the first book and got a few chapters into the 2nd volume, and then the books disappeared until the summer of 2017, when I found them in a box of my old stuff from childhood. I read them out loud to friends and family and we cried laughing because they were so silly, so I then read them to my niece and nephew, who were the same age as my brother and I when we started writing the books. My niece and nephew promptly decided it was time to continue the books, and so they did, with me and sometimes my mom or my brother as the engravers. The stories just got funnier and weirder and more complex, and then we began Volume 3: “The Tale of the Four Swords”.
The swords of Vengeness, Hoodlums, Justice, and Chaos are all represented in the music with color and rhythm themes. The low brass are gold and silver, the high woodwinds are yellow and red, the high brass and low woodwinds are blue and green, and the percussion is a bright purple. The colors weave and starkly shift until they all come together at the end as a giant 80-plus piece rainbow! This music is a tribute to the enduring and hilarious adventures of childhood imagination.
Kimberley Archer: Songs of Longing and Solitude, Book II (world)
Greg Bartholomew: Far North Land (world)
Nathan Brown: Grey Hill (world of band version)
Amy Dunker: Ice (world)
Daniel Elder: Fantasia (world)
Jason Gerraughty: burn it down. salt the earth (world)
Charles Gourdin: American Parade (US)
Andrew Hamilton: Breathe (world)
Lee Hartman: Mehter Suite (world)
Salvador Alan Jacobo: Colors Ever So Vibrant (world)
Clare Shore: Midwinter (US of band version)
Ingrid Stolzel: Into the Blue (world of band version)