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Decoration Day

From Wind Repertory Project
Charles Ives

Charles Ives (trans. Jonathan Elkus)


Subtitle: From Four New England Holidays


General Info

Year: 1912 / 1978
Duration: c. 7:55
Difficulty: VI (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Peermusic Ltd.
Cost: Score and Parts - $75.00   |   Score (Purchase) - $16.00


Instrumentation

Full Score
Piccolo
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
Contrabasoon
Eb Soprano Clarinet
Bb Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
Eb Alto Clarinet
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Contra-Alto Clarinet
Bb Contrabass Clarinet
Soprano Saxophone
Alto Saxophone I
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone
Cornet (in Eb) Solo
Cornet (in Bb) I-II
Flugelhorn (in Bb) I-II
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombones I-II-III
Euphonium
Tuba
String Bass
Percussion I-II, including:

  • Bass Drum (with Cymbals)
  • Cymbal (suspended)
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Snare Drum
  • Tam-Tam
  • Timpani
  • Tubular Bells
  • Xylophone


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

In the early morning the gardens and woods about the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the day's memorial. During the forenoon as the people join each other on the Green there is felt, at times, a fervency and intensity - a shadow, perhaps, of the fanatical harshness - reflecting old Abolitionist days. It is a day, as Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of 'Nature's kinship with the lower order - man.'

After the Town Hall is filled with the Spring's harvest of lilacs, daisies and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street. First come the three Marshals on plough horses (going sideways); then the Warden and Burgesses in carriages, the Village Cornet Band, the G.A.R., two by two, the Militia (Company G), while the volunteer Fire Brigade, drawing the decorated horsecart, with its jangling bells, brings up the rear -- the inevitable swarm of small boys following. The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets. the roll of muffled drums and Adeste Fideles answers for the dirge. A little girl on the fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

After the last grave is decorated Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung. Then the ranks are formed again and 'we all march back to town' to a Yankee stimulant -- Reeve's inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep -- though to many a soldier, the somber thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops -- and in the silence, the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the Day.

- Ives's postface to Decoration Day


If 20th century American music can be said to have a patriarch, it would most certainly be Charles Ives. His music is by turns strange and wondrous, sometimes beautiful and sentimental, occasionally grating and harsh, but always original. Showing remarkable talent as a child, his father (a Union Army bugler and bandleader) encouraged him to experiment and push boundaries. One morning, George Ives is said to have come home to find his son practicing a percussion part. On the piano. With his fists. Rather than scold the boy he said, “It’s fine to play like that, Charlie, as long as you know what you’re doing.” Experiences like this and others would influence Ives’ tonal palette for years to come.

Decoration Day was originally part of a larger piece entitled Holidays Symphony, though it stands squarely on its own. It is a musical depiction of a small town placing wreaths on the graves of its Civil War dead on what would later be known as Memorial Day. The piece is a tour-de-force of imagination and depth. Significantly, when the great Igor Stravinsky was asked his definition of a musical masterpiece he replied simply, "Decoration Day."

-Program Note by Andrew Skaggs for the U.S. Navy Band


Decoration Day (named for the national commemoration now known called Memorial Day) is the second ("spring") movement of Ives's symphony Four New England Holidays. According to Ives's description, the movement begins early in the morning with the gathering of flowers -- amid "a shadow, perhaps, of the fanatical harshness -- reflecting old Abolitionist days." To distant bell ringing, a lone train whistle and birds chirping, the Village Cornet Band playing the dirge Adeste Fidelis leads everyone to Wooster Cemetery:

"a thing a boy never forgets. ... After the last grave is decorated, Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories while a last hymn is sung. The we 'all march back to town' to a Yankee stimulant -- Reeves's inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep -- though to many a soldier, the somber thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops -- and in the silence, the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind the West Mountain breathes its benediction on the Day."

Ives's father, George Ives, a Civil War bandmaster and veteran, would have been at the head of the band on these occasions during Charlie's growing up, and the ritual sounding of Taps may well be in memoriam to him.

-Program Note by Jonathan Elkus for "The President's Own" Unites States Marine Band


Commercial Discography


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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