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Frozen Cathedral, The

From Wind Repertory Project
John Mackey

John Mackey


General Info

Year: 2012
Duration: c. 14:00
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Osti Music, Inc
Cost: Score and Parts (print) – Rental ($475.00)   |   Score Only (print) - $75.00


Instrumentation

Full score
Piccolo
Flute I-II-III-IV (I doubles bass flute, II doubles alto flute)
Oboe I-II
English horn
Bassoon I-II
Contrabassoon
Eb Clarinet
Bb Clarinet I-II-III-IV
Bb Bass Clarinet I-II
Bb Contrabass Clarinet
Bb Soprano Saxophone
Eb Alto Saxophone
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
Trumpet in C I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Bass Trombone
Euphonium
Tuba
String bass
Piano (doubles celesta)
Harp
Antiphonal percussion I-II-III, including:

  • Crystal glasses (high Db and F, bowed)
  • Glockenspiel (2)
  • Triangles (one medium small, one small)
  • Waterphone

Percussion I-II-III-IV-V-VI-VII, including:

  • Bass drum
  • Crotales (2-octave set for Percussion IV. Low C#, D#, and E are removed from set and assigned to Percussion I.)
  • Cymbals (crash, China (2), splash, suspended crash (2))
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Mark tree
  • Tam-tam
  • Tambourine
  • Timpani
  • Triangles (medium small and small)
  • Vibraphone (2)


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

The Koyukon call it Denali, meaning “the great one,” and it is great. It stands at more than twenty thousand feet above sea level, a towering mass over the Alaskan wilderness. Measured from its base to its peak, it is the tallest mountain on land in the world, a full two thousand feet taller than Mount Everest. It is Mount McKinley, and it is an awesome spectacle. And it is the inspiration behind John Mackey’s The Frozen Cathedral.

The piece was born of the collaboration between Mackey and John Locke, Director of Bands at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Locke asked Mackey if he would dedicate the piece to the memory of his late son, J.P., who had a particular fascination with Alaska and the scenery of Denali National Park. Mackey agreed, and immediately found himself grappling with a problem: He had never been to Alaska.

How could I tie the piece to Alaska, a place I'd never seen in person? I kept thinking about it in literal terms, and I just wasn’t getting anywhere. My wife, who titles all of my pieces, said I should focus on what it is that draws people to these places. People go to the mountains -- these monumental, remote, ethereal and awesome parts of the world -- as a kind of pilgrimage. It’s a search for the sublime, for transcendence. A great mountain is like a church. “Call it The Frozen Cathedral,” she said.

I clearly married up.

The most immediately distinct aural feature of the work is the quality (and geographic location) of intriguing instrumental colors. The stark, glacial opening is colored almost exclusively by a crystalline twinkling of metallic percussion that surrounds the audience. Although the percussion orchestration carries a number of traditional sounds, there are a host of unconventional timbres as well, such as crystal glasses, crotales on timpani, tam-tam resonated with superball mallets, and the waterphone, an instrument used by Mackey to great effect on his earlier work Turning. The initial sonic environment is an icy and alien one, a cold and distant landscape whose mystery is only heightened by a longing, modal solo for bass flute, made dissonant by a contrasting key, and more insistent by the eventual addition of alto flute, English horn, and bassoon. This collection expands to encompass more of the winds, slowly and surely, with their chorale building in intensity and rage. Just as it seems their wailing despair can drive no further, however, it shatters like glass, dissipating once again into the timbres of the introductory percussion.

The second half of the piece begins in a manner that sounds remarkably similar to the first. In reality, it has been transposed into a new key and this time, when the bass flute takes up the long solo again, it resonates with far more compatible consonance. The only momentary clash is a Lydian influence in the melody, which brings a brightness to the tune that will remain until the end. Now, instead of anger and bitter conflict, the melody projects an aura of warmth, nostalgia, and even joy. This bright spirit pervades the ensemble, and the twinkling colors of the metallic percussion inspire a similar percolation through the upper woodwinds as the remaining winds and brass present various fragmented motives based on the bass flute’s melody. This new chorale, led in particular by the trombones, is a statement of catharsis, at once banishing the earlier darkness in a moment of spiritual transcendence and celebrating the grandeur of the surroundings. A triumphant conclusion in E-flat major is made all the more jubilant by the ecstatic clattering of the antiphonal percussion, which ring into the silence like voices across the ice.

The Frozen Cathedral was commissioned by The University of North Carolina, Greensboro; The University of Michigan; Michigan State University; University of Florida; Florida State University; University of Georgia; University of Oklahoma; The Ohio State University; University of Kentucky; Arizona State University; and Metro State College. The work received its world premiere on March 22, 2013, with the University of North Carolina Greensboro Wind Ensemble, conducted by John Locke.

- Program note by Jake Wallace


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of California Berkeley Wind Ensemble I (Matthew Sadowski, conductor) – 17 March 2019
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) Symphony Band (Michael Haithcock, conductor) – 15 March 2019
  • University of North Carolina, Greensboro, Alumni Band (John R. Locke, conductor) – 18 November 2018
  • Eastman School of Music (Rochester, N.Y.) Wind Orchestra (Mark Scatterday, conductor) – 7 November 2018
  • University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Wind Symphony (John R. Stewart, conductor) - 12 October 2018
  • James Madison University (Harrisonburg, Va.) Wind Symphony (Stephen Bolstad, conductor) – 3 October 2018
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Wind Symphony (Benjamin Rochford, conductor) – 26 April 2018
  • Hope College (Holland, Mich.) Wind Ensemble (Gabe Southard, conductor) - 23 April 2018
  • University of Cincinnati (Ohio) College-Conservatory of Music Wind Orchestra (Terrence Milligan, conductor) – 18 April 2018
  • University of Illinois (Champaign) Wind Symphony (Stephen G. Peterson, conductor) – 12 April 2018
  • State University of New York, Potsdam, Crane Wind Ensemble (Brian K. Doyle, conductor) – 15 March 2018
  • Scarsdale (N.Y.) High School Wind Ensemble (Jason Noble, conductor) - 15 March 2018 (Carnegie Hall, N.Y.)
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Wind Ensemble (Paul Popiel, conductor) – 19 February 2018
  • University of Illinois (Champaign) Wind Symphony (Stephen G. Peterson, conductor) – 11 February 2018
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Penn.) Wind Ensemble (George Vosburgh, conductor)– 10 February 2018
  • University of Kansas (Lawrence) Wind Ensemble (Paul Popiel, conductor) – 3 February 2018
  • Senzoku White Tie Wind Ensemble ((Kawasaki, Japan) (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 3 December 2017
  • University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor) – 10 December 2017
  • University of Utah (Salt Lake City) Wind Ensemble (Eric M. Laprade, conductor) – 5 December 2017
  • Wind Symphony of Clovis (Calif.) (Gary P. Gilroy, conductor) – 26 November 2017
  • University of North Carolina at Greensboro Wind Ensemble (John Locke, conductor) - 22 March 2013 -*Premiere Performance*


Works for Winds by this Composer


Resources

  • Osti Music
  • Talanca, Dominic. "The Frozen Cathedral." In Teaching Music through Performance in Band. Volume 10, Compiled and edited by Richard Miles, 838-853. Chicago: GIA Publications, 2015.