Laboring Songs

From Wind Repertory Project
Dan Welcher

Dan Welcher

Subtitle: Movement I, from Symphony No. 3, Shaker Life

General Info

Year: 1998 / 2006
Duration: c. 10:10
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Theodore Presser Co.
Cost: Score and Parts - Rental   |   Score Only - $40.00


Full Score
C Piccolo
English Horn
B-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet
Horn in F
String Bass
Percussion, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Bongos
  • Castanets
  • Cowbell
  • Crotales
  • Glass Wind Chime
  • Glockenspiel
  • Marimba
  • Sizzle Cymbal
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam
  • Temple Blocks
  • Tom-Tom
  • Triangle
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

Welcher has become fascinated with spiritual practices outside of the mainstream. His best-selling Zion for concert band, for instance, came about from his study of the music and worship of the Mormon pioneers of Utah. Laboring Songs and the companion Circular Marches were born from his immersion in the history of the famed Shakers. Their most widely known hymn, Simple Gifts, may have led Welcher to research other, more obscure, Shaker hymns, and several of these are quoted in the new Symphony No. 3, “Shaker Life.”

- Program Note from publisher

Laboring Songs begins with a wordless melody moving in serene 4/2 and 3/2 meters, attributed to “Mother” Anne Lee herself (the very first Shaker music had no words, because words were considered to be too “worldly”). Assigned to a solo trumpet at first, this melody draws more and more adherents to it, as the Shakers themselves were able to do, through its simple strength and purity. A second melody arrives to accompany this tune, which will later be revealed as “Sad Days,” which contains words about the “sorrow and anguish” of the “Sad Days, which are surely to come.” The music fills and grows until the slow pulse will no longer contain it, and then a fast tune (“Shaker Life”) breaks out in a vigorous 2/4. “Sad Days” makes its reappearance in the solo euphonium with bits of “Shaker Life” accompanying it, and finally causes the fast meter to collapse into a state of “suspended animation.” Three offstage flutes intone a rather primitive, wordless part-song, supposedly given in dictation by an angel to its unknown transcriber. When the pulsed music returns, in a slow 5/4 meter, the melody that emerges is Turn to the Right, which refers both to the turning movement of the march-step and to the “getting right with God” message. This melody is treated to a series of constantly accelerating variations, interrupted twice by the shuffle tune Followers of the Lamb, first heard in the bassoons.

After the final version of Turn to the Right, Mother Anne’s wordless melody returns as a benediction, with echoes of the other melodies dividing the phrases. A repeated mantra of “Come Life, Shaker Life" conclude the work, as a throbbing meditation over the resounding final chord.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

  • Louisiana: V
  • Texas: V. Complete


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Welcher, D. (2006). Laboring Songs: For Large Wind Ensemble: Movement I, from Symphony No. 3, "Shaker Life" [score]. Elkan-Vogel: King of Prussia, Pa.