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Of Sailors and Whales

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W. Francis McBeth

W. Francis McBeth

Subtitle: Five Scenes from Melville

General Info

Year: 1989
Duration: c. 16:15
Difficulty: V (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Southern Music Company
Cost: Score and Parts - $195.00   |   Score Only - $29.50


1. Ishmael - 4:05
2. Queequeg - 2:30
3. Father Mapple - 2:15
4. Ahab - 1:50
5. The White Whale - 4:40


Full Score
C Piccolo (doubling Flute III)
Flute I-II-III
Oboe I-II
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
E-flat Alto Clarinet
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II-III
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Claves
  • Conga Drum
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Glockenspiel
  • Gong (or Tam-tam)
  • Tom-Toms (low)
  • Sleigh Bells
  • Snare Drum
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Triangle
  • Tubular Bells
  • Vibraphone
  • Wind Chimes (T-bar)
  • Wood Block
  • Xylophone

Players singing


  • Horn in F I, Mvt. 5, 3 meas. before reh. O, beat 1: Two eighth notes should read 2 quarter notes.

Program Notes

Of Sailors and Whales (Five Scenes from Melville) is a five-movement work based on scenes from Herman Melville's Moby Dick. It was commissioned by and is dedicated to the California Band Directors Association, Inc., and was premiered in February 1990 by the California All-State Band, conducted by the composer. The work is sub-dedicated to Robert Lanon White, Commander USN (Ret.), who went to sea as a simple sailor.

The composer provided these notes for each movement:

I. Ishmael - "I go to sea as a simple sailor."

II. Queequeg - "It was quite plain that he must be some abominable savage, but Queequeg was a creature in the transitory state -- neither caterpillar nor butterfly."

III. Father Mapple - "This ended, in prolonged solemn tones, like the continual tolling of a bell in a ship that is foundering at sea in a fog -- in such tones he commenced reading the following hymn; but changing his manner towards the concluding stanzas, burst forth with a pealing exultation and joy."

The ribs and terrors in the whale arched over me a dismal gloom

While all God's sunlit waves rolled by, and lift me lower down to doom.
In black distress I called my God when I could scarce believe Him mine,
He bowed His ear to my complaint, no more the whale did me confine.
My songs forever shall record that terrible, that joyful hour,

I give the glory to my God, His all the mercy and the power.

IV. Ahab - "So powerfully did the whole grim aspect of Ahab affect me that for the first few moments I hardly noted the barbaric white leg upon which he partly stood."

V. The White Whale - "Moby Dick seemed combinedly possessed by all the angels that fell from heaven. The birds! - the birds! They mark the spot ... The whale, the whale! Up helm, up helm! Oh, all ye sweet powers of air, now hug me close ... He turns to meet us ... My God, stand by me now!”

- Program Note from score


State Ratings

  • Alabama: Class A
  • Arkansas: V
  • Georgia: VI
  • Iowa: IV
  • Kansas: V
  • Louisiana: V
  • Maryland: V
  • Minnesota: I
  • Mississippi: VI-A
  • North Carolina: VI
  • Oklahoma: V-A
  • South Carolina: VI
  • Tennessee: VI
  • Virginia: V


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Wind Symphony (Rubén Darío Gómez, conductor) - 24 April 2023
  • Culver-Stockton College (Canton, Mo.) Wind Ensemble (Trent Hollinger, conductor) - 25 March 2023
  • Grace College (Winona Lake, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Eric Criss, conductor; Mike Yocum, narrator) - 24 March 2023
  • Parkland Concert Band (Champaign, Ill.) (Matthew Dixon, conductor) - 30 October 2022
  • Luther College (Decorah, Ia.) Symphonic Band (Cory Near, conductor) - 13 April 2022
  • Bethel University (Arden Hills, Minn.) Wind Symphony (Steven Thompson, conductor) - 26 March 2022
  • ASBOA (Arkansas) All-State Symphonic Band (Elizabeth Jackson Kirchhoff, conductor) – 19 February 2022
  • University of Mississippi (Oxford) Symphonic Band (Randy Dale, conductor) - 22 April 2021
  • University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg) Concert Band B (Catherine Rand, conductor) - 22 April 2021
  • Ithaca (N.Y.) College Concert Band (Benjamin Rochford, conductor) - 4 March 2020
  • University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) Clinic Honor Band III (Troy Bennefield, conductor) – 2 February 2020
  • El Camino College (Torrence, Calif.) Symphonic Winds (Berkeley Price, conductor) – 18 May 2019
  • University of South Alabama (Mobile) Symphony Band (Jason Rinehart, conductor) – 16 April 2019
  • Lakeshore Symphonic Band (Cedarburg, Wisc.) (Michael Zens, conductor) – 18 March 2019
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Collegiate Winds (Phillip Day, conductor; William Ballenger, narrator) – 26 February 2019
  • Vassar College and Community Wind Ensemble (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.) (James Osborn, conductor) – 24 February 2019
  • Association of Texas Small School Bands (ATSSB) Concert Band (Dennis Johnson, conductor) - 16 February 2019 (2019 TMEA Conference, San Antonio)
  • Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) Symphony Band (Chad Reep, conductor) – 3 December 2018
  • California All-State Band (W. Francis McBeth, conductor) - February 1990 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • Battaglia (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Barber) (1967/2021)

All Wind Works


  • McBeth, W. (1990/2001). Of Sailors and Whales: Five Scenes from Melville [score]. Southern Music: San Antonio, Tex.
  • Miles, Richard B. 2000. Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. Volume 3. Chicago: GIA Publications. pp. 394-398.