E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Saxophone
E-flat Alto Saxophone
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III-IV
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
(percussion detail desired)
None discovered thus far.
When the U.S. Military Academy Band at West Point called me about a commission for the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Academy, they did not realize I had spent three years of my young life playing in, and writing for, that very ensemble. From 1969 to 1972, fresh out of the Eastman School at the height of the Vietnam War, I served as a Specialist Sixth Class bassoonist, and later, an arranger. The band at that time, during the final years of the military draft, was an amazing group of musicians: members of the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, and a host of other world-class orchestras were members. The level of proficiency in the ensemble was legendary. I couldn't have asked for a better graduate school, which, in fact, the U.S. M.A. Band turned out to be, for me and for a host of other musicians who did a tour of duty there.
Having said this, Perpetual Song is probably the least militaristic of the ten works for wind ensemble I have written to date. It is a single-movement work, lasting about eight minutes, modeled on the delightful single-movement works of Percy Aldridge Grainger (another "alum" of sorts of the West Point Band, Grainger lived in White Plains, and used to walk all the way to The Point to attend concerts). In addition to honoring the West Point anniversary, A.D. 2000 is the year that marks the 250th anniversary of the death of J.S. Bach, and the 25th anniversary of the death of Dmitri Shostakovich. I couldn't resist making this work a testament to the power of song, and (especially with these two composers) of counterpoint.
The work's title refers to the fact that (especially in the works of Bach, but also in much of the music of Shostakovich) it is possible for a melody to be "endless." Perpetual Song is in four distinct sections. It begins and ends as a slow fugue, on a simple stepwise melody. This is thoroughly worked out, in the time-honored manner of separate fugal entrances, including augmentation (playing the tune at half-speed) in the basses and diminution (playing the tune at double-speed) in the saxophones. A second melody is then introduced, while the original fugue continues to walk along gently. The second part is fast, and contains a jumpy ostinato in the low reeds and brasses, over which the "new" melody returns at length. This, in turn, leads to an even faster section in a choppy 2/4 meter, heightening the excitement while never losing sight of the now-familiar melody. At the end of this section, the musical initials B-A-C-H and D-S-C-H (the German spelling of Shostakovich) make a single appearance. The final section is a harmonized return of the original material, ending with the dissolution of the fugue. The final bars are the unadorned original melody, presented in the clarinets just as in the beginning. The effect is one of polyphonic singing ... as if a second choir had entered and left the chapel, leaving the first choir still intoning its ongoing chant.
The score is dedicated, with affection, to the U.S.M.A. Band at West Point.
- Program Note by composer
- Audio: Reference recording. United States Military Academy Band (William Garlette, conductor) - 2002
None discovered thus far.
To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project
Works for Winds by This Composer
- Arches (1985)
- Castle Creek (1989/2009)
- Circular Marches. See: Symphony No. 3, "Shaker Life"
- Downshifting (2014)
- For the Mystic Harmony (2017)
- Glacier (2003)
- Hauntings (1986)
- Laboring Songs. See: Symphony No. 3, "Shaker Life"
- Minstrels of the Kells (2002)
- Perpetual Song (2008)
- Songs Without Words (2001/2007)
- Spumante (1998/1999)
- Symphony No. 3, "Shaker Life" (1997)
- Symphony No. 4, "American Visionary" (2005)
- Symphony No. 6, "Three Places in the East" (2017)
- Upriver (2011)
- The Yellowstone Fires (1998)
- Zion (1994)
- [danwelcher.com/ Dan Welcher website] Accessed 19 August 2020
- Welcher, D. (2008). Perpetual Song: For Wind Ensemble [score]. Elkan-Vogel: [King of Prussia, Penn.]