Sheltering Sky (flex)

From Wind Repertory Project
Composer Name

John Mackey (arr. Patrick Dunnigan)

General Info

Year: 2012 / 2020
Duration: c. 4:40
Difficulty: III (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: John Mackey
Cost: Score and Parts (digital) - $60.00

Instrumentation (Flexible)

Full Score
Part 1

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • E-flat Soprano Clarinet
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet
  • E-flat Soprano Saxophone
  • B-flat Trumpet

Part 2

  • Flute
  • Oboe
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone
  • B-flat Trumpet

Part 3

  • Bassoon
  • B-flat Soprano Clarinet
  • E-flat Alto Saxophone
  • B-flat Tenor Saxophone
  • B-flat Trumpet
  • Horn in F
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium

Part 4

  • Bassoon
  • B-flat Bass Clarinet
  • E-flat Baritone Saxophone
  • Trombone
  • Euphonium
  • Tuba
  • String Bass

Percussion (optional), including:

  • Bass Drum
  • Marimba I-II
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Vibraphone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The wind band medium has, in the twenty-first century, a host of disparate styles that dominate its texture. At the core of its contemporary development exists a group of composers who dazzle with scintillating and frightening virtuosity. As such, at first listening one might experience John Mackey’s Sheltering Sky as a striking departure. Its serene and simple presentation is a throwback of sorts –- a nostalgic portrait of time suspended.

The work itself has a folksong-like quality –- intended by the composer –- and through this an immediate sense of familiarity emerges. Certainly the repertoire has a long and proud tradition of weaving folksongs into its identity, from the days of Holst and Vaughan Williams to modern treatments by such figures as Donald Grantham and Frank Ticheli. Whereas these composers incorporated extant melodies into their works, however, Mackey takes a play from Percy Aldridge Grainger. Grainger’s Colonial Song seemingly sets a beautiful folksong melody in an enchanting way (so enchanting, in fact, that he reworked the tune into two other pieces: Australian Up-Country Tune and The Gumsuckers March). In reality, however, Grainger’s melody was entirely original –- his own concoction to express how he felt about his native Australia. Likewise, although the melodies of Sheltering Sky have a recognizable quality (hints of the contours and colors of Danny Boy and Shenandoah are perceptible), the tunes themselves are original to the work, imparting a sense of hazy distance as though they were from a half-remembered dream.

The work unfolds in a sweeping arch structure, with cascading phrases that elide effortlessly. The introduction presents softly articulated harmonies stacking through a surrounding placidity. From there emerge statements of each of the two folksong-like melodies –- the call as a sighing descent in solo oboe, and its answer as a hopeful rising line in trumpet. Though the composer’s trademark virtuosity is absent, his harmonic language remains. Mackey avoids traditional triadic sonorities almost exclusively, instead choosing more indistinct chords with diatonic extensions (particularly seventh and ninth chords) that facilitate the hazy sonic world that the piece inhabits. Near cadences, chromatic dissonances fill the narrow spaces in these harmonies, creating an even greater pull toward wistful nostalgia. Each new phrase begins over the resolution of the previous one, creating a sense of motion that never completely stops. The melodies themselves unfold and eventually dissipate until at last the serene introductory material returns –- the opening chords finally coming to rest.

- Program Note by Jake Wallace

Sheltering Sky, premiered on April 21, 2012, was jointly commissioned by Traughber Junior High School Band (Rachel Maxwell, director), and Thompson Junior High School Band Oswego, Ill.) (Daniel Harrison, director).

- Program Note by Technical Sgts. David Balandrin and Ricky Parrell

Performance Notes

This version is playable with as few as four players, one per part. When assigning parts, strive to achieve a balance across the ensemble for proper musical effect.

The percussion parts are optional in this version. If percussionists are available, the order of preference for part assignments would be Marimba I, Vibraphone, Marimba II, Suspended Cymbal, then Bass Drum. Switching between percussion parts is also possible.

Across the parts, there are measures where some notes are doubled in octaves. When one note is smaller than the other (cued size), the regular-size note is the preferred note. Use the cued note if the player is unable to play the regular-size note. When both notes are the same size, the choice of which note to play is up to the conductor. In most cases, the choice will be obvious as some extremely high or low notes may be out-of-range for younger players.

The designations 'solo' and 'tutti' apply across the parts, not the staves. Thus in Part I, one player covers the solo for all assigned to Part I, and so forth. Of course, this may be adjusted for proper balance at the discretion of the conductor.

- Performance Note by arranger


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Arkansas Little Rock Wind Ensemble (Nickolas Doshier, conductor) - 5 October 2023
  • Mukwonago (Wisc.) High School Chamber Winds (Emma Angoli, director) – 8 May 2021
  • University of British Columbia (Vancouver) Concert Winds (Christin Reardon MacLellan, conductor) - 15 April 2021
  • South Dakota State University (Brookings) Caldwell Concert Band (Kevin Kessler, conductor) - 2 March 2021
  • University of Texas Arlington Symphonic Band (Christopher Evans, conductor) - 10 December 2020
  • Sacramento (Calif.) State University Concert Band (Matthew Morse, conductor) – 2 December 2020
  • Washington and Lee University (Lexington, Va.) Wind Ensemble (Christopher Dobbins, conductor) - 1 December 2020
  • Ball State University (Muncie, Ind.) Campus Band (Adam Friedrich, conductor) - 11 November 2020
  • Pittsburg (Kan.) State University Wind Ensemble - 24 September 2020

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works