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Voice, A Messenger, A

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Aaron Jay Kernis

Aaron Jay Kernis

The actual typography of this work is "a Voice, a Messenger."

General Info

Year: 2010
Duration: c. 23:00
Difficulty: VII (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: G. Schirmer
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - Rental


1. Morning Prayer – 3:45
2. Timbral Psalm – 4:00
3. Night Prayer – 7:00
4. Monument , Tekiah, Teruah – 7:30


Full Score
C Piccolo/Flute III
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
E-flat Soprano Clarinet
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
B-flat Contrabass Clarinet
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
Tuba I-II
String Bass I-II-III
Percussion I-II-III-IV-V, including:

  • Bass Drums
  • Bongos
  • Chimes
  • Claves
  • Conga
  • Crash Cymbals (2)
  • Crotales
  • Dumbek
  • Glockenspiel
  • Lion's Roar, Medium
  • Maracas
  • Marimba
  • Metal Pieces (2)
  • Pedal Bass Drum
  • Piccolo Snare Drum
  • Rasp
  • Snare Drum
  • Steel Drum, Medium
  • Suspended Cymbal (2)
  • Tambourine
  • Tam-Tam
  • Tenor Drum
  • Thunder Sheet
  • Tom-Tom (7)
  • Triangle
  • Vibraphone
  • Wind Chimes
  • Wood Block (4)
  • Xylophone


None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

The composer states the following about a Voice, a Messenger:

When Philip Smith asked me to write a concerto, he suggested as sources the appearance of trumpets and its relatives in Scripture – shofar (ram’s horn), cornet, horns, etc. I developed impressions for the work while attending Rosh Hashanah services, hearing the shofar in person, and rereading passages from the Torah that place these instruments in a spiritual context.

…there was thunder and lightning and a dense cloud over the mountain; there was a loud Shofar blast, and all the people in the camp trembled. – Exodus

He manifested himself with the sound of the Shofar, the Lord amidst the sound of the Shofar. – Psalm 47

Morning Prayer, terse and, like most of the concerto, pensive, chromatic and conflicted, calms only at its end, when a chorale-like series of essential three-note chords intervene.

The timbrel is the Biblical forbear of the tambourine, and the title Timbrel Psalm is a play on words. Timbre (or timbral) is commonly used by musicians to refer to the “color” of instrumental sound. This dance-like movement is made of short phrases in a variety of timbres, much of it lightly scored and vigorous.

Praise him with the blast of the Shofar; praise him with psaltery and harp. Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with stringed instruments and reed. Praise him with resounding cymbals; praise him with clanging cymbals. – Psalm 150

The expansive Evening Prayer features flugelhorn solo. It alternates lyrical, pensive lines with ongoing development and dramatic clashes between soloist and ensemble, ending as unsettled as it began.

The music of the final movement, Monument - Tekiah, Teruah does not directly imitate the sound of a shofar but suggests the urgency of its call, and much of it is built on fanfare-like passages. The most dramatic of the four movements, it is made of stark contrasts, bitter harmonies and dense textures. The chorale from the opening returns at the very end, just after the work’s most lyrical moments, and culminates in the flanking of the soloist with two other trumpets. This suggests references in antiquity to the shofar being paired on either side by two silver trumpets in New Year’s Day services in the second Temple in Jerusalem, before its destruction.

Thou hast heard the sound of the Shofar, and the alarm of war; destruction follows upon destruction. - Jeremiah

a Voice, a Messenger was composed in 2010 and edited in December 2012. Its dedication reads: "Written for Philip Smith, in celebration of his three decades with the New York Philharmonic; and in recognition of the generous and ongoing commitment to the creation of music of our time by that great orchestra and the distinguished Big Ten Band Association."

In memory of Michael Kernis (1955-2009)

a Voice, a Messenger was co-commissioned by the Big Ten Band Directors Association, and by the New York Philharmonic, made possible with a generous gift from Marie-Josée Kravis, and with major support provided by the Francis Goelet Fund. This is the fourth performance of a Voice, a Messenger.

- Program Note from University of Texas (Austin) Wind Ensemble concert program, 22 November 2015


(Needed - please join the WRP if you can help.)

State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Texas Wind Ensemble (Jerry Junkin, conductor; Christopher Martin, trumpet) – 22 November 2015
  • The Ohio State University (Columbus) Wind Symphony (Russell Mikkelson, conductor; Michael Sachs, trumpet) – 1 March 2014

Works for Winds by This Composer


  • Aaron Jay Kernis on "a Voice, a Messenger"
  • Kernis, A. (2010). A Voice, A Messenger : A Concerto for Trumpet (Also Playing Flugelhorn and Piccolo Trumpet) With an Orchestra of Winds, Brass, Percussion, Double Basses, Harp, and Piano (2010) [score]. AJK Music: [United States].