Celebration Overture for Wind Ensemble


for concert wind band

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Celebration Overture for concert wind band 

James M. Stephenson

This version of Celebration Overture is dedicated to Alan Korest by Dolly Bodick Korest to celebrate his love for music and community
Premiered on April 22, 2018 by the FGCU Wind Symphony, Gary Green conducting

duration: 10′

2 flutes – piccolo
2 oboes, 2 B clarinets, 2 bassoons
saxophones: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone
2 horns, 2 C trumpets, 2 trombones
euphonium, tuba
percussion (one player):
mallets: vibes, glockenspiel
triangle, tambourine, wood block, sand-blocks
sus. cymb, cymb a2, bass drum, snare drum
piano, organ, double bass


Program Notes (from the original orchestral version)

In the fall of 1999, I was contacted by my good friend Edward Benyas, with a request to compose a new work to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, for a concert he would be conducting.

There are three things that pop up in my head when I think back to his requests during our phone conversation.

1) The piece needed to be completed in roughly 2 weeks,
2) please feature the timpanist, and
3) really? a piece to celebrate the 48th anniversary?

The first request needs very little explanation – it was hard and furious work,
but was completed on time. I have very fond memories of sitting on the porch of a cabin
in Northern Michigan, overlooking a lake, while writing this work.

The second request was amusing to me. The timpanist for the concert
was also a mutual friend, and it was already known that in order to play the concert,
he would be driving hours from one gig, unloading timpani,
then driving elsewhere, playing another job,
then driving back to the first, playing, reloading timpani, etc…
In other words, could I please reward him with a good part for all
of the extra hassles he’d be going through just to play the concert.

The 3rd request, once I got over the initial why’s and really’s,
presented a rather fun challenge and inspiration.
Puns and symbolism have always been a part of my “game” when writing music,
and so I took advantage of whatever I could with the number 48 (or 48th)
when composing this piece. For example, the piece opens with a flurry of
40 eighth-notes in the strings (I was going to go for 48 notes, but it didn’t work,
so I settled for forty 8th notes instead). Additionally, the harmonic structure
of the piece is almost entirely built upon a minor 7th chord; this is because
when one counts up 4 semi-tones from the root of the chord,
and then another 8, the resulting notes spell out most of a minor 7th chord. [
Example: C up to E-flat, and then again up to B-flat]. Lastly, one of the main themes
is a very catchy tune written to the time signature of 4/8.
Of course, all of the games and symbolism are fruitless
unless the piece stands on its own musically.
This is first and foremost with every piece I write, and I am pleased to say
that this piece was a joy and honor to compose,
and to present to the Chicago Chamber Orchestra for its premiere that September of 1999.
And subsequently in its wind version as a gift to Alan and Dolly for premiere in April of 2018. [Almost 20 years later!].
I was unable to make the original premiere concert, but I am told that the timpanist
was in rare form when performing the piece!
Subsequently, the piece was a semi-finalist in the Jacksonville Symphony’s “Fresh Ink” competition,
and on March 4/5, 2011, the piece was performed by the Lake Forest Symphony,
under the direction of Alan Heatherington, as an “honorary re-dedication” to the
city of Lake Forest, IL, in recognition of the 150th anniversary of the city.

Jim Stephenson; March 4, 2018

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