For symphonic concert band

SKU: Declaration Category:



for symphonic concert band

Commissioned by the the premier military bands of the United States Armed Forces, on the occasion of the 89th annual convention of the American Bandmasters Association, held in Washington, DC, March 6-10, 2024. Premiered on March 9 at Constitution Hall 

duration: 10 minutes


piccolo, flutes 1-3 (2 per part), oboe 1-2, English horn, bassoon, contrabassoon, E clarinet, B clarinets 1-2 (2 per part), B bass clarinet,
Saxophones: B soprano, E alto, B tenor, E baritone
French horns 1-4, B cornets 1-2 (doubling on trumpets), B trumpets 1-2, trombones 1-3, bass trombone, euphonium 1-2, tuba 1-2 double bass, piano, har

6 percussion:

Percussion 1: xylophone, vibes (shared), glockenspiel (shared)
Percussion 2: marimba (5-octave), vibes (shared), glockenspiel (shared), cymb. a2 Percussion 3: sus. cymb., tambourine, cymb. a2, triangle
Percussion 4: slap-sticks, tam-tam, wood block, tambourine, triangle, S.D. Percussion 5: snare drum, sus. cymb., triangle, hi-hat cymbal (closed) Percussion 6: bass drum, triangle, sus. cymb.

Program notes:

I’ve been very fortunate to have had a long-standing relationship with many of the service bands working/performing in our nation’s capital, including “The President’s Own” US Marine Band, the US Air Force Band, the US Navy Band, and the US Army band. But never did I expect I’d be writing a piece for players from ALL of them combined, as well as the Army Field Band, US Coast Guard Band, and the Japan Self-Defense Ground Forces Band. But such was the occasion when I was asked to write a piece to be the closer for the final concert performed by this group at the American Bandmasters Association annual conference to be held in Washington, D.C. As is sometimes the case, the title had to be determined before a note was even written. We came up with “Declaration”, an ode to the statement such a piece might make, while also appropriately referring to something uniquely related to our country, which all of the service bands proudly serve.

The music is therefore, declamatory, exciting, reverent, and of course, American. It is set forth into sections: an Introduction, a lilting lighter theme, development, a lyrical intimate theme, more jazz-tinged development, a return of the initial theme, a return of the slower theme, and the outtro, which hearkens back as a resolution to the opening material. Almost all of the music that is developed throughout comes from the opening pages of the score.

As an effort to recognize the message imbued in our “Declaration of Independence” I was captivated on how I might create all 12 notes of our musical system equally. Measure 18 reveals a 12-tone pattern (C-G-Bb -F# -Ab -B-E-Eb -D-F-Db -A: all chromatic notes used before repeating any of them). This was actually one of my early sketches before even composing a note of this score. Instead of creating a “12-tone piece”,
I opted to find a new way (for me) to give weight to these notes. Therefore, as the piece evolves, it works its way through each of those notes, now as keys. The “easier” ones get more activity, while the “harder” ones are reserved for slower sections, or given to instruments for whom the keys work better. Some of the themes are repeated in their relative/parallel minor/majors, as the keys appear respectively in my 12-tone “row.” The key of D gets repeated twice, as does the key of C, first presented in minor, and then resolving at the end in major. This duplication of these two keys is on purpose, as the piece is written for bands who reside in “D.C.” So why not emphasize that?

My sincerest thanks to all of the service bands who supported this new work, and to Colonels Jason Fettig and Michael Colburn, who organized this project, and to whose music-making and collaborative spirit I am forever grateful.
Note: This work was written extensively at the Hermitage Artist Retreat, where I was awarded a fellowship for two weeks of unterrupted work. I am grateful to the staff at the retreat for such lovely accommodations!

~ Jim Stephenson; January 31, 2024

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