Hymn for US


Grade 4

For concert band

SKU: Hymn for US Category:


HYMN for US for concert band by James M Stephenson

Premiered on October 18, 2023 by the Highland Park High School Band, Joshua Chodoroff Director.

Dedicated to Highland Park High School Band and community; Joshua Chodoroff, Director.
Commissioned with support from the students of the Libertyville HS Band program

duration: 6 minutes


flute 1-2, oboe, bassoon, B! clarinet 1-3, bass clarinet sa!xophones: soprano, alto 1-2, tenor, baritone
B trumpet 1-3, French horn 1-4, trombone 1-3, euphonium, tuba timpani + minimum 6 percussion (up to 8)

percussion instrumentation:
1) glockenspiel (+ vibes, if available)
2) chimes
3) marimba (+ xylo, if available)
4) cymbals: crash cym. + sus. cymb.
5) one player needed: triangle, wind chimes, snare drum 6) bass drum

Program Notes, by the composer:

On July 4, 2022, like many other Americans, I was standing on a parade route enjoying one of America’s most enduring traditions. Ten minutes into our parade, news begin to disseminate throughout the crowd that just down the road – merely 6 miles – there had been (yet another) public and tragic mass-shooting. As the day unfolded, it became known that seven individuals had lost their lives during what is normally supposed to be a day to celebrate the United States’ freedom.

I didn’t expect that this tragedy would lead to my being asked to create a piece for the Highland Park High School Band. The HPHS band was marching in that parade and were literally right at the spot where everything took place. When Adam Gohr (Libertyville High School) contacted me on behalf of Joshua Chodoroff and the HSHB, I was both humbled and troubled. I was humbled to be given the trust to create a piece that might honor and represent those who lost their lives, as well as those who were witness to the day’s horror. I was troubled with the weight of such a request, as well as troubled by the United States in general. It goes without saying that these types of things have happened way too often, with little hope in sight for any change.

The music:
After giving a lot of thought as to how I might pay homage to the victims, I decided that most
importantly, I wanted to keep things “simple”, and let the emotion of the performers come through, rather than try to impress with player technique or harmonic invention.
The piece opens with a horn call of pathos, melting into G minor and a rhythmically unison accompaniment figure. (More on that soon). The lamenting and descending melody in the solo soprano saxophone (or oboe) lays out a motif that later becomes the accompaniment for the ensuing Hymn. This entire introduction eventually gives way to what I have called “Hymn for US”. The double-entendre is very much on purpose, as it is meant to invoke a hymn both for the community (“us”) as well as the United States (“US”) in general.

The “Hymn fo US” starts very quietly, and repeats four times, each time modulating upward, and growing louder in hopeful gesture. The rhythm of the hymn’s melody comes from a sentence that kept flowing through my head: “No-bod-y should mess with Highland Park.” This came from the outpouring of “Highland Park Strong” that showed up in the community and displayed on front lawns everywhere. As hinted earlier, the accompanimental rhythm that appears constantly throughout the piece (starting at letter A) is in fact the rhythm of the phrase “High-land Park strong.”

Lastly, the indication at the end is an attempt to truly pay homage to the seven victims. That seven players might stand straight up upon the final chord, showing that they have risen to another place, and are no longer with us, but should still be visible in all our minds. And that the last chord should be held for seven seconds is very much on purpose too, of course.

Thank you very much to Adam Gohr and Joshua Chodoroff for entrusting this project to me. It is my only hope that this music might allow comfort, even if just a little, for the musicians, the community,
and the families affected by the tragedy of July 4, 2022.

It is dedicated to:
Katherine Goldstein, Irina McCarthy, Kevin McCarthy, Stephen Straus, Jacquelyn Sundheim, Nicolas Toledo-Zargoza, and Eduardo Uvaldo

~ Jim Stephenson; August 10, 2023

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