Scenes from New England
For trombone, piano, and percussion.
duration: @25′ total (if all movements performed)
What fun it was to write this piece!
My old New England Conservatory colleague (I’m to the point where I don’t mention graduation years anymore!), Dave Begnoche, contacted me in late 2007 with an idea to compose a brand new piece for him, his brother and his wife; the instrumentation being trombone, percussion and piano. It is always intriguing for me to write for unusual combinations, and this piqued my curiosity immediately.
Shortly thereafter, Dave sent me some sketched thoughts about potential figurative ideas for the various movements. The main ingredient connecting all of us, he said, was our New England ties. He insisted that I was free to compose whatever I wanted, but I found his suggestions inspiring, and took it from there. The six movements are:
1. Mystic, CT (trio)
2. Lenox, MA (trombone & piano)
3. *Chin Music (trombone & percussion, + opt. Piano)
4. Watch Hill, RI – “Winter” (percussion & piano)
5. Quick-Step and Blues (trio)
6. *Concord Hymn (trombone & percussion)
The first movement, entitled “Mystic, CT,” opens with an unresolved rocking motif, suggesting life before Dave and Elvia met. Many motifs are put forward to be used later throughout the movement, and entire piece. The tense rocking eventually gives way to a more tonal setting, where the trombone/piano join in their mutual ‘love’ theme. Finally a scherzo ensues, where the percussion gets the tune, loosely based on “We Gather Together” – a well-known Thanksgiving Hymn, which symbolizes the time when they all met. All themes merge together and drive forward toward the end of the movement.
Movements 2-4 are all shorter, sandwiched between the two more substantial outer movements. “Lenox, MA” was inspired Dave & Elvia’s time at Tanglewood; I chose not to write a “love-theme,” but rather to draw on a thunderstorm-accompanied Mahler 3 they heard together. “Chin Music” stems from the brother Begnoches’ love of the Red Sox, and two Latino pitchers in particular (Luis Tiant and Pedro Martinez). Hidden in the middle of the movement is a quote from the Boston Americans’ (the early 1900s Red Sox) theme song. “Watch Hill, RI” depicts a winter beach scene that Dave explained can be ‘eerie but stunning’. I also wanted to highlight the set of crotales Steve Begnoche had been given by composer John LaMontaine.
The fifth movement is the only departure I took from Dave’s suggestions. I felt the need to write a rollicking addition to these scenes from New England. The motifs, as is often the case with my style, are mostly borrowed from earlier material. While the blues-y mid-section isn’t necessarily vintage “New-England” – I simply wanted to give them a chance to sit back a little before the frenetic conclusion.
The last movement is a variation on the famous “Concord Hymn”. The spoken text is optional.
Jim Stephenson, Composer; November, 2008 www.stephensonmusic.com Cover Photo ©Mark S. Cox. www.ettustudio2.com
*Concord Hymn, added later, can be switched with #3, which can become an encore, if desired.
Though the piece is certainly dedicated to David, Elvia & Steve Begnoche, I think it’s worth adding a dedication to Matteo Donald Begnoche (son to Dave & Elvia), who was born almost exactly as I was putting the final notes on the last pages of this new work.