Suite of Suites




For L’histoire ensemble + piano

0011 – 0110 – 1p – pf – vln, contrabass


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Suite of Suites
I. Hubble – from Celestial Suite
II. Green – from Colors
III. It Over – from Thinking
IV. Little Red Caboose – from ROCOMotive


0011 – 0110 – 1p – pf – vln, contrabass
(“L’histoire ensemble” + piano)
percussion instruments needed: snare drum, tambourine, kick drum, 2 wood blocks (hi/low)

triangle, glock (E), bass drum, sus. cymb. timpani (2 drums)

duration: 12 minutes

Program notes, from the composer:

Suite of Suites” consists of four movements taken from other orchestral and chamber suites previously
composed, and now subsequently adapted for “L’histoire ensemble” – a favorite instrumentation of mine – plus piano. The impetus for this new suite was the brainchild of David Hattner, conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic, who envisioned a new commissioning initiative, where roughly a dozen composers plus myself would write new music for his and other youth orchestras to learn once the 2020 pandemic had changed all aspects of music learning, performance, and the need for social-distancing on stage.

“Hubble” is the ragtime movement from my “Celestial Suite“. That particular suite endeavored to musically depict the relationship between scientists of different eras and the dominant religion of their time. Hubble was working in the 1920s, and the “devil’s music” of that time was ragtime and jazz, hence the flavor of the music.

“Green” comes from one of my earliest compositions: “Colors”. While portraying four different colors in that original suite, green ended up deriving its inspiration from a sort of Irish jig, perhaps set in a dark green and lush forest. It also happened to be my mother’s favorite movement from that suite, so I thought it deserved another look in her honor.

“It Over” is from a relatively unknown suite of mine called “Thinking”, which uses the same instrumentation as Martinu’s ‘Revue de la cuisine’. Each movement’s title in my suite can follow the word “thinking”. Therefore, “It over” has fun with a repeating melody that gets passed around from instrument to instrument, always gaining in tempo and intensity as the movement presses along.

Finally, “Little Red Caboose” is taken from my ROCOMotive suite for chamber orchestra, in which I wrote five movements each based on a model train from my childhood. Because the caboose often gets overlooked, I tried to make it the prettiest, and thought it also might make for a nice ending to this suite. At the very end, the attentive listener might be able to hear a soft train in the distance, with whistle blowing, heading off in to the sunset.

I sincerely want to thank David Hattner and the Portland Youth Philharmonic, who also happens to have been a high school classmate of mine, for engaging me to be a part of his very important project, which has allowed me to revisit some of these (hopefully) fun little vignettes of years gone by.

Jim Stephenson; August 30, 2020

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