Concerto for guitar and wind ensemble
Concerto for guitar and wind ensemble
by James M. Stephenson
Commissioned by the University of St. Thomas; Matthew George, Director of Bands. Written for Christopher S. Kachian
piccolo – 2 flutes – 2 Bb clarinets – bass clarinet – contrabass clarinet – 2 bassoons saxophones: 1 soprano, 2 altos, 1 tenor, 2 Bb trumpets – 2 french horns – 2 tenor trombones – euphonium – tuba, harp – contrabass
perc. 1: vibes, xylophone, glockenspiel, tambourine, bowed crotales
perc. 2: marimba, finger cymbals
perc. 3: sand blocks, tambourine, cabasa, cajon
perc. 4: wood block, suspended cymbal (sticks, coin, mallets), china cymbal perc. 5: bass drum, triangle, tam-tam
** optional male vocalist
** PERFORMANCE NOTE: The vocal part written into the solo guitar part from rehearsal P to U in the third movement should be sung by an amplified male vocalist, if the guitarist opts out of performing it. The LAST resort should be to omit it entirely.
First, I must immediately thank Matthew George for this, our fifth, commission together. It’s been an absolute joy to continue the process of creating music together. But a guitar concerto – with wind ensemble: wow, that’s tough!! Thank you also to Chris Kachian, for whom the concerto was composed, for his guidance and good spirit through the creation of this, and not laughing at me during some of my early attempts to write for his beautiful instrument. I’d also like to thank Matt Cochran, guitar teacher at Interlochen Arts Academy, who chatted with me extensively and played many demonstrations for me during a visit there, while I sat merely 3 feet away absorbing the beautiful sounds he created.
Notes about the music:
The concerto is in three movements, with the first continuing segue, without break, into the second. The first movement is a tarantella, accompanied at times by jazz-inspired bass lines and colorful accompaniment. The second movement – the emotional heart of the concerto – was inspired by two sources:
First, I’ve always been inspired by text, and it occurred to me that I might borrow the rhythm of a Shakespeare sonnet (his most famous),
and create a melodic line based solely on his rhythm. That is why the text is written into the score and parts, to show the text and how it is related.
Secondly, it has been noted that this particular sonnet doesn’t necessarily specify a man or a woman, and so I took the liberty of using it to address the love one might have for their father. My father suffered a stroke in June, 2019, and has been relegated to
nursing-home care ever since. His memory has been seriously affected, and he often speaks with the occasional confused or nonsensical word interspersed within his sentences. That is why the guitar part at letter C has varied rhythm to accentuate someone
trying to get what should be a simple beautiful line across, but instead it is marred by quintuplets, or sextuplets, etc, symbolizing a confused manner of delivery.
I emphasize the beauty, because many of my visits to my father have been that of me sitting very close to him, with him in a wheelchair, and me in a chair close by, and I would be leaning over (much like a pose of a guitar player). These memories have turned a corner, and have actually become quite beautiful in my brain, and something poignant, personal, and unique which he and I have shared on many
occasions. Lastly – Shakespeare’s sonnet does mention the month of May, which is when dad celebrates his birthday. The third movement is virtuosic, and has the special (optional) effect near the end of having the guitarist sing while playing. This is meant to
seem somewhat reminiscent of the style of Pat Metheny, a guitarist I listened to constantly in my younger years It also brings back the melody of the sonnet, but now set in an uplifting manner.
Jim Stephenson; March 26, 2020