Category Archives: Brass Music

Fanfare on Ein feste Burg

Fanfare on Ein feste Burg. Two versions. A. For 7 Renaissance instruments: 2 Soprano Shawms, Alto Shawm, 2 Sackbuts, Quartbass Dulcian, large Tabor. B. Brass Quintet with optional large Drum. 1:30.

Commissioned and Premiered 20 Oct 2017 by Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, for the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Brass Quintet version premiered 29 Oct 2017 by Musica Concordia, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Abington, Pa.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “Smith’s piece exploded into life…. A slew of heavy thwacks on a tabor (a Renaissance snare drum) launched Smith’s Fanfare, mimicking the bang of hammer on nail in Wittenberg. The rasp of shawms and the splendid snort of a quartbass dulcian (a bassoon-like instrument) intoned Luther’s great hymn melody as Smith worked bristling variations on it. It was a bracing opening gesture…”

My Broad Street Review essay on the composing this is here. The first pages of both versions are below. Here’s a quick, live run-through of the brass & percussion version:

Annunciation and Magnificat

annunciationmagnificatp3Annunciation and Magnificat. Brass quintet (with opt. flugelhorns), narrator, 22 minutes

Annunciation and Magnificat is a set of musings on the text of the first chapter of Luke, verses 26 through 55. Beginning with the announcement to Mary from the angel Gabriel that she would become the mother of Jesus the Messiah, and ending with her song of praise, the text explores her questions and trepidations, the angel’s assurances, and Mary’s visit with her cousin Elisabeth who was then pregnant with John the Baptist. A narrator reads the text, which I’ve divided into eight sections. The quintet plays a meditation on the text after each section is read, the Magnificat ending with the non-scriptural but traditional Gloria Patri:

1. The angel Gabriel was sent
2. She was troubled
3. Fear not, Mary
4. How shall this be?
5. Nothing shall be impossible
6. Behold the handmaid of the Lord
7. And Mary arose
8. Magnificat

Elements of the music appear, transformed, as the work progresses. In “Nothing shall be impossible,” the key of D-flat travels quickly to the farthest key away, G, and back again, which journey I tried to make as unnoticed as I could. Normally I take one emotion from each section and attempt to express that musically, but I do, in the Magnificat, follow the text closely. The antiphon recurs as in a sung Magnificat (albeit truncated sometimes), after each two-line thought; the overall feel is of a jubilant dance.

I am thankful to the Gaudete Brass for the opportunity to compose this. Their trumpeters are also excellent flugelhorn players, so I was happy to provide places in the music where those warm-sounding instruments could optionally be used.

Annunciation and Magnificat was premiered 3 December 2016 by the Gaudete Brass Quintet at St. Clement Parish, Chicago.

1. The angel Gabriel was sent
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, you who are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women.

2. She was troubled
And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

3. Fear not, Mary
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

4. How shall this be?
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

5. Nothing shall be impossible
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

6. Behold the handmaid of the Lord
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word. And the angel departed from her.

7. And Mary arose
And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And what is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

8. Magnificat
And Mary said,

My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

He has showed strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He has put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.

He has filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he has sent empty away.

He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

—Luke 1:26-55, Gloria Patri

Steht auf, ihr lieben Kinderlein!

I’ll be writing a Magnificat for this excellent ensemble, Gaudete Brass later this year—yes, a Magnificat for brass quintet. They sound fabulous! Listen to them playing here, one of the instrumental sections from Vespers.

The original is for Renaissance instruments, which are pitched a half-step higher, so Gaudete played this Sonata up one half-step, in Eb. So it sounds in the same key as what Piffaro plays. This page has all the notes, and audio samples, for all of Vespers.

Thank you Paul Von Hoff and Gaudete Brass, for this opportunity! I’m looking forward so much to working with you!

Deo Gratias, from Vespers, with Brass

ExcDeoGratiasBrassOne of the great things about the project that became Vespers was the uniqueness of the ensemble—writing a piece for the world-renowned Renaissance band Piffaro was as fun and exciting as could be. But it also meant that basically nobody else could ever perform Vespers, since not everybody has 27 Renaissance instruments in their rumpus room!

(Although, Piffaro has performed it numerous times since, for which I’m ever grateful, with The Crossing, of course, who premiered and recorded it, with Northwestern University’s Bienen Contemporary/Early Vocal Ensemble, (thank you, Donald Nally, again and again), with the outstanding Seraphic Fire, and this November, I’m looking forward to seeing it with The Choristers.)

[Updated 29 Nov 2015] Here’s the recording of the premiere on 30 Oct 2015 at Roosevelt University, what beautiful line to the singing and energy to the brass playing!:

A number of people have asked me about transcriptions of Vespers since its 2008 premiere, though, and so I’ve been busy making piano reductions and string arrangements, with and without other instruments, of different sections. (You can see these from the menu above, under Music/Choral Vocal/Vespers.)

Last week I finished another one.

The last movement, Deo Gratias, now has a new arrangement for choir and brass octet, to be premiered next season by Cheryl Frazes Hill, the director of choral activities at the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. It was a joy putting this together for 4 trumpets (one in D and 3 Bb), 2 trombones, bass trombone, and tuba. The double choirs had to stay since they’re the basic part of the sound, but I simplified them a bit by eliminating all the divisis within each choir.

Above is a page to look at. Let me know if you want to see the whole thing, and I’ll send it to you.

Here’s an audio excerpt from the original:

Red-tail and Hummingbird, all-brass version, in Delaware

RedtailThanks to the fine brass players of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra for including Red-tail and Hummingbird in their Chamber Series concert last night at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington. This was the premiere of one of the new versions for all-brass sextet: 2 trumpets, 2 horns, trombone, tuba (I’ve also made a 2 tpt, hn, 2 tbn, tba version).

There’s now even a brass quintet version—more about that later.

It was an exciting performance, with Music Director David Amado conducting. The brilliance of this version, and the balance of the performance, filled the Gold Ballroom nicely. I’m grateful for all the warm comments from the musicians and audience, especially so from the players who came to this new. Old hands at it (from the original version) were the two Brians, trumpeter Kuszyk and tubist Brown. I’m indebted to them for their faith in the piece.

I invited the audience to our front porch, in case we can catch sight of the hawk and his tormentor again (program notes here). From the response after the concert, I think I made a bunch of new friends! Must lay in provisions.

Hawk upstages Red-tail dress rehearsal

RedtailIn Swarthmore College’s Lang Concert Hall today for the dress rehearsal of this weekend’s Orchestra 2001 / Piffaro concerts. Those familiar with that space know that besides the asymmetrical charm of the seating, the most apparent feature is the floor-to-ceiling glass behind the stage. If your mind wanders during a piece (mine never does, of course, but if yours does), a daytime concert provides a peaceful tree-filled expanse for your ruminations. For you, not me, of course.

My Red-tail and Hummingbird comes up next in the rehearsal. I walk onstage to conduct, and as I set my score on the stand and the sextet readies their parts, Jim Freeman, sitting a couple rows back, says softly, “Looks like your hawk has come back.” Sure enough, through the top of the windows, over the trees, a red-tail floated, flapped twice, circled, and glided away.

Even brass players thought that was cool.

Come to one of the concerts! Here’s the full rundown of what’s being performed, including a new brass quintet by Arne Running. Everyone’s having fun, it’ll be a marvelous time.

Friday, 2/22/2013 at 8:00pm, Trinity Center, 22nd and Spruce Streets, Philadelphia (Pre-concert Discussion 7:30pm)

Saturday, 2/23/2013 at 8:00pm, Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia (Pre-concert Discussion 7:30pm)

Sunday, 2/24/2013 at 3:00pm, Lang Concert Hall, Swarthmore College  (Pre-concert Discussion 2:30pm)

Four French Carols

The Four French Carols are in three versions: brass quintet, full orchestra, and the outer movements for string orchestra.

They started in 1988 as arrangements for the Westminster Brass, who have played them dozens upon dozens of times at churches and conferences. They recorded the set on their CD Christmas Celebration, and published the sheet music in 1997.

I then orchestrated them in 2002 for the Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra at the request of its Music Director Sheldon Bair, for a concert in Bel Air, Maryland, 7 December 2002. For a 2004 Advent concert at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Abington, Pa., conducted by Joseph Caminiti, I re-orchestrated numbers 1 and 4 for strings alone.

Here are excerpts from the brass quintet originals:

1. A Cry Went Up at Midnight
2. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella
3. Saw You Never
4. O Come, Divine Messiah

and here are the scores to the full orchestra version, plus an audio excerpt:

1. A Cry Went Up at Midnight View full score 
2. Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella View full score
3. Saw You Never View full score
4. O Come, Divine Messiah View full score

Texts to the carols:

1. A cry went up at midnight

A cry went up at midnight,
one like it was never heard there,
In the country of Judea: Christmas.

2. Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella

Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella
Bring a torch, come swiftly and run
Christ is born, tell the folk of the village,
Jesus is sleeping in His cradle
Ah, ah, beautiful is the Mother;
Ah, ah, beautiful is her Son.

3. Saw ye never in the twilight

Saw ye never in the twilight,
When the sun had left the skies,
Up in heaven the clear stars shining
Thro’ the gloom, like silver eyes?
So of old, the wise men, watching,
Saw a little stranger star,
And they knew the King was given,
And they followed it from far.

4. O come, divine Messiah!

O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.
Dear Savior haste;
Come, come to earth,
Dispel the night and show your face,
And bid us hail the dawn of grace.
O come, divine Messiah!
The world in silence waits the day
When hope shall sing its triumph,
And sadness flee away.