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PIANO: Keyboard of the Winds | STACY GARROP


a composer with a story to tell

a composer with a story to tell

Keyboard of the Winds


Nicholas Phillips, piano

Impressions • Blue Griffin Recording BGR 409Purchase recording



Wisconsin Music Teachers Association and MTNA

Theodore Presser Company

I began hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado when I was in my early twenties. RMNP is home to some of the most gorgeous mountains in North America, encompassing 265,000 acres of wilderness, flora, and fauna. Among the park’s numerous summits is Longs Peak, a mountain that is 14,259 feet high (the highest in the region). From my earliest days of hiking, I was drawn to Longs Peak, as well as to a jagged stretch of rock formations that link Longs Peak to Pagoda Mountain (which stands at 13,497 feet). These formations are called the Keyboard of the Winds, as their thin, spindly peaks loosely suggest the splintered keys of an old, broken piano.

One summer, I made the ascent to Pagoda Mountain using a route that took me along the right side of the Keyboard of the Winds. My hiking partner and I started up the trail in the pre-dawn hours, and the weather was stormy. Dawn had broken by the time we reached the base of the Keyboard, but its peaks were still surrounded by clouds. As we climbed higher and higher, the Keyboard’s thin spires became visible, along with the top of Pagoda Mountain. We reached the summit of Pagoda, admired the view (what we could see through the clouds), and made our descent.

My piece is a tribute to the Keyboard of the Winds. The fast, whirling gestures depict swirling clouds, and the musical high points represent a hiker reaching the peaks of the Keyboard. I have contrasted these sections with quiet, introspective material; these embody the hiker quietly surveying the grandeur and beauty of the valley below (on a cloudless day), as well as the soaring pinnacles of Longs Peak and Pagoda Mountain overhead.
  • HELIOS • 4’30” • 2 tpts/flugelhorns, hn, tbn, tba

    In Greek mythology, Helios was the god of the sun. His head wreathed in light, he daily drove a chariot drawn by four horses (in some tales, the horses are winged; in others, they are made of fire) across the sky. At the end of each day’s journey, he slept in a golden boat that carried him on the Okeanos River (a fresh water stream that encircled the flat earth) back to his rising place. The cyclic journey of Helios is depicted in this short work for brass quintet. The first half is fast-paced and very energetic, while the second half is slow and serene, representing day and night.