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a composer with a story to tell

a composer with a story to tell

Spectacle of Light

Baroque orchestra: 1202 2200 harpsichord, baroque timpani, strings (modern day instruments with baroque bows)
Chamber orchestra (modern): 1202 2200 harp, baroque timpani, strings

Music of the Baroque Orchestra; Dame Jane Glover, conductor



Music of the Baroque

Theodore Presser Company
To view perusal, click on Score and Parts tab, then click on Preview below the window.

When Music of the Baroque commissioned me to compose a piece in honor of their 50th anniversary season, I was delighted that my new piece would premiere on a concert entitled Baroque Fireworks. But what aspect of Baroque fireworks should I explore? I found the answer on Music of the Baroque’s website. In perusing the webpage for the Baroque Fireworks concert, I was mesmerized by the page’s backdrop image, which looked to be a hand-drawn picture of a fireworks show. A little research uncovered that the image is an etching of a 1749 fireworks spectacle that took place on the River Thames in honor of Great Britain’s King George II. The king had signed the 1748 treaty at Aix-la-Chapelle that officially ended the War of Austrian Succession, and as was typical in this era, he wanted to celebrate with a grand show of music and fireworks. This is the very same event for which George Frideric Handel wrote Music for the Royal Fireworks.

I was intrigued by the manner in which the etching’s artist represented the path of each individual firework, starting with an upward trajectory of a golden streak of light that inevitably bends and falls back towards the earth, blooming into glittering specks before flickering out. This inspired me to find other depictions and etchings of Baroque fireworks, as well as to view numerous modern-day fireworks shows on YouTube to study how they rise, bloom, and overlap with each other to create a rich, complex, and fleeting tapestry of color. I realized that fireworks and music share an ephemeral nature: they both delight our senses before fading into memory.

Ultimately, I decided that Spectacle of Light would represent the experience of a fireworks show. The music starts with great anticipation as the crowd waits in darkness, then a single firework illuminates the sky, followed by a massive eruption of light, color, and sound. After this initial frenzied burst, the fireworks quiet down into a slower-paced, mesmerizing display of colors before building to a big, fiery ending. As a tip of the hat to Music of the Baroque, I worked a few salient elements of the baroque style into my own musical language, as well as found a few choice spots to add a few subtle hints of Handel’s Royal Fireworks.

  • 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.