“Ere long we shall see…” (1995)
(Concerto Brevis for Organ and Orchestra)
Majestic and bold
Gently moving and reflective
Energetic and very rhythmical
“Ere long we shall see…” (Concerto Brevis for Organ and Orchestra) was composed during the summer and autumn of 1995. Commissioned by David Vogels in conjunction with the Steering Committee of the AGO ‘96 Centennial Convention for the Centennial Celebration of the American Guild of Organists*, this ten-minute composition warmly bears the following inscription:
“Dedicated to the AGO:
Present, past and future”
The title, “Ere long we shall see…”, is taken from a brief essay, “What the Guild of Organists Means for the Profession”, by one of the AGO’s founders, A. Gore Mitchell. The essay originally appeared in The American Guild of Organists’ department of The Pianist and Organist, July 1896, and was reprinted in the May 1995 issue of The American Organist. I came across Dr. Mitchell’s words as I was beginning to conceive of this AGO’s organ/orchestra Centennial commission. I was attracted both to the poetic flow of Dr. Mitchell’s words and to the hope for the future that the words seemed to convey. To pay tribute to the present, past and future of the AGO on its 100th Anniversary was my goal with this new creation, and Dr. Mitchell’s words provided me with an initial extra-musical stimulus.
“Ere long we shall see…” (Concerto Brevis for Organ and Orchestra) is a one movement work in three primary sections (with the first section briefly returning to conclude the piece), played without pause. This short concerto is approximately ten minutes in length, which was within the duration guidelines of the commission. All of the motivic and melodic material in the composition, along with natural permutations, are derived from the pitch and interval equivalents of the initials “AGO”, the notes A – G – B-natural. Although hardly essential for the listener to know in order to make sense of the piece, each of the three sections is marked in the score with extra-musical stimuli that further pays tribute to this occasion: The first section seeks to celebrate the present (marked, in the score, “In Celebration”), the second section reflects upon the past (marked “In Remembrance”) and the third section dances into an unknown, yet hopeful, future (marked “In Anticipation”).
The opening section, Majestic and bold, is broad in nature. The A – G – B-natural idea is immediately introduced by each section of the orchestra, beginning with the timpani, other percussion and pizzicato strings, then as a fanfare-like statement from the woodwinds and then as a chorale-like statement from the brass. Following the brass’s statement, muted strings emerge with their own chordal realization of the three-note idea. Percussion and woodwinds then recapitulate varied statements of their own versions of the main idea, only this time the organ enters for the first time and takes over the chorale-like brass statement. After a varied return of the lush string statement of the three-note idea, dialogue between the brass, organ and woodwinds ensues, again reflecting the main melodic cells of the composition. Near the end of the section, the strings are again heard with their three-note chordal statement (this time loudly), helping to melt this majestic opening section into the piece’s reflective and slow second section.
Marked Gently moving and reflective, the second section is very lyrical in nature. Amidst a backdrop of pulsating muted strings, high string harmonics and percussion colors, the primary A-B-G melodic material first emerges in the English Horn. The organ soon responds with its own statement of the idea and the remainder of the movement alternates orchestra and organ, as equal partners, as they weave and transform the main musical materials. After a rich climax, where A-B-G melodic fragments of varied rhythms emerge as if memories themselves, a solo flute, with notes B – G – A, ends the section, symbolically, perhaps, linking the reflections of the past with the pending, yet unknown, future.
Overlapping the flute’s final note of the second section, the third section, Energetic and very rhythmical, begins with percussion alone. Xylophone, with varied statements of the piece’s main three-note idea (accompanied by woodblocks and tom-toms and punctuated by the woodwinds and brass), establishes the rhythmical spirit of this jazzy and energetic section. As the main motive of the piece now becomes more chromatic,the organ soon enters with a vibrant pedal solo. Dialogues between the orchestra and organ abound throughout this section, eventually culminating in a brief return of the opening section of the piece, marked Majestic, symbolically reminding us, perhaps, that the future lies in the strength and resolve of the present.
The orchestration for “Ere long we shall see…” (Concerto Brevis for Organ and Orchestra) consists of a full complement of strings, pairs of woodwinds (Flute 2 doubling Piccolo and Oboe 2 doubling English Horn), four Horns, pairs of Trumpets and Trombones, Bass Trombone, Tuba, Timpani, two percussion players and organ.
The challenge of creating a piece of music worthy of celebrating the 100th Anniversary of such an important and vital organization as the American Guild of Organists was an honor and a distinct privilege. I wish to express my gratitude to David Vogels, the Steering Committee of the AGO ‘96 Centennial Convention and David Shuler (Director, New Music Committee) for their enthusiasm for my work and their respective efforts in helping to bring about this new creation. I can only hope that “Ere long we shall see…”, in some way, effectively honors the AGO and its members in the Guild’s Centennial Year and helps express the gratitude, felt by so many, for the bold visionaries of the past, whose future, is now our present.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
*Funded (in part) by the Margaret Fairbank Jory Copying Assistance Program of the American Music Center, made possible through grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Helen F. Whitaker Fund and Chase Manhattan Bank.