Hail the Coming Day
(A Festive Piece for Orchestra)
Hail the Coming Day (A Festive Piece for Orchestra) is the result of a 2012 commission from The City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina in honor of the 2013 Centennial Celebration of the consolidation of the towns of Winston and Salem.
This approximately five-minute composition is in one movement and consists of five short sections. Scored for a large orchestra of triple woodwinds, triple brass, strings and percussion, the composition takes its title from an 1876 speech given by one of early Winston’s most influential leaders, Robert Gray. He said : “I speak of Winston and Salem as one place… Would that I could speak of them under one name. They are one in identity of interest and future… I hail the coming day [from] which shall rise one united town.” (From Winston-Salem : A History by Frank V. Tursi, Copyright ©1994 by Frank F. Blair, Publisher)
The fanfare-like opening, for the full resources of the orchestra, soon leads to the steely second section of the piece, which is characterized by driving rhythms and crisp ostinato bass lines. Extra-musically this section seeks to offer an aural snapshot of the mechanized energy inherent in the American Industrial Revolution for which, with its many tobacco, textile and other factories, the City of Winston was a leader. This second section soon climaxes into the returning, though softening, spirit of the opening fanfare section. This time, however, the trumpets and trombones are at the heart of it and the metrical unit of the piece shifts from the quarter note to the half note. This fanfare-like third section melts into the serene and lyrical fourth section of the piece. Here the heritage of the Moravians of Salem is celebrated. An early Central European Protestant community, who brought to America in the early 18th century their spirit of Godly community, commitment to peace and love of music (especially brass bands), the Moravians originally settled Salem, North Carolina in 1766. This fourth section pays tribute to these early American settlers by invoking a variant of one of the most beloved of all Moravian melodies: Hosanna by the Dirsdorf (then in Germany) native composer, Christian Gregor (1723-1801). Gregor’s simple melody and uncomplicated I-IV-V harmony typifies the elegant simplicity of the Moravians and how, symbolically and realistically, the Moravians brought a real and poetic lyricism to the union of the two cities. After rising to a climax, this fourth section now folds into an exuberant and dialoguing return of the spirit of the fanfares that preceded sections two and four. Only now, symbolically, its metrical unit is new as it makes use of the dotted-quarter-note (equaling a pulse of 100) as the unit of beat. The end of this last celebratory section brings Hail the Coming Day to a festive close.
With the joining of Winston and Salem into the proud and influential city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a hyphen that would bring curious attention to, among others, the American postal system and, in recent years, trouble for Internet search engines, was born to the unified cities. In the fifth-section fanfare of Hail the Coming Day, which symbolically culminates the 1913 union, careful listeners may even imagine hearing “aural hyphens” (i.e. rests) that celebrate this small grammatical, yet unifying, device!
World Premiere of Hail the Coming Day (A Festive Piece for Orchestra)
12 May 2013 by the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra (Robert Moody, Music Director)
Stevens Center of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Hail the Coming Day (A Festive Piece for Orchestra) is scored for Piccolo, two Flutes, two Oboes, English Horn (F), two Clarinets (B-flat), Bass Clarinet (B-flat), two Bassoons, Contrabassoon, four Horns (F), three Trumpets (C), three Trombones, Tuba, Timpani, Percussion (three players), Harp and Strings. Duration : ca. 6’ 00”