Grade level: 4
Commission info: Arrowhead Union High School (WI), Jacob Polancich, conductor
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Summerscapes is my attempt to paint the picture of a summer escape to the park with young children. Jake Polancich's two daughters and my two sons are right about the same age and Jake and I have talked about bringing a piece to life that had this inspiration.
The works unfolds in three movements. The first, Swing, evokes the feeling of being on the swing set. The music does not take the form of a swing or jazz feel, but it does play with the idea of perpetual motion, rising and falling, and an increasing sense of joy and exhilaration as the ride on the swings gathers momentum.
The mood of the music changes with the second movement, Sway. This music intends to capture the serene beauty of tree tops swaying back and forth in the breeze on a beautiful summer day. The mood shifts again, this time into darker emotional territory, as a parent realizes how fast their children are growing, looking into a future of children getting older and experiencing the challenges of life. But the darker sounds are short lived, as the music settles back into the tranquil swaying of the trees.
The final movement of the work, Slide, paints the exhilarating picture of climbing up a climber and then sliding down the slide. The music takes on the structure of a Rondo (ABACA), with a recurring first theme that is intertwined with two familiar melodies that evoke both childhood and fatherhood. First, listen for Henry Purcell's theme that Benjamin Britten used as the basis for his Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, and then listen for the Gregorian chant melody commonly sung to the text, "Of the Father's love begotten, ere the world began to be." The three themes come together in an uplifting end that makes us look forward to, and look back upon, our summer escapes.
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