(Prelude and Passacaglia on "Auld Lang Syne")
Memorial (Prelude and Passacaglia on “Auld Lang Syne”) was commissioned by Ben Jaeger and the Memorial High School Bands (Madison, WI) to celebrate the opening of the new Memorial High School performing arts wing and in loving memory of Paul D. Ulrich, Memorial band director from 1990-2011. The compositional process for this piece was decidedly influenced by the two-fold nature of the commission. First, the piece needed to be celebratory and exciting, reflective of the band’s bright future with the successful construction of the school’s new wing. But it also needed to honor the importance of Mr. Ulrich and his contributions to the music program by incorporating the fact that Mr. Ulrich played tuba and organ (in fact, the band now owns his old organ!) and loved Auld Lang Syne, a tune which seemed fitting for this occasion with its lyrics celebrating our remembrance of the past even as we embrace the future. I attempted to incorporate all these elements into the piece, featuring the organ throughout as an important addition to the traditional wind band, opening the second portion of the piece with a tuba solo, and using the tune from Auld Lang Syne as the basis for pitch material throughout.
The piece is divided into two connected sections. The first, Prelude, uses no percussion and employs the first half of Auld Lang Syne as its pitch material, suggesting a solemn and reverent attitude. The second portion, Passacaglia, consists of an eight-measure repeating pattern, initially presented by a solo tuba, and using as pitch material the second half of Auld Lang Syne with repeated notes removed and rhythms altered. This theme is repeated 14 times, gradually increasing in volume and complexity with each iteration before the original tune finally emerges for the climactic portion of the work. The Passacaglia incorporates varied compositional techniques that include augmentation, diminution, inversion, retrograde, canon, and hemiola and references one of the most famous works in the band repertoire, the opening Chaconne from Gustav Holst’s Suite in E Flat.