Persephone Overture (grade 5)
Persephone Overture was commissioned by the bands of Glenbard, Illinois, District 87, in celebration of the district’s 100th anniversary, and was premiered by their district honor band on March 22, 2016. The concept for the piece came from three distinct sources. First, my initial discussions with Brian DeWald, one of the band directors, led me toward the idea of including an English horn solo in the work. Second, the celebratory nature of the commission led me to think about a piece that was exhilarating and exciting in nature. And finally, the fact that the premiere was just after the first day of spring led me to consider that aspect in shaping the form of the piece. These three ideas coalesced into a work that is something of an homage to the overtures of the Classical and early Romantic periods. I have always felt that the band repertoire lacks original pieces in this category and hope that this piece might help fill that gap.
Persephone Overture starts with the traditional double-dotted rhythms that would have opened a Classical period overture, followed by the emergence of a solo for English horn with a melody that becomes the basis for the rest of the piece. Then the fun begins, as the English horn solo transforms into a torrent of swirling sixteenth-note passages in G minor (winter). After the presentation of a second theme that is really just an augmentation of the original theme, a transition moves the work from G minor to B flat major and the emergence of spring. All of the same material is presented again, now in major, and gradually building to a climactic chorale and final cascade of sixteenth-notes….hopefully communicating the excitement and energy justified by a one hundred year anniversary.