An American Elegy
by Frank Ticheli
Frank Ticheli (born 1958, Monroe, Louisiana) joined the faculty of the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in 1991, where he is Professor of Composition. He is widely known for his works for concert band, many of which have become standards in the repertoire. In addition, Ticheli has a substantial body of orchestral music which has received considerable recognition in the U.S. and Europe. Orchestral performances have come from the Philadelphia Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Dallas Symphony, American Composers Orchestra, the radio orchestras of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Saarbruecken, and Austria, and the orchestras of Austin, Charlotte, Colorado, Haddonfield, Harrisburg, Hong Kong, Jacksonville, Long Island, Louisville, Lubbock, Memphis, Nashville, Omaha, Phoenix, Portland, Richmond, San Antonio, San Jose, and others. From 1991 to 1998, Ticheli was Composer in Residence of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, and he still enjoys a close working relationship with that orchestra and their conductor, Carl St. Clair. Awards for his music include two from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Walter Beeler Memorial Prize, and First Prize awards in the Texas Sesquicentennial Orchestral Composition Competition, Britten-on-the-Bay Choral Composition Contest, and Virginia CBDNA Symposium for New Band Music. Commissions and grants have come from Chamber Music America, Pacific Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Chorale, Revelli Foundation, Kappa Kappa Psi, Prince George’s Philharmonic Orchestra, Adrian Symphony, City of San Antonio, Stephen F. Austin State University, University of Michigan, University of Miami, Trinity University, Indiana Bandmasters Association, Worldwide Concurrent Premieres, and others. Frank Ticheli received his doctoral and masters degrees in composition from The University of Michigan where he studied with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and George Wilson. His works are published by Manhattan Beach, Helicon, Hinshaw, and Encore Music, and are recorded on the labels of Koch International Classics, Albany, Klavier, and Mark Records.
Year of composition: 2000
Publisher: Manhattan Beach Music
Type of Composition: Intro, Main theme, episode, main theme, second theme, four-part cannon, climax, bridge (on second theme), offstage trumpet solo (variant of second theme), bridge, main theme, final statement.
Style: An Expression of hope. Slow and rubato.
Programming Suggestions: An American Elegy is, above all, an expression of hope. It was composed in memory of those who lost their lives at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and to honor the survivors. It is offered as a tribute to their great strength and courage in the face of a terrible tragedy. I hope the work can also serve as one reminder of how fragile and precious life is and how intimately connected we all are as human beings. I was moved and honored by this commission invitation, and deeply inspired by the circumstances surrounding it. Rarely has a work revealed itself to me with such powerful speed and clarity. The first eight bars of the main melody came to me fully formed in a dream. Virtually every element of the work was discovered within the span of about two weeks. The remainder of my time was spent refining, developing, and orchestrating. The work begins at the bottom of the ensemble’s register, and ascends gradually to a heartfelt cry of hope. The main theme that follows, stated by the horns, reveals a more lyrical, serene side of the piece. A second theme, based on a simple repeated harmonic pattern, suggests yet another, more poignant mood. These three moods – hope, serenity, and sadness – become intertwined throughout the work, defining its complex expressive character. A four-part canon builds to a climactic quotation of the Columbine Alma Mater. The music recedes, and an offstage trumpeter is heard, suggesting a celestial voice – a heavenly message. The full ensemble returns with a final, exalted statement of the main theme.
Solo instruments: oboe, offstage trumpet solo,.
Anecdotal Notes: Intro begins at the bottom on the ensemble’s register and ascends to a statement of hope. Main theme is more reflected and serene. Episode is tempo rubato. Conductor should strive for a free and fluid effect. Second Theme is accompanied by a repeated harmonic passage. Clarinet melody and accompaniment should move into the background allowing for the oboe countermelody. Melodic lines vanish in 91 and leave only the harmonic pattern. Saxophone should use no vibrato here. Four-part cannon is a section of one long crescendo. One must strive to balance all four voices. Climax is an excerpt from the Columbine Alma Mater. The offstage trumpet solo should sound quite distant and ethereal. Soloist should sound as distant as possible. In the bridge the oboe should grow from the offstage trumpet solo. The Final statement and return of the main theme is varied causing an unsettling tension. The tension is resolved when the two ideas meet at a common goal, the climax. Dynamics have a huge effect on the emotional stand point of the piece. The tempi range from 60 to 96. The piece also has a few simple meter changes. The ensemble and conductor will have to work on communicating the numerous rubato sections in the piece.
Discography: SIMPLE GIFTS: THE MUSIC OF FRANK TICHELI- VOLUME 2 (Mark Masters) Michigan State University Wind Symphony, John L. Whitwell, conductor…. TICHELI: AN AMERICAN ELEGY University Of North Texas Symphonic Band Conductor: Fisher, Dennis NTWS1596
Recording of "An American Elegy"