Winner of the 2000 Michael Hennagin Prize in Composition, this twenty-five minute work for an ensemble of twelve players is divided into four movements. It is a truly significant addition to our repertoire. Brilliantly composed and orchestrated, The Night Watch has become one of the most performed major works for percussion ensemble.
Genre: Percussion Ensemble | # of Players: 12
Level: Difficult | Duration: 26:00
Xylophone 1 (snare drum, bubble wrap)
Xylophone 2 (orchestra bells, bongos, anvil, claves, piccolo snare drum, bubble wrap)
Vibraphone 1 (maracas)
Vibraphone 2 (temple blocks, ratchet)
Marimba 1 (4.6-octave, metal wind chimes)
Marimba 2 (4.6-octave, 2 woodblocks)
Marimba 3 (5-octave, snadblocks)
Marimba 4 (4.3-octave, crotales, guiro, large suspended cymbal)
Marimba 5 (4.3-octave, bass drum, snare drum, 2 cowbells, 2 suspended cymbals)
Orchestra Bells (bass drum, crash cymbals, large suspended cymbal, small triangle, hig-hat, snare drum, medium gong, sleigh bells, cowbell)
Chimes (snare drum, crash cymbals, medium triangle, tambourine, small suspended cymbal, 4 tom-toms, Chinese cymbal, plastic grocery bags, slapstick, vibraslap, castanets, tam-tam)
5 Timpani (medium suspended cymbals, plastic grocery bags)
To Hans ver Meulen and Ieke van der Veen, in commemoration of the Twentieth Anniversary of our friendship.
- Joe and Sara Blaha
Several factors came together to inspire the writing of The Night Watch. Among them, of course, was the competiton that was held biennially in honor of my mentor and friend, Michael Hennagin. But, for whatever reason, I was thinking of not entering the contest. It was upon the urging of my colleague, Al Woijera of the Radford University Percussion Ensemble, that I seriously began to consider participating.
In the last ten years of his life, Michael Hennagin become enormously interested in the percussion ensemble as a truly twentieth century (and composer friendly) musical vehicle. Certainly, his close relationship with Richard Gipson and the inspiration generated by the excellent musicianship of the University of Oklahoma Percussion Orchestra brought about the composition of the internationally known Duo Chopinesque and The Phanom Dances. (When I first began teaching at Radford University, I was treated a bit like a celebrity because I had studied with the composer of Duo Chopinesque. A year later the Radford ensemble gave an expert reading of The Phantom Dances.) Because of the relative newness of the percussion ensemble in western culture (neither Beethoven nor Brahms had written anything for a group of this type) and its inherent ability to explore new sonic possiblities and textures, Hennagin actively promoted the writing of music for the percussion ensemble to his students. His genius in writing for this ensemble, or, for that matter, any other instrument, was his ability to engage the listener to hear music in the smallest sound. And when his music was loud, it was an explosion (and every bit as dramatic). His sudden death in 1993 robbed us observing anyfurther manner in which he might have accomplished that effect.
So, death, particularly Michael Hennagin`s death, came to play a major part in the writing of The Night Watch. I chose as a source of inspiration for this piece Rembrandt`s painting of the same name for three reasons: Sara (my wife) and I will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of our first trip to Holland (Rembrandt`s homeland) in 2001; the composition of Rembrandt`s work provides amply interplay of shadow and light with the subject being the relative serenity of the central characters in the midst of hyperactivity; and, there just happens to be a drummer barely in the painting on the right side of the canvas.
The writing of the work seemed to flow effortlessly from start to finish. I`m sure that some technical discussions might be warranted as to how the tonalities of E and D flat seem to emerge as representations of light and shadow. There may have been something like that going on. But what does the appearance of G major mean? For now, all I can say is that it all just sort of happened.
- Joseph Blaha
About the OU Percussion Press
In 1977 the OU Percussion Orchestra and Ensemble embarked on a project that developed into a national model for the encouragement and development of new music for percussion ensemble. The OU Percussion Ensemble Commissioning Series regularly engages outstanding composers to write works for this medium. The Commissioning Series is responsible for the creation of some of today`s staples in the percussion ensemble repertoire.
In 1983 the University of Oklahoma funded the establishment of the OU Percussion Press, a non-profit extension of the percussion area. Through the Percussion Press, the commissioning series compositions plus other works expressly written for the OU Percussion Orchestra and Ensembles have been made available for purchase and performance by the world`s leading percussion ensembles. The Percussion Press` catalog numbers more than 50 works, all published in a non-profit venture as a service to the profession.