Beginning with a questioning motive as man questions the meaning of his own life, new themes arise leading to a lovely statement by solo flute and harp. These lyrical and expressive statements allude to the spirituality and meaning we all seek. A quiet benediction brings Providence to a close.
Genre: Band | # of Players: Standard
Level: 5 | Duration: 9:50
Bb Clarinet 1
Bb Clarinet 2
Bb Clarinet 3
Eb Contrabass Clarinet
Alto Saxophone 1/2
Bb Trumpet 1
Bb Trumpet 2
Bb Trumpet 3
Percussion 1 (crotales, bells, snare drum)
Percussion 2 (vibraphone, 3 toms, small bass drum, suspended cymbal)
Percussion 3 (xylophone, slapstick, large tam-tam, hi-hat, suspended cymbal)
Percussion 4 (5-octave marimba, chimes, 3 brake drums)
Providence was commissioned by the Michigan State University Bands, John Whitwell, conductor. The work was originally to be in honor of the retirement of long time Theory Professor, Dr. Ted Johnson. Unfortunately, Dr. Johnson passed away on April 21, 2003, before any sketches of the new work had begun. I had spoke with Dr. Johnson some months before his death about the work that would be in his honor, asking him what kind of work he thought I should write. His response was basically to leave the creative endeavor in my hands as he knew and admired my music. He did add, however, that he was a bit old fashioned and had an affinity for the dramatic music of the Romantic period, especially the soaring horn parts written by Richard Strauss. As it turns out, I have featured the horn section in this work.
Dr. Johnson touched a multitude of lives during his career. I was but one of hundreds of graduate students that was positively touched by his humanity and superb teaching skills. I will be eternally grateful, as will so many others. Richard Blatti, Associate Director of Bands at The Ohio State University sums up his feelings for Dr. Johnson as follows:
"...it's more than theoretical concepts or analytical techniques that you taught me. You gave me such inspiration, a renewed love for learning, a fresh approach to problem-solving…and the greatest gift of all…you taught me how to teach."
Dr. Johnson lived an extraordinary life and had such a major influence on so many other lives. His wonderful life and the gifts that he passed on were no accident. John Whitwell, Director of Bands at Michigan State University, has told me that such things happen because of "divine guidance" or "providence". This is the derivation for the title of the work.
Ted Johnson authored two books, which were analyses of J. S. Bach's Two-Part and Three-Part Inventions. We all knew how much he revered the work of Bach. Three works by J. S. Bach were performed at his memorial service on April 24, 2003. One of these works, the aria Bist du bei mir ("Stay Thou Nearby"), is perhaps one of Bach's most beloved melodies. I chose this work to be the centerpiece for all the melodic material in Providence.
The work begins in a sort of questioning fashion, as a man questions the meaning of his own life. The oboe sings the first four notes of the aria (Bist du bei mir) with an octave displacement of the fourth note. This motive is heard throughout the piece. The mystery and questioning grows and segues into a murmur by clarinets and marimba over which a can ensues on motives derived from the aria. At the conclusion of the canon, low brass state the beginning of the aria and a fugato on the first four notes of the aria follows. The fugato concludes with dissonant confusion but resolves into consonance and leads to a lovely statement by solo flute accompanied by harp. The melodic material for the flute solo is new and its lyrical and expressive quality alludes to spirituality and the meaning of life that we all seek. Turmoil follows as if to remind us of the ultimate reality of the tribulations of life. Counterpoint and dissonance abound in this section along with a pounding solo by timpani leading to a dark march on the first three notes of the aria. The march grows incessantly and finally leads to a joyous entrance of the aria theme by the horns and is now joined by the flute solo heard earlier, this time in the low brass. Woodwinds accompany on a sort of ostinato fashioned from aria motives. The section affirms that providence does, in fact, exist in our lives. A quiet benediction brings the work to closure.
- David R. Gillingham