Filled with color, imagination, and adventure, Trailblazer, gives the brass and percussion their moment in the sun, leading the way in this bright, celebratory work for wind band.
Genre: Band | # of Players: Standard
Level: 4 | Duration: 5:10
B-flat Clarinet 1
B-flat Clarinet 2
B-flat Clarinet 3
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone 1
E-flat Alto Saxophone 2
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet 1
B-flat Trumpet 2
B-flat Trumpet 3
F Horn 1
F Horn 2
Timpani (4 drums)
Percussion 1 (Bells)
Percussion 2 (4.3-octave Marimba, Xylophone)
Percussion 3 (Vibraphone, Crash Cymbals)
Percussion 4 (Hi-Hat, 4 Concert Toms)
Percussion 5 (Suspended Cymbal, Brake Drum, 2 Woodblocks)
Percussion 6 (Wind Chimes, Bass Drum)
Trailblazer was commissioned by the family of Edward Falls with the help of friends, alumni, and students, as a part of a celebration concert for his 26 years of teaching at Yale Community and Gladwind Community Schools in Michigan.
Ed Falls is a hiker. It's his favorite pastime. So, he is a "trailblazer" of sorts. A hiker prepares well for his trek and has a specific goal and destination in mind. But Ed Falls has also been a "trailblazer" in his career as a music teacher. He has "blazed" trails for hundreds of students over his 26 years of teaching, preparing them well and putting them on a path of excellence to achieve specific musical goals. Hence, the music reflects not only the journey of the hiker, but the journey of the teacher.
The work begins with some trepidation and reticence (as the hiker or teacher prepares for his journey) with a marimba solo comprised of fragments of the "hiking theme". The solo is followed by the woodwinds and keyboard percussion playing sustained chords below patterns of 16th notes in the flutes and keyboard percussion. The brass interrupt the texture with sharp articulations leading to an ostinato pattern of 8th notes in the marimba along with intermittent articulations in the low brass serving as accompaniment for the horns which allude again to the "achievement theme". Flutes imitate the same melodic fragment. The texture grows and the rhythmic activity increases and leads to the first theme of the work, the "hikers theme", in D minor, played by trumpets and horns in unison with the saxophones, low brass, and hi-hat keeping the pulse of the hiker in eighth notes. This segues with a section reflecting challenge and perhaps "roadblocks" on the trail with some cluster chords and a fair amount of dissonance. The low brass and woodwinds state the "hiking theme" again with interspersed flourishes by the upper woodwinds and xylophone. An ascending line in the upper brass and saxophones brings the section to a close in D major and modulates to B-flat major where the "theme of achievement" enters, sung by horn and alto saxophone. The analogy here is that the hiker has arrived at his destination or, in the case of the teacher, has achieved a specific goal. The theme reflects a feeling of hope and satisfaction and is accompanied by flutes, clarinets, and keyboard percussion utilizing motivic material from the hiking theme. Trumpets join in on the melody as the texture increases and the theme comes to a close and dovetails with a section in B-flat minor full of unrest and struggle which begins with the timpani articulating the opening motive of the hiking theme. Tom-toms, brake drum, and bass drum enhance the feeling of unrest while the winds play fragments of the hiking theme. An ostinato follows comprised of flutes, clarinets, bells, and woodblock alluding to the hiker as he forges ahead on his journey. Against the ostinato, solo trombone and solo horn imitate one another on fragments of the hiking theme. The low brass and woodwinds follow with the complete phrase of the hiking theme and the music segues into a syncopated rhythmic pattern begun in the trumpets and horns and followed by the marimba. The clarinets and saxes then play the first couple phrases of the"achievement theme" in minor, signifying that achievement is only attained by struggle and hard work. A descending bell chord interrupts,the syncopated rhythm intensifies, and then modulates back to B-flat major. A fanfare-like transition, based on the motive of the hiking theme, modulates to the return of the "achievement theme" in D major. The fanfare returns and modulates to C major bringing the piece to a celebratory close. Notably, the last of the hiker's steps can be heard in the woodblock just before the final chord.