From its connections to Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition,to the amazing architectural, engineering, and construction work that brought it to life, Westward Sentinel celebrates the magnificent Gateway Arch in St. Louis. This showpiece for solo euphonium and concert band was written for the USAF Band of Mid-America.
Genre: Solo Euphonium with Band | # of Players: Standard + 1
Level: 5 | Duration: 14:45
Bb Clarinet 1
Bb Clarinet 2
Bb Clarinet 3
Bb Bass Clarinet
Eb Alto Saxophone 1
Eb Alto Saxophone 2
Bb Tenor Saxophone
Eb Baritone Saxophone
C Trumpet 1
C Trumpet 2
C Trumpet 3
C Trumpet 4
F Horn 1
F Horn 2
F Horn 3
F Horn 4
Timpani (4 drums)
Percussion 1 (Marimba, Xylophone, Woodblock, Chimes)
Percussion 2 (Vibraphone, 2 Bongos, Crash Cymbals, Suspended Cymbal, Triangle, 3 Toms)
Percussion 3 (Bells, Bass Drum, Crash Cymbals)
Percussion 4 (Crotales, Tam-Tam, Snare Drum, Hi-Hat)
From the very first time I saw it with my own eyes, driving through St. Louis in 2000, I have been enthralled by the Gateway Arch: its almost incomprehensible size, its timeless simplicity. When asked to write a piece of music celebrating the Arch and its 40th anniversary, I was overwhelmed. There’s simply too much to express, from its connections to Thomas Jefferson and the Lewis and Clark expedition through the amazing architectural, engineering, and construction work that brought it to life. How is it possible, in only one musical work, to capture all of that, much less the majesty of the Arch on a perfect fall day, or backlit by July fireworks, or gently illuminated, silent in the snow?
Finally, I realized that rather than try to merely describe the Arch or comment on its history, I would need to explore my personal relationship with it, as a resident of the St. Louis metro area. Therefore, although Westward Sentinel is not exactly programmatic, there are a few images that stayed in my mind as I composed:
The first section of the piece speaks to my relationship with the Midwest. I am a native of northern Illinois, where I grew up surrounded by cornfields. This is a significant personal image, of which I have only recently become aware: to stand alone and at peace in the center of a July cornfield under an endless blue sky, breathing the warm summer air, where the only sounds are the subtle hum of insects and the wind rustling the leaves. Now, in my southern Illinois home, there is still corn, but I can also actually see the Arch on the western horizon. Obviously, that changes the feel of my home: with the presence of the Arch, however distant, comes the promise of bustling, urban St. Louis. It is a stark contrast to what I feel as my roots and my place in the world, and yet the Arch definitely calls to me.
I love to drive into St. Louis on I-64. The second section of the piece speaks to this journey. Along that stretch of highway between Edwardsville and downtown St. Louis, the Arch teasingly ducks behind hills and buildings, only to burst back into sight, sparkling in the sun. Then, where I-64 crosses the Mississippi River, the first sight of the Arch in its entirety – steadfast at its post on the western bank, looming over the highway – is nothing short of glorious!
Finally, there is the first breathless moment of standing at the base of the Arch, trying to take in its enormity. That’s impossible – it’s so big! I will always remember the first time I did this, though; all I could think was, “Wow ….”
And then the trip home, with the Arch at my back: a reassuring guardian, a Westward Sentinel.
- Kimberly K. Archer