It is said that perhaps the greatest Americans are the ones who fought in the most intense and important battle of the 20th century, World War II. Honor those who died and those who survived the horrors with this masterpiece for solo trumpet and wind ensemble (orchestral winds).
Genre: Solo Trumpet with Band | # of Players: Standard + 1
Level: 5 | Duration: 18:50
Flute 1 (Piccolo)
Flute 2 (Piccolo)
Bb Clarinet 1
Bb Clarinet 2
Solo Trumpet (Trumpet in C, Flugelhorn, A Piccolo Trumpet)
Bb Trumpet 1
Bb Trumpet 2
Bb Trumpet 3
Timpani (4 drums)
Percussion 1 (crotales, xylophone, brake drum, marimba)
Percussion 2 (vibraphone, bells, tambourine, brake drum, chimes, tom-tom, crash cymbals)
Percussion 3 (hi-hat, bass drums, tam-tam, snare drum, suspended cymbal)
It is said that perhaps the greatest Americans are the ones who fought in the most intense and important battle of the 20th century, World War II. Some survivors are still living and can be credited with transforming America and shaping the rest of that century. These are men who are humbling examples of what America stands for and a living reminder of the price of freedom. The composer has dedicated this work with great respect and honor to those who died in that war and to those who survived its many horrors.
The trumpet has long been used as a method of signaling in the military. In previous centuries it was used prominently in battles. Thus, the solo trumpet in this work "signals" the moods of three perspectives of World War II: battle, death, and victory. The title of this work and its subsequent movements, as well as much of the inspiration, has come from a poem written in 1819 by Joseph Rodman Drake entitled "The American Flag."
The three movements or sections of When Speaks the Signal-Trumpet Tone are continuous without pause. Movement I, "When stride the warriors of the storm" begins with a slow introductory section featuring undulating thirds in the winds, various percussion colors, and rather militaristic motivic material in the solo trumpet. A "presto" section follows with an angular solo trumpet line accompanied by dissonant harmonic material coupled with the metallic articulations of the hi-hat. A contrasting secondary theme balances the movement with longing expressiveness which perhaps is suggestive of the homesickness of the G.I. alone on the foreign battlefield. The movement is summarized in the words of Joseph Rodman Drake:
To hear the tempest-tramping loud,
And see the lightning-lances driven,
When stride the warriors of the storm,
And rolls the thunder-drum of heaven!
"By angel hands to valor given," the second movement, begins with a snare drum roll followed by a solemn tom-tom. The movement is designed to evoke the image of a funeral procession to a military cemetery for the burial of a fallen comrade. Solo flugelhorn aptly shapes the melodic dirge. Toward the end of the movement a sweet, yet mournful melody emerges eulogizing the fallen comrade and signifying that he is again "home":
Flag of the free heart's hope and home
By angel hands to valor given!
Thy starts have lit the welkin dome,
And all thy hues were born in heaven!
The final movement, "Shall thy proud stars resplendent shine" should evoke feelings of joy, victory, and patriotism. The ascending pentachords in the solo piccolo trumpet with the four-note motive comprised of a perfect fifth followed by a descending second, are the basis for most of the melodic material of the movement. Contrasting this main thematic material in a sort of rondo-like structure is a chorale, heard only by the wind orchestra throughout the movement, which hopefully carries all the emotion and glory of victory:
And fixed as yonder orb divine,
That saw thy bannered blaze unfurled,
Shall thy proud starts resplendent shine,
The guard and glory of the world.
This piece was commissioned by Dwight Satterwhite and the University of Georgia Bands, and written for orchestral winds, piano, and specifically for W. Fred Mills as trumpet soloist. It was first premiered on March 30, 1999 at the University of Georgia. While the second movement was written for flugelhorn, Mr. Mills has performed and recorded this movement on the corno di caccia. Similar to an orchestral horn in its overall shape, the corno di caccia is more conical than the flugelhorn creating a more somber and mellow tone. Mr. Mills feels this timbre to be appropriate for the eulogizing melody of the second movement. The resulting musical production is truly gripping and communicates well the mournful intent of the composer.
- David R. Gillingham