I’m currently wrapping up the engraving process for Midsummer Pavanes, my new piece for symphonic band. The program notes and a couple of screen grabs are below.
In June 2012 I received sad news that my dear friend George Buckbee had passed away unexpectedly at his home near Helsinki, Finland. Despite living on different continents for most of our friendship, George and I had nonetheless maintained a lively and stimulating correspondence since we met in the late 1990’s, when I was an undergraduate and he was emeritus professor and interim dean at the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Whether by email or post, George never hesitated to share news, opinions, wisdom, and encouragement, to say nothing of the occasional second-hand book or score. George was also a tireless promoter of my work: he commissioned two pieces from me and frequently passed along my scores to European musicians. It was significant that George passed during the midsummer celebrations, a special time of year in his adopted Scandinavian homeland; George often sent vivid descriptions of these festive times with family and friends.
It was during this difficult time that I was also just beginning to think about this commission from Bill Staub and others, and I decided to make the piece personally meaningful by honoring the memory of a departed mentor.
As the title suggests, characteristics of the pavane, a moderately slow Renaissance dance sometimes associated with mourning, pervade the work. These aspects include the stately “long-short-short” rhythmic pattern heard frequently in the drums, and the paired but varied statements of melodic ideas. The work opens with a dirge over a descending bass line (another musical device representing grief), a short trumpet fanfare, and a simple, cantabile tune heard in first in F and later in G-flat. The piece returns to F and ends with quiet, improvised percussion figures that slowly dissipate into nothingness.