Zion

for Orchestra

Dan Welcher

Rental
Performing Ensemble: Orchestra
Publisher: Elkan-Vogel, Inc.
Print Status: Rental

Quick Overview

This is the second incarnation of a work I first composed in 1994 for symphonic wind ensemble. The earlier version was intended to be the summation of three-part suite, each part being named for a different national park in the Western United States. This orchestral version, commissioned in 1999 by the Utah Symphony and dedicated to the memory of Aaron Copland, is more than a re-scoring of the earlier piece; it is a re-thinking of all its elements.

Zion is a place with unrivalled natural grandeur, being a sort of huge box canyon in which the traveler is constantly overwhelmed by towering rock walls on every side of him ? but it is also a place with a human history, having been inhabited by several tribes of native Americans before the arrival of the Mormon settlers in the mid-19th century. By the time the Mormons reached Utah, they had been driven all the way from New York State through Ohio and, with tragic losses, through Missouri. They saw Utah in general as ?a place nobody wanted,? but they were nonetheless determined to keep it to themselves. Although Zion Canyon was never a ?Mormon Stronghold,? the people who reached it and claimed it (and gave it its present name) had been through extreme trials.

It is the religious fervor of these persecuted people that I was able to draw upon in creating "Zion" as a piece of music. There are two quoted hymns in the work: "Zion?s Walls" (which Aaron Copland adapted to his own purposes in both his "Old American Songs" and the opera "The Tender Land") and "Zion?s Security", which I found in the same volume in which Copland found "Zion?s Walls" ? that inexhaustible storehouse of 19th-century hymnody called "The Sacred Harp".

My work opens with a three-verse setting of "Zion?s Security", a stern tune in F-sharp minor which is full of resolve. (The words of this hymn are resolute and strong, rallying the faithful to be firm, and describing the ?city of our God? they hope to establish). This melody alternates with a fanfare tune, whose origins will be revealed in later music, until the second half of the piece begins: a driving rhythmic ostinato based on a 3/4-4/4 alternating meter scheme. This pauses at its height to restate "Zion?s Security" one more time, in a rather obscure setting surrounded by freely shifting patterns in the flutes, clarinets, and percussion ? until the sun warms the ground sufficiently for the second hymn to appear. "Zion?s Walls" is set in 7/8, unlike Copland?s 9/8-6/8 meters (the original is quite strange, and doesn?t really fit any constant meter), and is introduced by a warm horn solo. The two hymns vie for attention from here to the end of the piece, with the glowingly optimistic "Zion?s Walls" finally achieving prominence. The work ends with a sense of triumph.

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Scores & Parts

Zion - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned in 1999 by the Utah Symphony
Composition Date 1999
Duration 10:00
Orchestration 3 3 3 3 - 4 4 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Hp. Pno. Str.
Premiere 24th September, 1999. Utah Symphony, conducted by Keith Lockhart, Salt Lake City.

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