Bright Wings

Valediction for Large Orchestra

Dan Welcher

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

Quick Overview

The title is taken from final lines of ?God?s Grandeur? by Gerard Manley Hopkins, though the music is not based on the poem. The final 6 lines of the sonnet suggested, however, to the composer the same mood as his music.

"The years 1995 and 1996 were a time of personal loss for me, a season of deaths and farewells. I wanted to write a valediction for one departed person in particular, but at the same time I wanted to write a piece that was bold, full-voiced, and lit from within by energy. As does Hopkins?s poem, my music attempts to reassure, to look eastward through the losses for the new sun, and to receive a kind of grace: not with hushed wonder but with the life force in full stride.?

The piece is cast in a single movement, divided into five connected sections. It starts with an introductory passage which gradually accelerates from the moderate hammer-blows of the unison D that opens it, to a raucously pounding fanfare for the full orchestra. This yields to a lengthy passage of nearly static, slow-evolving chords in the muted horns, with very high violins forming cirrus clouds of melody above them. A transition leads to a rhythmic, repeated motive in the strings, which ultimately supports a rather stately theme in the solo clarinet. This theme is developed three times, with interruptions between the repetitions. The third presentation of the theme reveals it as a full-throated chorale, with the entire brass section sailing on the rugged, repeating mantra of the strings. At length, this subsides, leaving a solo clarinet to comment on it. The clarinet creates a fabric, gradually incorporating other woodwinds, with a texture of many transparent layers. A solo piccolo gently intones above this tapestry in a kind of blessing. The orchestra rallies, and the chorale statement heard earlier returns, slower and farther away, while the rest of the orchestra trudges on, gaining momentum. One final push and we?re back to the opening fanfare music - but not for long. A unison rush downward returns us to the key of the opening, and the hammerblows on the note D are with us again. Unlike the opening, this time the music gradually gets slower and slower, until it feels as though it will break of its own weight. One last rally pushes the tempo forward, and "Bright Wings" ends on an upsweep of energy.

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Bright Wings - Full Score - Study
Bright Wings - Full Score - Large

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Composition Date 1996
Duration 14:00
Orchestration 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 4 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str.
Premiere March 13, 14, 15, 1997. Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Litton, Eugene McDermott Concert Hall, Dallas, TX