for Large Wind Ensemble

Dan Welcher

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

Quick Overview

This work is the fourth in my series inspired by national parks in the American west (after The Yellowstone Fires, Arches, and Zion). As in the previous three works, it came to be following an intense personal involvement with the place itself: I spent the summer of my twentieth year working at the Many Glacier Hotel in Montana, which was my first experience of the Rockies. It had a profound effect on my psyche, and in fact it began my lifelong love affair with the wild places of the west.

Glacier National Park sits on the Canadian border and is one of the great unknowns among the larger parks. Named for the active glaciers that fill its higher valleys, the park has vistas unlike any other place on earth. It’s too far away from anything else to be on the way to anything, and the snows keep the entrances to the park closed until well in June every year… with the early snows closing it up in September. I decided to make my work about the time during which people are strangers to the park—the period of time when the ice and snow pack in, and the grizzlies and caribou and other animals have the place to themselves. But after thinking about this further, it seemed like a better idea to write a “year-in-the-park” piece, beginning and ending with the wintry quiet of the glaciers themselves.

Glacier begins with that locked-down icy feeling, in the dead of winter. Nothing can move very much, and this rock-like hardness is felt in slow chords made up if high winds and bell percussion. Short, brittle motives in muted trumpets and xylophones percolate through the ice, but the sounds are all high sounds. As the piece progresses, the mid-range and lower-range instruments gradually enter.

A fast section, characterized by repeated eighth-note chords, makes up the middle of the piece—and as the sun makes its presence known for longer and longer periods of the days, a sense of warming comes through. The ice begins to melt, causing watery figures to begin in the woodwinds. The heat and the running rivers animate the ground and re-awaken the wildlife, and the music becomes more and more full-bodied. This culminates in a brass chorale of great power, with all the surging and running of the now raging rivers propelling the music ever forward in the spring thaw. At length, the warmth diminishes, and (without losing speed this time), the watery figures move higher and higher up in the winds—until the great icy percussive lockdown begins again. The chorale has become a memory of distant summer, and the mountains resume their hibernation.

Glacier was commissioned by the Southeastern Conference Band Directors Association.

—Dan Welcher

Available on Rental

Scores & Parts

Glacier - Full Score - Study

Additional Information

Commission Commissioned by the Southeastern Conference Band Directors Association
Composition Date 2004
Duration 10:00
Orchestration 4(2.Picc.) 3(E.H.) 5(E-fl.Cl., B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) - 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1 Euph.; Timp. 5Perc. Pno. Cb.
Premiere 17th February 2004, University of Georgia Wind Ensemble, conducted by John Culvahouse

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