IMG_1015_edited.jpg

Program 
Notes

Sonata for Trombone and Piano Op. 1

ITA Manuscript Press

My Sonata for Trombone and Piano was commissioned by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association for their October 2003 convention in Lexington, Kentucky as is my first large-scale composition. The work was inspired by the artistry of my colleague, trombonist Ken Haddix, to whom it is dedicated and with whom I gave the world premiere. The first movement is meant to have an expansive, heroic quality and is highly motivic, exploring many uses of the perfect 4th both harmonically and melodically. By contrast, the second movement is deeply emotional, dark and lyrical. It gains intensity at measure 42, but after rising to an outcry at measure 50 it subsides into bittersweet resignation once again. The last movement consist of several contrasting, exuberant sections. The opening gives way to a guitar-like Spanish dance, followed by a dance-like rhythmic section reminiscent of some 20th century composers. The opening section returns and the tempo picks up leading to an Allegro con brio conclusion.

I have notated the places where I want specific pedaling. It should be understood that the pedal is being used throughout the piece except where the indication is senza ped (in the last movement) and where there are staccatos such as measure 32 (the slurs should be pedaled.)

---

Appalachian Variations Op. 2

TRN Music Publisher, Inc.

Appalachian Variations was commissioned for the Eastern Kentucky University Centennial Observance by the College of Arts and Sciences, Andrew Schoolmaster, Dean.

The theme was inspired by a visit to Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, just south of Lexington, Kentucky, in October of 2002. During my visit I saw a musical program in the Meeting Hall given by a gentleman in Shaker clothing. This demonstration was so convincing that I felt as though I were truly in the presence of a Shaker demonstrating how he sang and worshipped. I then walked across the way to the main house where the men and women had lived on separate sides, and there was a photographic display of an outdoor excavation referred to as “Holy Sinai’s Plain.” The experience had a profound effect on me, and as I left Shaker Village and drove home, I had what I can best describe as a “moment of illumination,” where I saw this same gentleman, caught in a vision of the city of God singing and dancing to the words, “Holy Zion, Holy Zion, power of God awake in my soul!” It was just a 4-bar melodic fragment, but I could not get it out of my mind, and for the next two and a half years it haunted me. I did not write it down until early 2005, and added 4 more bars to make a complete 8-bar phrase and provide balance. The melody is found in the first clarinets at bar 10.

When Dean Schoolmaster made it known that he would like to commission a work to honor EKU’s Centennial I immediately knew that I wanted to write a work based on this theme. I began sketching variations at the piano in late July, 2005, and completed the rough draft at the end of September. I began scoring the work for symphonic band on October 1st, completing the work over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I chose variation form partly out of my great admiration for John Barnes Chance, an outstanding composer who was teaching at the University of Kentucky at the time of his untimely death in 1974 from an electrical accident. His first major success as a band composer was “Variations on a Korean Folksong,” and I felt that using the variation format would suit me well.

The work begins with an introduction of 9 bars, followed by the harmonized theme stated in the woodwinds. This is followed by 8 variations and a coda. Each variation has a different character: the first is a broken version, similar in overall style to the theme, with the melody in the solo trumpet; the second is a study in contrapuntal motion and rhythm; after a short transition, the third variation features duo clarinet parts, followed by a French Horn solo. This section is meant to depict the majestic beauty of rural Kentucky; the fourth is dance-like--since the Shakers were allowed very little worldly pleasure, one of their greatest joys was dancing as they worshipped and sang; the fifth is slightly more dissonant and highly energetic, featuring fragments of the theme in the trombones; the sixth is reminiscent of an old-style marching band and like the fourth is very celebratory; the seventh is a solemn processional, featuring the funereal beat of the timpani; a transition follows, building a rhythmic ostinato, where fragments of the theme are stated in various instruments with increasing intensity, leading to the climactic eighth variation with a grandiose restatement of the theme with new counterpoint in the woodwinds. The work concludes with a rousing coda.

Composing Appalachian Variations was, and remains, a deeply personal experience. As I described the work in progress to Lillian Shulman, a musician who worked at Shaker Village, I remarked, “It is alternately solemn and celebratory. As I listen to what I have already composed and transferred to my computer, I see celebrations, I see solemn funeral processions, and I see the dignity and majesty of rural Kentucky. And above all, I see these marvelous images from our past, pictures out of time, moving as though in slow motion, of a strong, dignified, pure and quiet people.”

 

---

Flourish Op. 3

J.W. Pepper

Flourish was written in 1984 for the wedding of my sister and brother-in-law, Jodi and Jim Billings. It remained unpublished at the time of the Trombone Sonata and Appalachian Variations, so I chose to make it my Op. 3. It is a traditional processional work in ABA coda form. The A section is reminiscent of trumpet processionals by Henry Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke and the B section is reminiscent of Edward Elgar. The coda is fanfare-like in nature.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Three Burns Songs Op. 4

(unpublished)

These three songs were written intermittently over a 4-year period (1981-85) and also pre-date the first two opuses. In writing these songs I attempted to give a folk-like impression. The three, including “Their Groves O’ Sweet Myrtle,” Strathallan’s Lament,” and “My Heart’s In The Highlands,” are for medium to high voice.

---

Three Songs on Poems by Edgar Allan Poe Op. 5

(unpublished)

Each of these songs was written for an EKU vocal colleague: Joyce Wolf, Scott Deweese and Patrick Newell. The poems, in order, are “The Lake,” Evening Star,” and “To The River.” “The Lake” is darkly impressionistic, “Evening Star” is calm and atmospheric, and “To The River” uses rapid arpeggios to suggest a watery setting.

 

---

Elegy for Oboe and Piano (2002)

(unpublished)

This short work for oboe and piano, without opus number, was written in memory of Alycia Smith, a talented young musician whose life was cut short in a terrible automobile accident in 2002 on her way home to Richmond from Louisville. She had been active in KMEA solo and ensemble contests and had been a 4-year participant in EKU’s Stephen Collins Foster Music Camp and a member of the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra for 2 years.

 

---

Ships That Pass In The Night (2001)

(unpublished)

This work is a setting of the poem of the same name by Paul Laurance Dunbar and features a throbbing quarter-note ostinato throughout to create the impression of an anxious heartbeat. It was written for my friend, Brian Stratton, and is available for tenor voice and for baritone voice.

 

---

Marudvina for Violin and Piano Op. 7

(unpublished)

This work was also written prior to my opus 1, having been composed in 2002 for a faculty composition recital. The title was suggested by my colleague and world music expert, Jason Koontz. Marudvina means “Lute of the Mahruts,” and refers to Aryan wind gods who played on instruments with a thousand strings. It features nearly constant asymmetrical meters, typically 7/8 and 5/8. The piece was premiered with my colleague Jeremy Mulholland on violin with me accompanying on the piano.

 

---

A Walt Whitman Portrait Op. 8 for SATB chorus and band

Northeastern Music Publications

This work is a setting of three poems from Whitman’s monumental Leaves Of Grass, which reach to the very root of Civil War America.It was written as a tribute to my father, who was slipping away from Alzheimer’s Disease, for all the years of exposing me to great music as a youngster and supporting all my musical endeavors.

The first movement, Beat! Beat! Drums!, utilizes muted brass and hushed voices as the army approaches from the distance. As the movement progresses, tension builds as voices are added and the music grows in depth and volume. Quotes of Civil Warm melodies and the addition of a marching machine add to the effect, portraying the approaching menace.

The second movement, Old War Dreams, depicts a world in mourning. The poem describes the nightmares and flashbacks of the horrible death and mutilation witnessed by Walt Whitman, who worked as a nurse during the war. This movement aims to describe horrific visions of the war through dark, emotional music.

The third movement, For You, O Democracy,is a patriotic cry of triumph. This movement calls for jubilation, just as Walt Whitman himself felt, in the potential of our democratic form of government.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

By The Waters Of Memory Op. 9

I chose the title for this nocturne-like, lyrical piece from Greek mythology. According to the followers of the Orphic School, the soul of the deceased would cross the river Styx and be parched with thirst from the long and arduous journey to the Underworld. Upon arriving on the shore the first thing they would come to was a pool called the Waters of Lethe (forgetfulness), and if the soul drank from those waters its memory would be erased and it would have to reincarnate again into the weary sorrowful circle of life. But, if it remembered not to drink from this pool and proceeded on it would encounter the Waters of Mnemosene (memory) and after drinking from this pool it would remember not only its recently completed life but its previous lives as well and could then proceed on to the Elysian Fields. White this piece is not an attempt to describe the story per se,I have had many people describe memories and images that were conjured up by it, and I hope that it will touch upon the emotions of the listener and that it will bring to the surface the memory of some important event or person in their life.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Sonata for Viola and Piano Op. 10

J. W. Pepper

This work was commissioned by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association for their 2010 convention at the University of Louisville and was written while I was on a sabbatical. It consists of three movements in fast-slow-fast order with the first being an Allegro in sonata form, the  2nd being Andante in ABA’ form and the 3rd a mono-thematic Vivace in compound duple meter basically in a perpetuum mobile format. The work was premiered with Jeremy Mulholland on Viola with me accompanying on the piano.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Tribute (Grade 1.5 band) Op. 11

Northeastern Music Publications

Tribute was commissioned by Matthew Koperniak and the Riverwatch Middle School band in honor of Steven Tyndall’s many years of dedicated service to music education in Georgia. The premiere was conducted by Mr. Tyndall at the 2011 MidFest band clinic in Athens, Georgia. The charge given to me by Dr. Koperniak was to write a piece that would demonstrate that young bands can play musically, in response to the plethora of young band music that merely treats the ensemble like a percussion instrument. Tribute is currently on the approved band repertoire lists in 5 states.

 

---

Trumpet Concerto in Bb Op. 12

J.W. Pepper

I began the Trumpet Concerto as part of my 2010 sabbatical and finished it in 2011. This was my first orchestral piece, with the original form being for trumpet and string orchestra. It was premiered on February 27, 2012 with Joseph Van Fleet on trumpet and the string orchestra conducted by Jeremy Mulholland. I later cast the work for trumpet and symphonic band and this version was conducted by Dr. Ken Haddix with Dr. Van Fleet again featured as soloist. I have also made it available for trumpet and piano.

The concerto is cast in the traditional three-movement structure, with the first movement in sonata form and featuring a cadenza while the middle movement an expressive area for the soloist. For the premiere, Van Fleet chose to perform the second movement on flugelhorn, which proved to be very effective. The final movement is full of fun and good cheer. There are cyclic connections with sections of the first two movements reappearing in the final movement.

N.B. the solo line in the piano score is at concert pitch with the soloists own part transposed for the performer.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Variations Op. 13 for piano solo

J.W. Pepper

These Variations were composed in 2013 and I presented the world premiere at the EKU Center For The Arts on October 20th of that year. I wrote this work as a gesture of gratitude to Dr. Amit Gupta, the Louisville surgeon who saved my career as a pianist. I chose variation form to explore a wide variety of musical styles. The theme is followed by nine character variations:

Variation 1: Shifting Meters and Rhythms

Variation 2: Tempo di Valse

Variation 3: Homage to Bartok

Variation 4: Fantasia

Variation 5: Contrapunctus

Variation 6: Quasi Una Fantasia

Variation 7: Tarantella

Variation 8: Homage to Rachmaninoff

Variation 9: Invocation and Dance (Basant Mukhari)

In the last variation, in honor of Dr. Gupta, I transformed the theme into an Indian Raga and used the sostenuto pedal at the beginning to allow for sympathetic vibration of the strings to create the impression of a sitar.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Four Latin Dances for Oboe and Piano Op. 14

These four dances were commissioned by pianist Imelda Delgado and oboist Evelyn McCarty in memory of Narciso Delgado, a Tejano music pioneer. The dances are a Bolero, Tango, Bossa Nova and Mambo. They can be played on any number of soprano instruments.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

He Shall Cover Thee for SATB chorus Op. 15

Colla Voce

This piece was commissioned by my student, Chase Moore, for his graduate conducting recital in the spring of 2015 and is a setting of two of his favorite Bible verses, Isaiah 40:31 and Psalm 91:4.

 

---

Remembrance for Marimba and Piano Op. 16

J.W. Pepper

Remembrance was commissioned by Felix Miguel Reyes for his senior percussion recital at SUNY Fredonia and was premiered in the spring of 2015. In creating the work I used the “Suggetto Cavato” technique used by so many Renaissance composers to create the melody by using the vowels from Felix’s name and assigning them to solfege syllables—re-mi-mi-ut-re-re-re. It is a dark, lyrical work, overall, with several challenging cadenzas.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

                 

On The Beach At Night for TTBB chorus Op. 17

J.W. Pepper

This work is a setting of the poem of the same name by Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass and was composed for a TTBB competition sponsored by Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. Whitman’s pantheism is on full display in this atmospheric work about a child and her father on the beach watching the clouds cover the stars with the father reassuring his crying daughter that the stars will re-emerge, and reassuring her furthers that, “Something there is more immortal even than the stars. Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter. Longer than any sun, or any revolving satellite, or the radiant sisters, the Pleiades.”

 

---

Ricercare Op. 18 for Trombone choir

J.W. Pepper

This work was commissioned by Dr. Nate Siler and the EKU Trombone Studio to premiere at the American Trombone Workshop in 2017. It features imitative passages reminiscent of the instrument transcriptions of motets at the end of the Renaissance, but with a richer, Romantic harmonic palate.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Sonata for Cello and Piano Op. 19

J.W. Pepper

This sonata was commissioned by the Kentucky Music Teachers Association for their fall conference in 2017 and was premiered by cellist Abby Whitt accompanied by the composer. It is in the standard 3-movement structure and features Romantic harmonies as well as mixed meter and increasing dissonance in the final movement.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Canzona Op. 20 for Trombone Choir

J.W. Pepper

The Canzona was commissioned by the Baptist Health Foundation and premiered at a banquet at the EKU Center for The Arts celebrating providers at the local hospital whose service was 20 years or more. It is reminiscent of the Renaissance transcriptions of chansons and features much contrast of the number of voices, including pairs of voices alternating with the full choir.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

Sonata for Piano in Bb Minor Op. 21

C. F Peters

The sonata was commissioned by SAI fraternity for their national convention in Scottsdale, Arizona and was premiered by the composer in July of 2018. It is published by C. F. Peters. The work is laid out in the standard three movement structure with a sonata form first movement marked “Allegro molto”, a slow “Andante” movement with a chant-like melody, and a multi-metered final movement marked “Allegro energico.”

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE

 

---

 

The Transience of Things Op. 22 for Violin, Trumpet and Piano

(unpublished)

This work was commissioned by Sean Nicholas Douglas and uses the Renaissance “Suggetto Cavato” technique similar to Remembrance Op. 16. Based on the vowels from Sean’s name, the solfège syllables “Re-La-Mi-Sol-La-Sol-Ut-La” render the following pitches: D-A-E-G-A-G-C-A. The title was suggested by the times we live in and how fleeting life and its experiences really are.

LISTEN ON YOUTUBE