Instruments that didn't make the cut for the concert

There are a number of instruments I love writing for, but for one reason or another are not included in this concert. When selecting music for a concert, it is important the overall programme has flow and continuity, which means some pieces just don’t work together, or for reasons of time, there just isn’t room to put them into the programme. This is a bit of a frustration for me because, as a composer, there are so many tonal colours I’d like to explore. There will be other concerts with other opportunities to explore these lovely instruments - so, while I regret not including them, they are far from being forgotten.

The piano isn’t really included in this concert (although there is some discussion about having a small bit played at the opening – sort of a prelude to the concert). I have a number of pieces, most notably a series of twelve Piano Preludes which explore the merging of two keys, one for each hand. It would have been really nice to include these into the concert, but I wrote the Piano Preludes to flow from one to another, performable as a twelve movement concert piece – lasting thirty-five minutes. There just wasn’t enough time to perform the complete set in the concert, and I would like their first performance to be complete.

I have long had a love affair with the harp. It is (IMHO) one of the loveliest instruments to write for. Like the piano, it has a large range (although the Clairshach does not have quite as large a range – but the levers used to provide incidentals can provide some very interesting options in terms of tuning) and performs a glissando unlike anything else in the orchestra. The harp is not included in the instrument selection for this concert, and I have some regrets about that. I find it a very versatile instrument, adding a unique colour to the music (and I'm not alone in that opinion). Five years ago I wrote a trio of pieces for Harp, Violin and Cello which are still some of my favourite pieces, even though stylistically they are very different than what I have written the last couple of years. And thus the reason these pieces are not part of the concert.

The marimba is beautiful, with its ability to create shimmering sustains or warm arpeggios. A good player (and I know one) can really make this instrument sing. But when I began writing the symphony I wanted to write for what is considered a standard triple wind ensemble. While many orchestras do have mallet players amid their percussionists, this instrument is not quite part of the standard makeup. So, I didn’t include a marimba part in the symphony. Another one of my orchestral works does use the marimba (along with the harp) to create a unique series of pedal tones that seem to vibrate under the rest of the orchestra. Since we already have the orchestra playing the symphony (and that’s fifty minutes long) there was no reason to include this other piece.

Saxophones are widely underused in classical music (IMHO). Their distinctive sound adds a colour that just isn’t found anywhere else. Like clarinets, saxophones can bend notes which can give the music an emotional impact as if tapping into the very soul of the performer. It’s this versatility that I’ve just begun to explore. Unfortunately, I don’t really have any pieces of note that could be included, so this instrument too will be missing from the concert.

There will be other concerts. So, there will be chances to explore these wonderful instruments. Still, there is a sense of regret they are not in this one – rather like having a family reunion where a few of the family members couldn’t attend.


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