SYMPHONY NO. III
No Finer Calling
Jointly commissioned by
The United States Air Force Band of Flight,
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
Lieutenant Colonel Alan Sierichs, Commander and Conductor
The United States Air Force Academy Band, Peterson AFB, Colorado
Lieutenant Colonel Steven Grimo, Commander and Conductor
The United States Air Force Band of Liberty, Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts
Lieutenant Colonel Larry H. Lang, Commander and Conductor
I. Integrity Fanfare and March -
Mvt. II. Far from Home -
“Service Before Self”
Mvt. III. Honor Above All -
"Excellence in All We Do"
Celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the United States Air Force (1947-2007), “No Finer Calling” is a symphony in three movements. The movements are individually based on the United States Air Force Core Values. These values, setting a common standard for conduct, were introduced in 1995 and were promulgated throughout the Air Force at every level by the Air Education and Training Command and The United States Air Force Academy. The Core Values are “Integrity First,” “Service Before Self,” and “Excellence In All We Do.”
I. Integrity Fanfare and March - “Integrity First”
Integrity, Virtue, Morality, Truthfulness, Accountability and Pride. When I thought of these words as a composer, I heard a fanfare, a processional and a march. Not all at the same time, but more of a melding of all three. A fanfare that states “We are here;” a procession that states “We are prepared;” and a march that states “Lets GO!”
This work is dedicated to Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel, USAF (Ret.)
When I was in high school, I had the pleasure of being in two honor bands that had Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel as the conductor. At that time, my friends were playing records of Rod Stewart, Chicago and the Doobie Brothers while I was either composing or spinning vinyls of Dennis Brain, the Chicago Symphony or any concert band recording I could get my hands on. When I got the chance to work with Colonel Gabriel, I was at least bright enough to know that I was in the company of somebody unusual. And for everybody that knows Colonel Gabriel, I am certain we can all agree that he is beyond a doubt, a Breed Apart.
After those honor bands, Colonel Gabriel was added to my personal “musical reverence” list. While I am composing, I refer to this list and ask myself questions like “would they like this?” or “would they perform it this way?” -- you know, questions like that. So unbeknownst to him until now, I have thought of Colonel Gabriel many, many times over the past 28 years.
When I learned that he was going to conduct the premiere of “Journey Through Orion,” a new band work of mine which was commissioned by the Association of Concert Bands and premiered in the summer of 2006, I was horrified and ecstatic at the same time, an experience that was quickly overshadowed later when I picked up my phone and saw “Arnald Gabriel” lit up on my caller I.D.
Now, I don't know how many people have a chance to work and become friends with their childhood idols, but for myself, I can only say that it has been one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. In addition to our musical conversations, we have literally spent hours talking about many things. The discussions that I hold dearest are the ones where he has told me about his many experiences in WWII, in Europe as a combat machine gunner with the United States Army's famed 29th Infantry Division. Gabriel received two awards of the Bronze Star Medal in addition to the Combat Infantryman's Badge and the French Croix de Guerre. Arnald was also kind enough to share a number of photos.
Obviously, in print this work is dedicated to Colonel Arnald Gabriel. But for me personally, it is with great adoration and love that I present it.
II. Far from Home - “Service Before Self”
With careful consideration of the Core Value “Service Before Self,” only one word came to mind... “Sacrifice.” Certainly during day to day normal military existence there is an ongoing personal “service before self” commitment. During wartime, it is lived day by day, minute by minute. “Far From Home” finds our military men and woman afield, dreaming of home and loved ones.
In measures 65-72, the oboe closely quotes the opening phrase of “America the Beautiful,” the words for which were first conceived in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates. (Bates wrote the second version in 1904 and her final version in 1913.) Very easily, an original musical phrase could have been used in this spot, but I wanted the audience to feel a “patriotic” moment as well as mentally hear the opening words to “America the Beautiful.”
The celesta in the piece represents things childlike in particular, as when a mother or father is missing their children or when a father has thoughts of that newborn whose birth he has missed. At times the piece is a folk song, and at times it is a lullaby. As a whole, it is a simple wish to be where the heart is
III. Honor Above All - “Excellence In All We Do” -
This movement is a musical portrait of the many occupations and duties in the Air Force, in peacetime and wartime. In measure 229, the movement arrives at its musical destiny, a hymn entitled “A Military Prayer.” In keeping with the programmatic theme of depicting all that the Air Force does, this section represents the most important thing they do -- defend and protect the United States of America. The prayer is a combat prayer, and the words are as follows:
“Lord, God, My Saving Grace. In Your Hands My Soul I Place,
Dear Lord, God Forgive My Sins, Please Let My Faith Not Falter
Lord, God. Please Grant Me Strength. Let Your Spirit Flow Through Mine.
Dear Lord, God. Let Wisdom Reign and Courage Guide My Journey.
Oh Lord, God. The King of Kings. Armor Born of Love Be Mine.
Dear Lord, God. When My Days End Let Heaven's Light Shine On Me.” Julie Giroux
Measure 254 starts the final section entitled Fieramente “La Mano di Dio.” This section represents the acts of warfare and has 3 motifs going on simultaneously. The upper woodwinds (12/8 pulse) are the “Integrity,” the horns and saxophones (4/4 pulse) are the “Service Before Self,” and the trumpets and trombones (3 against 4 triplet pulse) are the “Excellence In All We Do.” The final phrase is a bold tribute to the men and women, past and present, who have been a part of the United States Air Force. It is important to resist the temptation to crescendo in measure 252 leading into this final section. The measure should be played mezzo-forte with a subito unleashed forte at measure 253.