Voyager —1999

Voyager was composed for the East Stroudsburg High School Wind Ensemble, James Martini, conductor.

Program Notes

The idea for the title came to me while I was sitting on a dock off the Long Island Sound, watching the ferries come and go, dropping off and picking up passengers. Each ship had a simple name, like Voyager, Mariner, Traveler, and so on; and each ship seemed to be on its own personal journey, separate from the journeys of those passengers it had ferried safely across the waters. Thus, Voyager seemed an evocative title for this piece, which takes a simple musical idea (a pentatonic melody originally based on the school’s alma mater) on a dramatic journey through ever-changing landscapes.

The opening section of the piece introduces the main theme, bright and energetic, in the high woodwinds. The remaining choirs in the ensemble join in one at a time, layering on top of one another, until finally they all sing the main theme joyfully. This passage is suddenly interrupted by saxophones, horns, and tom toms, which guide the main theme to a slower, more mysterious section. This long middle section juxtaposes two alternating chorales—one in the brass and one in the woodwinds—with restless solos by various instruments (flute, alto saxophone, clarinet, piccolo, oboe, trumpet). The two chorales eventually join forces, forming monolithic, powerful chords which repeat and intensify until they finally break free, releasing into a more lyrical, and finally triumphant, statement of the main theme. An extended coda closes out the piece. It is bright and rhythmic again, featuring the opening main theme in various solo voices which slowly converge into a powerful tutti statement bringing the work to a rousing finish.