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A Promise to Stand By:

By Benjamin Ayotte

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Concert Band - Digital Download
Composed by Benjamin Ayotte. Score. 30 pages. Published by Ayotte Custom Musical Engravings (S0.127093).

Item Number: S0.127093

"A promise to stand by..." this phrase indicate loyalty, steadfastness, being a man of one's word, knowing that integrity and honor are the enduring qualities by which we will be judged; not fame, fortune, influence, or other worldly measures. It is no surprise, therefore, that this phrase was incorporated by Lou Fortunate and Msgr Herman Kucyk, of blessed memory, into the alma mater of Divine Child High School. When I was approached by Mr. Bush and the Divine Child Band Boosters about the possibility of writing a piece to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the band program I was excited, flattered, and--most of all--humbled that I should be chosen out of many worthier candidates, in my estimation. Divine Child has had, for the longest time--since the beginning, it seems--a vibrant and thriving fine arts program involving music (both vocal and instrumental), theatre, and the visual arts as well as literature and poetry. I began to conceive of a work that would pay homage to each of these arts musically and be a celebration of all that Divine Child has to offer. One of my favourite composers, Gustav Mahler, famously said, "a symphony must be like the world; it must contain everything." In the 1988 vice-presidential debate, Lloyd Bentsen famously said to Dan Quayle, "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." A voice in my head said, "Benjamin, you're no Gus Mahler." As the discarded drafts in the recycle bin took on a life of their own, I eventually dismissed the idea as impractical, and even vainglorious. I settled upon a more general idea to make the music about the band program. Most every student in the band program goes through the rigors of marching band and performs at the Falcon football games where they become intimate with the Three School Songs: the Falcon Fanfare, the Fight Song, and the Alma Mater. Taking the latter piece as my inspiration, I meditated upon the mission of the school: a promise to educate us in body, mind, and spirit. Divine Child High School stands by her promise, recruiting some of the best teachers in the area to guide us through the tumultuous adolescent years. We students, too, have a promise: to strive to be worthy of this gift, and to accept it and use it for the betterment of society. In band class, under Leo Tallieu, I learned to listen; to contribute to the group; to consider my part in relation to the whole ensemble; to show leadership when needed; and to be a role player when needed. And so, my conception of the piece changed. I wanted to use melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic devices that would be familiar to all DCHS band students, but to use them in a new and different way; to recontextualize them. As time went on, Bob Bush asked me if I would be able to work in a tribute to two band students who had tragically died in the last few years: Blaise Hébert and Bethany Galdes. Not having known them personally, I began to think in more general terms about death and loss, funeral ritual and liturgy, and how this all ties into a Catholic perspective. Now I had to tie it all together. A Promise to Stand By opens with a jubilant fanfare based on the head motive of the Alma Mater, "We bring to thee, we sing to thee" that progresses in ascending semitones in the characteristic scheme of the Falcon Fanfare from E-flat, through E, to F. From that point, a jaunty rhythmic pulse is introduced, employing mixed meter and displaced accents relative to the predictable opening fanfare motif. During this transitional passage, a snippet from the fight song, "among the great, you do belong" is heard, and the rhythm "settles" into a 3+2 \| 2+3 5/8 meter. Winds and brass alternate phrases, and the interplay leads to "a pledge of truth and loyalty" while the brass ushers in a new key with its fanfares. The middle section is a funeral march based on a chant-like melody in the winds set against brass drones of a fifth. The melody becomes elongated and harmonized with each melodic tone becoming a source of harmony. Biting dissonance reflects the pain of death and loss. Voices in the ensemble begin to chant "in paradisum." After a third iteration of the harmonized chant, a solo horn intones the Gregorian chant, "In Paradisum," which depict the entry of the departed soul into eternity a solitary voice for a solitary journey. Soon, though, other voices join in as the "angels lead [the soul] into paradise" first on the fifth, the appropriate perfect consonance, and then on the sweeter third. More voices join in, and the triumph is evident: "thanks be to God who giveth us the victory over death through Our Lord Jesus Christ!" (1 Corinthians 15:57). The trombones begin to suggest the Fight Song signaling a gradual return to normalcy, but a changed normalcy as our relationship to our departed loved ones undergoes a change after death ("we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:51)). Tentatively at first, the other instruments join in and the familiar melody is heard moving into a coda where the cry of "Vincero!" ("victory") can be heard and the last strains of the Alma Mater can be heard "a pledge of truth and loyalty; a promise to stand by!" as the triumphal strains inspired by Puccini's Nessun Dorma are heard and the band finishes with all its power.All profits from the sale of these scores will be donated to the Divine Child Band Boosters in memory of Blaise Hébert and Bethany Galdes.

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