Three Wilson Portraits (2016)

Instrumentation
Piccolo, Flutes 1-2, Oboe, Bassoon, Clarinets 1-2, Bass Clarinet, Alto Saxes 1-2, Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, Trumpets 1-3, Horns 1-2, Trombones 1-2, Euphonium, Tuba, Timpani, 6 Percussionists, Piano
Percussion Equipment: Bells, Vibraphone, Chimes, Snare Drum, 3 Tom-Toms, Bass Drum, Windchimes, Crash Cymbal, Suspended Cymbal, Large Tam-Tam

Difficulty
Grade 2.5

Length
7'

Program Note

Three Wilson Portraits is a set of vignettes for young band celebrating the life of Jeremiah Jones Colbath, better known as Henry Wilson. Wilson is recognized primarily as the 18th Vice President of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant. He also served as a Massachusetts Senator, a member of the House of Representatives, and as a Colonel in the Union Army. Among his many civil services and accolades, Wilson was a founder of the Free Soil Party – a short lived political party consisting of Democratic and Whig party leadership who opposed slavery and its expansion. The Free Soil platform declared: "...we inscribe on our banner, 'Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men,' and under it we will fight on and fight ever, until a triumphant victory shall reward our exertions." The titles of each movement within the work are derived from this creed. The first movement, Free Speech, is a majestic fanfare – a full-voiced declamation of belief, both personal and political. Free Soil follows the mysterious ending of the first movement, opening with a brief chorale that features complex harmonies. The body of the movement consists of textural variations on the tune “Tenting on the Old Campground,” a favorite of the Union Army when Wilson was a member. This movement conjures images of soldiers resting in a field under the stars and concludes with hints of morning: birds chirping and beams of sunlight appearing over the horizon. Despite a stable harmonic resolution, the mood is still ominous and tinged with angst – morning is arriving, and with it, war. Free Men is the final movement of the piece depicting a triumphant Civil War battle. The introduction features variations on the Free Speech theme heard in the first movement leading directly into a rousing setting of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” another favorite war song of the time. The “Johnny” melody eventually becomes overwhelmed with dissonant figures and collapses, in a chromatic cascade, into “Hail, Columbia.” (Originally titled “The Presidential March,” it was made into the Vice Presidential Anthem when “Hail to the Chief” was written and instated.) Set in a harmonic center utilizing both tonal and modal harmonies, this rendition of “Hail, Columbia” is significantly more bold and stoic than its traditional form in major. The work concludes with a final, sonorous fanfare – a final victory.
Three Wilson Portraits is written for The Wilson Winds at Wilson Middle School in Natick, Massachusetts, whose namesake is the subject of the work. 

 

Premiere
December 1st, 2016
Scott Morrill, Conductor
The Wilson Winds
Wilson Middle School; Natick, MA

 

for the Wilson Winds
under the baton of Scott Morrill, a dear friend and mentor