Serenade (2015/2018)

I. Nocturne (Frost)
II. Fanfare (Emerson)
III. Verse (Hughes — Cummings)
IV. Episodes (Poe)
V. Elegy (Whitman)
VI. Epitaph (Teasdale)

Solo Bass-Baritone, Solo Horn, Strings (min.

Acquainted With The Night by Robert Frost
The Snow-Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fragments on Nature and Life – Transition by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Quiet Girl by Langston Hughes
the moon is hiding in by e.e. cummings
The Bells by Edgar Allen Poe
O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman
There Will Be Rest by Sara Teasdale


Program Note

As the Britten Serenade is representational of English literature and more generally Anglican culture, the Weagle Serenade is its American counterpart. The texts for the singer are the work of American poets and they explore multi-faceted American literary landscapes, particularly those noted by transcendental poets. The Serenade for Bass-Baritone, Horn and Strings is set in six movements.

The opening movement, Nocturne, is a meditative overture to the work. It explores juxtaposing tonal areas through languid and lush string orchestration and lyrical melody lines in both the voice and horn. True to its title, this movement utilizes false harmonics in the strings to hint at glistening stars and a scintillating night sky. Structurally speaking, it is from this movement that the central harmonic material for the entire composition is derived.

The second movement is a bold and rhythmic Fanfare and depicts a blustering winter storm. The fanfare motive yields to a quieter (yet still pulsating) section depicting the intricacies of individual melodic lines as unique as ice crystals. Finally, the momentum builds into a final driving gesture and the orchestration suddenly decrescendos to nothing in an upward whirl of strings, as if examining a single far-flung snowflake.

Movement III, Verses, pays homage to Britten’s Serenade as the horn opens the movement with an unaccompanied line derived from the natural horn Prologue of the Britten Serenade. However, the fragment quickly dissolves into a new original theme in just a few moments, thus creating the effect of a brief reminiscence.

The fourth movement, Episodes, is arguably the darkest and most emotionally diverse movement of the entire work. Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s tempestuous poem The Bells, this movement explores the frenetic, wondrous, and terrifying nature of life. While The Bells is a departure from Poe’s other works as his writing typically represents only one emotion, this poem represents a rapid succession of emotional states that ultimately descend into destruction and chaos with the sounding of the “alarum bells.” This movement of the Serenade demonstrates perhaps the most imaginative orchestration in the entire work. It handily employs both stopped and muted techniques for the horn and other text painting imagery, such as the “scream”, which is to be played on the instrument and not with the voice.

In stark contrast, The "Elegy" begins with the ambivalence of sea waves with its relentless undulations of alternating seconds that are passed around the various string families. Throughout this movement, other members of the orchestra evoke images or emotions of cheering, ship’s bells, and victory; yet they are all subdued beneath the melancholia of combating the loss of a captain and father to an untimely death. The oscillatory nature of the harmonic structure, combined with the melodic elements in the voice and echoed in the horn help to illustrate the complicated emotional dynamics of Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!

The closing movement, “Epitaph”, shares harmonic material with the opening movement and is yet another meditation on a starry sky. As the vocalist utters a recitative about serenity in loneliness, the horn is heard off-stage lamenting fragments of the Stephen Foster tune My Old, Kentucky Home. This musical code is symbolic of the friendship from which the work was created, as My Old, Kentucky Home is the state song from John-Morgan Bush’s home state of Kentucky. After a moment of conflict, the orchestra dies away, leading to the vocalist's final vow to find peace in the stars above. The entire work ends with soft, twinkling harmonics fading away into a new horizon.

Program note by John-Morgan Bush

Partial Premiere
September 20th, 2016
Derek J. Weagle, Conductor
John-Morgan Bush, Horn
Allyn McCourt, Baritone
Tuesday Night New Music Series
Jordan Hall, Boston, MA

Workshop Premiere
April 27th, 2016
Derek J. Weagle, Conductor
John-Morgan Bush, Horn
Allyn McCourt, Baritone
UMass Lowell String Ensemble
Fischer Recital Hall, UMass Lowell; Lowell, MA


dedicated to John-Morgan Bush,
my brother and friend

Solo parts are available to download at no cost.

Serenade (Print Score)

8.5 x 11 Printed Conductor Score Book

Add To Cart
Serenade (Digital Score)

Formatted for 8.5 x 11 paper.

Add To Cart
Serenade (Printed Parts)

8.5 x 11 Printed Set of Parts

Violin I (2)
Violin II (2)
Viola (2)
Violoncello (2)
Contrabass (1)
Harp (1)

Add To Cart
Serenade (Digital Parts)

Formatted for 8.5 x 11 paper.

Add To Cart