Sacred Spaces

Wind Ensemble/4'/Difficulty - Hard/2019

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Sacred Spaces

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The United States Army Field Band
Conducted by Jerry Junkin
Pre-premiere sound check rehearsal.

A sacred space is a place that holds incredible immaterial value in an increasingly material society. It the idea of an environment in which a person can exist authentically and embrace their most sincere beliefs without apprehension. We all cherish our sacred spaces. These can certainly be religious buildings – churches and temples, synagogues and mosques – but they extend beyond these based on the needs of those who inhabit them. A ballpark. A classroom. A home. Even the concert hall in which art comes to life through sound has a spiritual association for many audiences.

In his composition Sacred Spaces, John Mackey celebrates a broad category of such places: the natural expanse of the American landscape that so many of us hold dear. This concert overture for wind band evokes the grandeur of native scenery in an earnest way. Mackey achieves this with many of the same techniques used in his earlier works that similarly paint a likeness of breathtaking places (The Frozen Cathedral and The Night Garden): using an incredible palette of color that dazzles the listener throughout.

The celebration of Americana, especially the places one travels to reach, is particularly appropriate given that the work was commissioned by The United States Army Field Band, one of our country’s premier military bands and an organization that travels to every corner of the map to achieve its musical mission. The piece opens with two clever allusions to music that would be familiar to fans of the ensemble: the unforgettable introductory horn octaves from Joseph Wilcox Jenkins’ celebrated American Overture for Band (written for the Army Field Band in 1953), and the repeated descending minor third that begins “The Caisson Song,” which originates in its current form as a part of John Philip Sousa’s U.S. Field Artillery March, but has since been adopted as the official song of the United States Army: “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

The piece opens with a spirited fanfare featuring the two quotations over an accompaniment of effervescent woodwinds and keyboards before receding into the work’s primary thematic content. This section—based on an expansive melody that features soaring leaps and heroic swells set atop a field of energetic, percolating rhythms—is presented twice in succession. A developmental section that follows incorporates some of the materials from the fanfare opening and presents some of the only strong dissonance in the work, but any agitation is quickly dissolved as the musical materials return to the original theme for one final elegant turn before concluding the work with a boisterous and optimistic celebration.

– Program note by Jake Wallace. Please credit Jake Wallace when reproducing or excerpting this program note

Premiered

July 26, 2019

The United States Army Field Band
Conducted by Jerry Junkin
Texas Bandmasters Association conference, San Antonio, Texas.

Commissioned by

The United States Army Field Band

Colonel Jim R. Keene, Commander.