Music by

PROGRAM NOTES by the composer

Ballade for Alto Flute, Flugelhorn (or Bass Flute), and Piano


This warmly eccentric piece was the conception of flutist Therese Wacker who has performed many of my flute works and recorded Sonatine de Giverny on CD. In late 2017, Terri asked if I'd be interested in a commission to write her a Ballade to play on Alto Flute along with her IUP colleague Kevin Eisensmith on Flugelhorn, plus Piano. The style should be uniquely fitting for that combination of instruments, and about 6-8 minutes.

Although the specifications were so tightly defined, and requiring doublers' instruments that might not balance well, Terri knew my sweet spot for jazz-colored hybrids, and I was intrigued by the opportunity. We enrolled some more flutists and trumpeters into a consortium, and I began work with a lingering question about how to write such a piece that held one mood for so long.

* * *

Surrounding a few middle sections is the main theme, a smoky, steamy love song that was supposed to be called "Rhonda." That's not what it sounds like. A few years earlier I had the pleasure of doing a CD with Ann Crumb -- Broadway star, blues singer, author, lyricist, animal-rights activist, and great inspiration to her father George. Ann influenced George to write Voice of the Whale, many song collections for Ann to sing; and some of the dogs in George's Mundus Canis were her rescues.

A later addition to Ann's family was a German Shepherd named Rhonda who had been abused and had a fearful hatred of all men. Somehow Rhonda took to me, and Ann suggested we collaborate on a song for her next CD where I write the music, and she'd follow with the lyrics about Rhonda. The lyrics never happened, but all the 2-note rising or falling thirds in Ballade's main melody were earmarked for Rhonda's name to fit in.

Following the November 2019 premiere by Therese Wacker and Kevin Eisensmith, there were many co-commissioners who had planned to perform Ballade on their Spring 2020 concerts, and between overdubbed videos and audience-less Zoom events, eventually these performances began to unfold. As another surprise, in 2020 co-commissioning flutist Wendy Stern asked if I'd be interested in adapting the Flugelhorn part for Bass Flute for her duo-partner Kathleen Nester, and that's the origin of the Alto & Bass Flutes version.

It is a much-appreciated honor that both of these instrumentations were Winners of the NFA's Newly Published Music awards for the Low Flute category in their respective years of publication.


last updated February 9, 2023