Americana (2014)

Available from The SA's Music Ministries Unit
Duration: approx. 11:00

Written for the New York Staff Band's tour of the UK in 2015, and with the titles of each movement extracted from the US National Anthem, this two-part work paints a musical picture of the land we know today as the USA and seeks to capture some of the essence of American classical and contemporary music. With Copland-esque themes and driving rock rhythms, the piece provides a platform for the NYSB to showcase some of its principal players. The hymn How Firm a Foundation underpins the work and part 2 achieves serenity in the tune Nettleton to which the words Come, thou fount of every blessing are associated.


Part 1 - Home of the Brave (5 mins)

The first part harks back to Native America and speaks of the pursuit of peace and harmony.  It opens with mysterious chords and native percussion sounds which paint a soundscape of an unknown land. Six words from Native American languages are sung - they represent the word peace in six of the Native American languages:

Achukma - Choctaw language
Dohiyi - Cherokee language
Chkenon - Onandaga language
Scan-o-nie - Wyandot (Huron) language
Sipala - Hopi language
Li-k’ei - Tlingit language


Sample score pages
(coming soon)

 Computer generated clip
(coming soon)

Title Page Artwork

Fig. 1 - Native American soundscape

The Native American lands and its people are celebrated by a driving and optimistic Allegro dance theme: 

Fig. 2 - 'Dance' theme, Solo Cornet

As foreign visitors arrive the music begins to quiet. A wagon train of exhausted Europeans brings families, livelihoods and culture from far away lands. Within that culture are the Christian faith and the singing of hymns; How firm a foundation is heard for the first time on Flugelhorn and 1st Baritone. They bring hope that their lives and a new nation will be built on a firm foundation.  

Fig. 3 - 'How Firm a Foundation', Flugel & 1st Baritone

Rarely when groups of people seek to live alongside each other is the journey smooth. The ongoing struggles between indigenous and foreign people around the world are acknowledged in this movement which closes out with further choric pleas for peace, and a lamenting Native American cry on the Flugelhorn. It concludes in a sombre, yet expectant mood. 

Fig. 4 - Lamenting Cry, Flugelhorn

Part 2 - Land of the Free (6 mins)

The second part paints a picture of the modern day USA and speaks of the pursuit of liberty and opportunity. It opens with a stately section painted on an Eb major canvas. A Freedom theme is played by solo trumpet.  

Fig. 5 - 'Freedom' theme, Solo Cornet

The mood is upbeat and optimistic as the motif is expanded and carried through by cornets and horns within a rock music context.

Forging a path to liberty and opportunity are rarely straightforward or peaceful, and as the new society seeks to advance into the modern age (represented by a mechanical sounding minor key and 12/8 time signature), cries for progress in high Horn and Trombone motifs jostle for domination with voices from the past who cry out in remembrance of provision and faith with How firm a foundation. 

Fig. 6 - 'Progress' motifs, Flugelhorn and Solo Horn

There is a call to reflection as the Freedom motif is heard in Solo Horn, and a lone cornet brings the nation to prayer with a single verse of Come, thou Fount of every blessing using the American folk tune Nettleton. The song affirms the priority of worship and that a successful future is dependant on faith in God. Verses 1 and 5 say:

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.

Robert Robinson (1735-90)
SASB 313 
Fig. 7 - 'Come, thou Fount', Solo Cornet

Remembering its roots and its struggles, the new nation then gives thanks in a lyrical Thanksgiving hymn. This original melody increases in intensity as it is presented three times: first by Solo Euphonium, then by tenor horns and finally by the full ensemble. 

Fig. 8 - 'Thanksgiving' theme, Solo Euphonium

In the closing section a bubbling tuba duet indicates a new found effervescence of the people. How firm a Foundation returns; this time within the mechanised 12/8 context - broader, faster and with greater anticipation - indicating a collective realisation that the key to the moving forward of a nation in its pursuit of peace, harmony, liberty and opportunity is a faith in God through Christ. 

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled:

SASB 653

Within the finale there is a reprise of the Freedom theme and familiar motifs from popular and classical American music. They represent a final celebration of Americana - that is, the essence of America.

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