McBeth - Fanfare and Hymn: This piece was composed for the California High School (Whittier) combined Band and Orchestra to perform as the 2014 Graduation Recessional. My colleague, Doug Nordquist, director of Bands at California High School, was informed that the Administration wanted to have a formal Recessional for the Graduation Ceremonies. Doug and I discussed several possible pieces in the established Band repertoire. With three weeks to go before Graduation, I took out my sketchbook where I write down musical themes and motifs, and started to compose a recessional sketch. I sent the short sketch to Doug, and he immediately responded with his approval and asked if I could finish it in time. I completed the piece during two weekends, which then left one week for the Band and Orchestra to rehearse it for the upcoming Graduation. My cherished memory of the evening took place on the way back to the band room after the Graduation Ceremony. Walking near some of the students in the percussion section, I could overhear a few of them humming the “Hymn” tune. I consider having members of the percussion section humming music I had composed a very cool honor indeed.
The piece begins with a short fanfare that moves into a lyrical hymn tune. The second tune propels the work forward, followed by a brief percussion break. The percussion break gives the members in that section, (the ones who usually end up standing around during Pomp and Circumstance) a chance to play something as they might find in a “Drum-line”. The piece returns to the beginning fanfare with a restatement of both tunes and eventually ending with a massive chordal statement that builds from the lower to the upper instruments in a timbre pyramid.
The title, McBeth, is a tribute to my composition teacher, Dr. W. Francis McBeth. It was at Ouachita Baptist University that I received the personal attention of Dr. McBeth. He showed genuine interest in both my compositions for his class and in me. One memory took place in the hallway while I was on my way to class. Dr. McBeth came up to me and said, “Stephen, I was thinking about your piece last night, and I have an idea for it.” I was encouraged that he was thinking about my piece outside of class. He was a very kind teacher and friend. Being from California and going to school in Arkansas, I did not go home on weekends, so Dr. McBeth would often invite me to his house to visit with him. We would talk not just about music, but faith in God, purpose in life, and also about a love for fishing. We stayed in touch for over thirty years until his passing in 2012.