South Bend Festival Overture (2014)
Written for the South Bend Youth Symphony Orchestra to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the City of South Bend, IN.
World Premiere: May 3, 2015 (with the composer conducting the piece)
I wrote this piece to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the city of South Bend, Indiana, my hometown. The city was incorporated in the spring of 1865, so to structure the piece I decided to write a story of South Bend told through music.
The opening, marked Curioso, reflects the humble beginnings of the small settlement on the St. Joseph River, using the soft glow of woodwinds to convey this idea of discovery. As the piece grows and develops, a very traditional but rhythmically and articulately varied fanfare sings from the brass as a call to celebration. The main motif played by the horn section, which returns in various parts of the piece, evokes the innovative and uplifting times the city experienced within its first few decades.
But then, at the height of the piece, the entire orchestra except for one muted trumpet drops out. The strings, piano, and harp modulate the opening chords of the piece, yet this time setting the mood for a more somber section. This flows into the section marked Rubato, December 9th, 1963. It represents the day on which the Studebaker automobile manufacturer announced it would cease all operation in South Bend, a sad and foreboding day for the city that had relied on the company for years. Solo oboe, marked lamentoso, takes the inspiring horn theme from earlier and turns it into a melancholic memory, which goes on to signify that the city itself would undergo an identity crisis in the years to come.
Emerging from this setback is a hopefulness that carries into a faster moving, progressive part of the piece. Cello and double bass move the orchestra along with a quick ostinato as winds, brass, and eventually the entire orchestra hold chords marked with crescendos. This illuminates the confidence that South-Benders have for their city, and it culminates in a modulated reprise of the fanfare from earlier. Then the horns pick up their happy melody again with tutti orchestra humming along, and the piece ends with three accented eighth notes, almost defiantly stomping out any of the lingering premonitions from the day Studebaker closed, and setting the stage for a hopeful and bright future ahead.