Is it possible to capture the essence of a person, to embody all that is beautiful and poignant about life, in an ephemeral musical moment? Composer Daniel Montoya Jr. delicately attempts this in his piece â€¦the second time is forever. Dedicated to the Wessels family, this work celebrates the life of Daniel Wessels, beloved son and brother, who passed away in 2015.
The music begins with a lone clarinet entering on Dâ€”a tone specifically chosen because of its connection to Danielâ€™s name. The melody eventually expands to two notes, D and A. While the lone D itself signifies Daniel, the D to A suggests the sound of someone else, perhaps someone in the family, calling out his name. In a manner reminiscent of Aaron Coplandâ€™s scoring and melodic elegance in Appalachian Spring, Montoya repeats these two pitches and broadens the melody by reaching down to G and F#, never once arriving on a simultaneous D major triad, only hinting at it. What follows is a complete statement and development of Danielâ€™s theme in the winds and brass, leading to a climax. The metallic percussion cascades in a descending shimmer on D, symbolizing a crashing down of sadness and loss; the opening singsong statement of D to A and Danielâ€™s theme are reasserted, but this time the mood is one of hushed, prayer-like reverence.
Montoya opens the B section with undulating motivic material in the clarinets and marimba, a scoring indebted to the soundscape of Impressionist composer Claude Debussy. The orchestration suggests three different yet interconnected levels: the deepest, lowest pitches in the brass and piano symbolize Danielâ€™s physical body and his presence on Earth; the gently rolling waves in the clarinet choir and marimba represent the sadness, memories, and profound sense of loss experienced by Danielâ€™s family; and the legato pentatonic flute melody, which is in the highest register, offers a musical manifestation of the heavenly realm. At the end of the B section, the metallic percussion shimmers once again, this time ascending from Earth to the eternal sphere. The D in the solo clarinet reappears, initiating a transition, and the next portion of music, the C section, seems heroic, confident, and hopeful; it is almost triumphant yet bittersweet.
The final section begins simply with solo piano, the instrument of Steve, Danielâ€™s father. The harmonies enter tentatively as if representing a parent openly questioning the whereabouts of his child. The tuba, Danielâ€™s instrument, answers off-stage, offering reassurance and singing a poetic, gentle lullaby with the piano. In the final moments, the other family membersâ€™ instruments join inâ€” trombone for Anna, horn for Micah, and trumpet for his mom, Melanieâ€”and the piece concludes with all five instruments harmonizing a plagal cadence, a progression commonly associated with the final Amen statement in hymns and church music.
Montoya fills this work with symbolism and emotion, but two particular musical elements evoke aspects of the metaphysical in unexpected ways: his pervasive use of percussive metals and his choice of a lullaby at the end. The bright, glittering shimmer of the metal percussion recalls the imagery found in Ecclesiastes 12:7, â€œThen shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.â€ Although the physical body no longer endures, the soul, represented by the tuba, remains and sings a sweet, restful melody above the accompanying notes of the piano. By harmonizing with the other brass instruments, the soul initially lingers with the family, then, as indicated when the piano rises from the lowest D to the highest, it ascends to heaven. Dustâ€¦spiritâ€¦soul. As Shakespeareâ€™s Prospero said, â€œWe are such stuff as dreams are made on,â€ and what better way to end this piece than with a lullaby, rocking us to sleep and continuing the dream. [Cedar Park High School Honor Band, Jeremy Spicer, Conductor ]
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