This piece is really special to me.
In 2017, I was commissioned to write a piece for Ken Epp, the former chair and president of both the Manitoba and Canadian Band Association. He was a major advocate for instrumental music education in my province (and the country) and, really, is one of the reasons that I get to teach band. He fought the hard fights so I didn’t have to and music educators all over the country owe him a lot.
When I was selected for the commission, I was overwhelmed by the importance of it, but I understood what an honour it was for my peers to believe in me enough to write something for him. That being said, I also dropped off honour band auditions to his house and chatted with him at our annual TEMPO music conference, so I knew him too. I knew at a very deep level that this is something that required everything I had… and that is what I gave it.
“Transcendent Light” is a three-movement work for band and choir that can be performed by either ensemble or together. The band works also feature Level 3 and 4.5 versions that can be performed together or separate. It is designed to work for various ensembles in various ways… on their own or together.
The first movement is about joy. I read a lot of poetry before beginning to set the text for the work (I wrote the text for the choral work too) and there was on Emily Dickinson piece that approached the topic of death with “‘Tis so much joy,” but wasn’t exactly right. That being said, ” ‘Tis joy” is a little nod to her in the first movement’s title.
The second movement is a reverential connection with nature. Ken was a very religious man and, while I am not (though with no shortage of awe and wonder in my life), I needed to have it in the music. There is a sense of “truth” in nature as it connects with something greater than ourselves. It needed to be true with both Ken and I and nature was a spiritual link between our connection with something beyond ourselves.
The third movement is, very clearly, about letting go into death. The opening of the third movement is the first thing I wrote for this entire piece. I sat at a meeting of the commissioning committee, made largely of his friends and colleagues, and they told stories about Ken for a solid two hours, then I got home and sat at the piano and the first sixteen measures flowed out of me. That experience so rarely happens to me that I know I need to follow it when it happens. I’ll dig into this in more detail in a more personal blog post, but for now, here it is.