by Donny Albro
I began writing Burning Bright the Saturday that I heard of Sam’s death. I sat down at my piano and played the three note marimba melody heard at the beginning of the piece. I was drawn to this dark melody and built the other somewhat discordant melodies around this. These melodies are played by the crotales, bells, vibraphone, and chimes. After this initial section was done, I stopped working on the piece for a while. I always wanted the piece to move away from this dark beginning to something more celebratory but didn’t know how to do that.
I started thinking about church bells and the tradition referred to as change ringing. Traditionally, church bells are rung in patterns, with one person pulling a rope for each bell. I listened to some of the patterns used for celebratory church events and used them in the second half of the piece. I also included two triangles and two tambourines, which I always thought of as the two cheeriest percussion instruments. I included the challenging snare drum part to honor Sam’s skill and love of the instrument. My hope is that all of these elements mixed together give the conclusion of the piece a brightness and joy worthy of Sam Berns.
Notes for performers:
- The piece works well from about 90 -100 beats per minute. Any slower and it doesn’t groove very well.
- In the tradition of change ringing the chimes are meant to be split up between the players and spread through the ensemble. This will give the desired antiphonal effect.
- The snare drum and bass drum are central to the work and should be placed in the center and slightly in front of the ensemble.
- The dynamics may need slight adjustment based on the instruments you use but when balanced properly all the parts should be audible. The only exception to this is the first triangle entrance, which is supposed to be covered and then gradually emerge from the sound of the chimes.
- The bass drum my need slight muffling once the rhythms begin.
- If you prefer, a deeper snare or tenor drum can be used at the beginning for a darker sound. The whole end of the piece should be played on a fairly shallow crisp sounding drum.
Band Directors: you may download the full score and sheet music for Burning Bright for free here:
Download Burning Bright