Featured Content: Frank Ticheli’s Sanctuary

Featured Content: Frank Ticheli’s "Sanctuary"

This month we feature Frank Ticheli’s Sanctuary. This remarkable grade 5 concert band piece is suitable for college bands.

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Ticheli on Sanctuary

Sanctuary was composed for conductor H. Robert Reynolds as a symbol of our enduring friendship. The work was commissioned in his honor, and received its premiere performance by the band he conducted for 26 years. As a personal tribute to Mr. Reynolds, who was a horn player in his earlier days, I chose the solo horn to be the work’s main musical messenger.

The opening prologue grows out of a set of pitches that were derived from the letters of his first name (Harrah), an idea I first used fifteen years ago in Postcard (commissioned by Reynolds in memory of his mother.) Vivid college memories of Mr. Reynolds conducting Grainger’s Hill Song No. 2 and Colonial Songboth well-known favorites of hiswere also in the back of my mind, as the sounds that I created in some ways echo the lyrical mood of these works.

The word “sanctuary” conjures a rich array of images. It can imply a place of solitude, comfort, rest, prayer, protection. It can suggest a place that is strong and imposing or one that is very small and private. I believe all of these images are suggested at one point or another in the music. The opening bell sounds suggest peace and joyful reverence. The main horn melody is at once reflective and reassuring. There is also an underlying hint of nostalgiaa wistfulness, perhaps suggested by the simple three-chord progression which threads the entire work. But there is also an expression of strength and power in the work’s dark and imposing climax.

After the climax recedes, the main melody disappears for a period of time, replaced by flute and clarinet solo episodes which create repose, space, and distance. But in the end, the three-chord harmony returns and serves as a doorway for the final appearance of the main horn theme. The work ends with a quiet echo of the opening bells.

Sanctuary was commissioned by the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association in honor of H. Robert Reynolds. The premiere performance was given by the University of Michigan Symphony Band, Michael Haithcock, conductor, at Hill Auditorium on October 22, 2005.

General Comments

Although there is an underlying nostalgic quality about the work, the interpreter will not need to bring this out – it is simply there. Instead, the most important goals to maintain are good intonation, quality of sound, dynamic balance and flexibility. The work, for the most part, is not so technically demanding, but it does require sensitive and controlled playing from all of the players and especially the soloists. The solo horn passages are especially important, and require a player with a confident, musically mature sound. All tempo markings are approximate, and while some degree of temporal elasticity is encouraged, it should be subtle, without destroying the lyrical flow.

I have provided cross-cues for all of the solo horn passages, allowing a variety of alternatives for those ensembles who have inexperienced horn players. These alternatives are listed in order of preference:

  1. Any or all of the solo horn passages may be played by two horn players if necessary to achieve a fuller, more confident horn sound (all solo horn passages are cued in the second horn part);
  2. If the horn soloist lacks a confident, unstrained high B-flat, the player may play the ossia in measures 30-31, and 119-120, while a solo trumpeter plays the ossia cues in measures 29-32 and 118-121;
  3. If and only if one of the above alternatives does not yield a satisfactory solution, any or all of the solo horn cues may be played by the first alto saxophonist.

Section-by-section Notes

Introductory Material (mm. 1-25)

The opening “Prologue” provides contrast to the work’s lyrical main body. Bell sounds enter in a brief dialogue with the solo horn. (The vibraphone will be most effective with the motor off.) A snap-rhythm becomes the focus of attention as more instruments enter into the exchange. But then the dialogue is suddenly halted, surrendering without warning to a more reflective and lyrical world. A three-chord progression appears out of nowhere in measures 10-11, blurred at first between the clarinets and saxophones. It is important that all three chords be heard equally. Observe also the echo effect between measures 10 and 12, measures 14 and 16, etc.

Main Theme – AABC Form (mm. 26-60)

As in the Prologue, the solo horn takes the main line, but now the feeling is more lush and lyrical. The soloist’s sound should be confident and full. The ascent to the high Bb should be strong but never strained. The accompaniment should be shaped according to the dynamics indicated, but always under the horn solo.

The woodwinds play a varied repeat of the melody beginning at measure 34, enhanced by wide expressive leaps in the first clarinet and flute (marked espr.). Be sure to bring out these leaps, perhaps even lingering on them a bit.

A contrasting phrase, much more delicate and fragile, begins at measure 43. But the lush harmony and expressive horn melody return at measure 51, now slightly intensified (stated by two horns rather than just one). The tempo pushes subtly forward, but not to the point of destroying the lyrical flow.

Main Theme and Climax (mm. 61-97)

The key center moves down a perfect fourth and the melody is strengthened further, now stated by all the horns and doubled at the octave in the oboes and clarinet. The music intensifies and ascends, and then cries out in a passionate outburst (measure 79). The music then descends into a powerful climax. The register opens up to its widest range from top to bottom. Massive, dark chords are answered by a flourish of 32nd notes in the piccolo and flutes. (The clarinets may play the cues if more sound is needed in the flourishes; the tam tam should be large.) One final push finishes the climax at measure 95, and from there the music recedes.

Episode and Transition (98-114)

The episode serves as a kind of oasis, providing relief not only from the climax, but also from the main theme. Peaceful sustained chords accompany fluttery bird songs played in succession by solo flute and clarinet. The soloists may take some rhythmic liberty here, but not to the point of hindering the forward flow.

The three-chord progressions return, once again without warning, bringing the listener back to the world of the main theme and its harmony.

Final Statement and Coda (115-148)

The horn solo returns exactly as before, but the section is shortened. The three-chord harmony is passed around the ensemble as the music draws closer to its conclusion. A final modulation marks the coda, along with a final reminder of the opening bells.

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