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symphony no. 1:
for a handsome kid
Op. 21 (2019) for wind ensemble

Click here to view the score.

Symphony No. 1: For a Handsome Kid is a musical realization of my feelings and experiences regarding my late grandfather, Harlan Kelsey (H. K.) Hinkley (1937-2013). Throughout his life, H. K. was sure to tell everyone who asked that “H. K.” stood for “Handsome Kid,” directly inspiring the title of this work. Chief among his many interests were classical music (both in bands and orchestras), space exploration, attending the First United Methodist Church of Freeport, travelling, old time radio shows, and puns and jokes galore. An avid euphonium player, H. K. played in several ensembles, including with the Freeport Concert Band every season since 1979. He passed away peacefully in his own home on August 12, 2013, and he was still making jokes and enjoying his family right up to the end of his life.

 

My main inspiration in writing this piece stems from the realization that I missed out on a musical relationship with my grandfather. I only became seriously interested in classical music after enrolling as a music major at Augustana College after H. K. had passed, and when I fully grasped what I had missed, I committed to somehow immortalize H. K. in music. This piece is that memorialization, encapsulating several of his interests and aspects of his personality within the music. Each of the three main movements (“Gemini 8 & 9A”, “Quiet Inspiration”, and “To Serenity”) uses a theme that directly relates to a part of H. K.’s life, while the Interludes (“Bygones” and “Funeral”) are depictions of my own experiences and memories. “Introduction: Memorial” and “Epilogue: Legacy” are simply bookends designed to connect the unique elements of each movement into a cohesive whole by introducing and restating all three main themes at the beginning and end of the work (respectively). There are no euphoniums on stage—instead, an offstage euphonium represents H. K.’s spiritual and musical departure from this world. I have also integrated the initials “H. K.” into the piece using Morse code (• • • •    – • –, represented as four sixteenth notes followed by dotted eighth–sixteenth–quarter or a rhythmic equivalent), using at least one instance in all seven portions of the piece.

 

“Introduction: Memorial” presents a soundscape designed to draw memories out of the fog of the passage of time. All of the main themes of the piece are introduced, but in a way that disguises their full characteristics. The offstage euphonium strings all three themes together to connect to the first full movement, “Gemini 8 & 9A.” Early on in H. K.’s career, he worked on the electrical systems of the Gemini spacecrafts (specifically the 8 and 9A capsules), and he harbored a lifelong interest in space and science fiction worlds. This movement’s theme is comprised of a rising fourths motive which evokes the feeling of sailing through space at high speed over the bustling world below. “Interlude: Bygones” depicts a younger version of myself (represented by the piano) as too focused on one kind of music (jazz) while quotes from several of Holst’s works swirl around the ensemble. The piano is in a separate world, playing “Misty” (arr. Dennis Colby) until it finally realizes there is other music happening, but by then it is too late to interact with that other music. “Quiet Inspiration” reflects H. K.’s decades-long church membership, transforming one of his favorite hymns, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” into a few unique textures—this hymn becomes the second major theme of the piece. H. K.’s sense of humor also shines through in the final, tongue-in-cheek, “swiss cheese” variation. “Interlude: Funeral” is exactly as it sounds: a musical realization of my personal emotions during H. K.’s funeral, ranging from swirling uncertainty to pure anguish. The latter brings us to the final movement, “To Serenity,” where the healing process begins. The introduction to this movement is inspired by my grandmother Rosemary’s interaction with H. K. the day after he died. H. K. and Rosemary would listen to classical music playlists together, and Rosemary could never remember the name of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, so H. K. would have to remind her. The day after H. K. died, Rosemary was listening to music in the same way, and Scheherazade came on. Immediately, Rosemary knew that H. K. was okay, and that she could begin to heal. That story is illustrated between the euphonium and the horns (Rosemary is a hornist), and once the arpeggiated minor seventh motive is identified, the horns triumphantly realize that H. K. is just fine and begin to accelerate through a joyful fanfare into a 6/8 groove. After a raucous celebration, the “Epilogue: Legacy” begins with a euphonium cadenza and combines all three major themes into a cohesive tribute to the memory of H. K., his life, and his enduring compassion and inspiration.

–BJH