Coranach for Julissa

for concert band

Picc, 2 Fl, 2 Ob, 3 Cl in Bb, Alto Cl in Eb, Bass Clarinet in Bb, Contrabass Clarinet in Bb, 2 Bsn, 2 Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Bari Sax, 3 Trp in Bb, 4 Hn, 3 Trb, Euphonium, 2 Tubas, Percussion (4 players): Triangle, 2 Cymbals, Timpani, Xylophone, Chimes, Glockenspiel

premiered April 26, 2006
Pomona College Band, Graydon Beeks, conductor
Bridges Hall of Music, Claremont, California


A coranach is an Irish funeral cry, or keening. It is a lamentation for the dead, more a shriek than a moan.

In November 2005, Pomona College student Julissa Alvarez died in an automobile accident. She was a clarinetist in the Pomona College Band, and Director Graydon Beeks asked for a short piece in her memory.

Although I never met her, the tragedy of the sudden passing of one so young was deeply affecting. What I thought might be a short and quiet elegy quickly evolved into something else. The piece opens with a solo clarinet hovering over the murmuring of the section clarinets. It is soon overwhelmed by rising scales in the winds, which wail to the top of their range. Subsequent moments of peace unexpectedly bloom into cries of rage. Throughout the piece, upwelling grief and anger battle with warm and consoling recollections, which lead finally to a tentative acceptance. The piece ends with the hovering and murmuring clarinets from the beginning, the solo lingering in quiet consolation.

Coranach for Julissa is dedicated to Graydon Beeks and the Pomona College Band, in memory of Julissa Alvarez.

score excerpt


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