I would like to dedicate this setting of AMAZING GRACE to my mother,
Annie Lee Whitwell, in loving memory of my father, John Harvey Whitwell
(1920-1993), in recognition of their deep religious faith and their lives
of selfless service to others.
I am deeply indebted to Frank Ticheli for accepting this commission
and for this wonderful contribution to the band literature.
I wanted my setting of AMAZING GRACE to reflect the powerful simplicity
of the words and melody - to be sincere, to be direct, to be honest
- and not through the use of novel harmonies and clever tricks, but by
traveling traditional paths in search of truth and authenticity.
I believe that music has the power to take us to a place that words
alone cannot. And so my own feelings about "Amazing Grace" reside
in this setting itself. The harmony, texture, orchestration, and form are
inseparable, intertwined so as to be perceived as a single expressive entity.
The spiritual, "Amazing Grace," was written by John Newton
(1725-1807), a slaveship captain who, after years of transporting slaves
across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World, suddenly saw through divine
grace the evilness of his acts. First published in 1835 by William Walker
in The Southern Harmony, "Amazing Grace" has since grown
to become one of the most beloved of all American spirituals.
The Manhattan Beach Music recording of AMAZING GRACE is performed by
the California State University at Fullerton Wind Ensemble, Mitchell Fennell,
conductor, Frank Ticheli, guest conductor. AMAZING GRACE was commissioned
by John Whitwell in loving memory of his father, John Harvey Whitwell.
It was first performed on February 10, 1994 by the Michigan State University
Wind Symphony, John Whitwell conductor.
May 11, 1994
The form is as follows:
first statement (chamber)
second statement (tutti)
modulating to Bb
final statement (climax)
All parts are indicated as "one only" in measures 9 through 24
for a more chamber-like effect. The melody, played by solo alto saxophone,
should always be heard in the foreground.
The "breath mark" indicated just before measure 43 should
not be interpreted as a musical pause, but rather as a slight phrase separation.
In the development section, each independent entrance must be heard,
and the many lines comprising the texture should be carefully balanced.
The final statement of the melody is accompanied by a countermelody
given to the flutes, oboes, first alto saxophone, and first trumpet. This
countermelody should be heard in the foreground, but it should not overpower
the melody. The crescendo and ritardando molto indications
in measures 89-90 may be interpreted very dramatically, and the climax
beginning in measure 91 should be played with full force. Make sure that
the quarter-note triplets come through at measure 92, and that the horns
come through in measure 93.