Gwyneth Walker


for String Orchestra (2023)

Return to Gwyneth Walker Music Catalog

Dedicated to the Phillips Academy String Orchestras in celebration of Abbot and Andover at 50 made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Fund, continuing Abbot's tradition of boldness, innovation and caring

Conductors: Derek Jacoby and Elizabeth Aureden, May 10, 2024 - Andover, Massachusetts

Awaken is a three-movement suite intended to celebrate the music of today nurtured by the legacy of fine musicianship at the combined schools of Abbot Academy and Phillips Academy, Andover. The composer, Dr. Gwyneth Walker, is a graduate of Abbot Academy, class of 1964. She participated in every music group on campus during her student years! How fitting that Awaken should come forth on this, the 50th anniversary of the merger of Abbot with Phillips Academy, and the 60th reunion year of the composer.

The first movement, "The Notes are Flying," is inspired by the energy of new music. The main theme, first introduced by the Violins, leaps off the page in jagged patterns with syncopated rhythms. Near the end, the notes rise higher and higher, as if flying off into space with joy.

In contrast, "Depth of Sound and Soul" unfolds in a slow tempo, featuring the lower strings. The Violas present the theme, marked espressivo. Of particular interest is the Cello commentary, played by a soloist, using harmonics and sostenuto bowing. These repeated notes are intended to suggest the most tender of entrances, almost timid to intrude into the Viola phrase.

A special plan for this movement involves the interaction between Violins 1 and 2. At first, the lines lead one into the other, in dovetailing fashion. But then the Violins answer one another in close proximity. [The musical term for this is stretto.] At first they share motifs every four measures, then every two measures, and finally just one measure apart. This is intended to create a blurred sound, as a depth of texture, an increase in intensity.

"Always Something Sings" is inspired by lines from the poem "Skyborn Music," by Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is a tribute to music which still exists (sings) even in the darkest of times.

But in the dirt and mud of things, and in the daily flow of things,
In the deepest, darkest, meanest things, there always, always something sings.

This movement opens with very light hints of energy in the upper strings. Maybe this is something which sings! The main theme, of simple contour, enters in the Violins in the key of D Major. This theme is shared among the players, leading to a contrasting section in G minor (representing the meanest, darkest things). The closing section returns to D Major, in celebration of the enduring presence of music. A solo Violin plays above the orchestra, representing one voice which sings, despite all of life's challenges!

Notes by the composer