Gwyneth Walker

Flying Colors

for Orchestra (2016)

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Download an MP3 file of the first movement of this work performed by Holyoke Civic Symphony, David Kidwell, conductor
Download an MP3 file of the second movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the third movement of this work.
Download an MP3 file of the fourth movement of this work.

Download a PDF file of the full score of this composition.

Commissioned by the Holyoke Civic Symphony in celebration of their 50th anniversary season: 2016-2017
Premiered on October 23, 2016 in Holyoke, MA - David Kidwell, Music Director

This music is about joy! Commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary season of the Holyoke Civic Symphony (Holyoke, MA), the initial focus of joy is on the celebration of musicians coming together for music-making, and for camaraderie. And these are certainly causes for joy.

In addition, for an October premiere in New England, one thinks of Fall Foliage in true splendor. One thinks of brilliantly-colors leaves flying through the air on the breeze. Or, one thinks of a sailboat (with colorful flags) heading off on a sailing-perfect windy day. These are all aspects of Flying Colors. But for the Holyoke Civic Symphony, and for other community ensembles far and near, the accomplishment of maintaining the vitality of the group is worthy of praise. One might say that the symphony staff and players have come through the challenge of longevity with flying colors! Bravo!

The first movement, "High Energy," begins with a sparse and syncopated dialogue between strings and winds. Soon a short theme, marked crisply, emerges. The theme starts quietly, but grows throughout the movement. A counterpoint in woodwinds marked festive, bright and sparkling floats above. Perhaps the wind is filling the sails!

"Gathering Speed" starts slowly with a gentle theme in Oboe. Suddenly the tempo quickens in a lively section. The strings enter with a joyous theme. But the Piccolo is not forgotten either! There is a folk quality to this music, with plenty of fiddlin' for the strings.

One might wonder how the blues language could be included in a celebratory work such as Flying Colors. The typical blues tempo is slow. Dissonances abound. Yet these dissonances are very sweet. And the theme itself, marked sultry, is more affectionate than abrasive. This music sways and bounces along in a sensuously cheerful manner. And we remember that blue is a color too!

Due to the skills of a nimble Timpanist, "Riding the Wind" flies by quickly. In contrast to the subtlety of the blues movement, this music is quite brazen, with strings and winds dueling with the brass for the right to be the loudest voices in the orchestra! Oh yes, our beloved Piccolo (soloist from the second movement) provides a moment of peaceful respite before the Timpani returns with forceful playing. This time the Ratchet (perhaps the very loudest percussion instrument this composer ever uses) joins in. The instruments continue with their duel until the race is won, and the orchestra has come through the entire performance with Flying Colors!

Notes by the composer