Keynote Address

Grade 4

6 minutes

Commissioned by the Gammu Mu chapter of Delta Omicron (Virginia Tech); premiered February 7, 2014 by an ensemble of then-current and alumni members of the chapter, Dr. Andrew Putnam conducting

Winner of the 2016 Columbia Summer Winds Outdoor Composition Contest

The Gammu Mu chapter of Delta Omicron (professional co-ed music fraternity) celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding during the 2013-2014 school year. A committee of current members asked me to write a piece for the occasion. One of their requests was for me to include a quote from the Delta Omicron Keynote, a charming little piece from the ΔΟ Songbook.

However, upon posting my impending compositional triumph on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with a vast quantity of other “bright” ideas to make the piece extra special (mostly from founding members of the chapter, but from other friends as well). These included sixteenth notes to represent the copious beads of sweat that dripped from my forehead while I worked in 120 degree heat, an extended piccolo/bassoon duet representing my abject delirium at taking on this project, that the piece be 52:30 in duration, a finger cymbal note, a tam-tam swish with triangle beater, a fortissississimo snare drum ostinato, a D-flat piccolo in duet with viola and oboe or English horn backed by viola and crotales (thus redefining the word “duet”), multiple opportunities for interpretive dance, a narrative in French, a first movement that was 5:10 and all unsolicited outside ideas served as the second movement, Sprechtstimme, bagpipes, sitar, “tape,” didgeridoo (as the underlying foundation for the piece, played for the duration), a Greek chorus of Tuvan throat singing, the names of the “founding ten” chanted throughout while pictures of their heads were projected on a screen behind the ensemble like in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” when they were going back in time, TTBB chorus, and shaker, all the while the audience would be seated in a large scale virtual reality world. All this to ensure that I truly captured the “founding ten” in the most accurate light.

Sadly, I used none of these suggestions.

Yet I’m pleased with the resultant work. Virtually every melodic idea is derived from a portion of the Keynote theme, which binds the piece together. The Keynote is stated first in a fanfare/march style, followed by an extended Allegro in three. After a drum roll, the ensemble plays the Keynote with its original harmony, with just a few of my own deviations and colors, and finally the work closes with an energetic coda.

Special thanks to the national leadership of Delta Omicron for granting permission to quote the Keynote in its entirety. The Keynote was composed by Clara K. Heflebower (Alpha Chapter) and Frank Laird Waller.

Available from Barnhouse/Claude T. Smith Publications.