Gwyneth Walker

Review of "A Concerto of Hymns and Spirituals"

by David Seals, International Trumpet Guild Journal

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Read notes for A Concerto of Hymns and Spirituals (1997) for trumpet and orchestra

A Concerto of Hymns and Spirituals by Gwyneth Walker is a unique and enjoyable assemblage of three hymn settings. This work was originally composed for C trumpet and full orchestra; however, it has been adapted for trumpet and piano. The piano reduction has retained the spaciousness and grandeur of the orchestral version. It was commissioned and premiered by the Carson City Chamber Orchestra with trumpet soloist, Mark Lord, in 1997. The piece is 16 minutes in length and has a range from concert g to "the highest note possible" or a written f''''.

The first movement is based on the hymn tune "All Creatures of Our God and King." The trumpet enters with a long sustained statement of melody. A new theme is created in the trumpet line that is then developed to the end of the movement. It requires great agility from the performer due to the lines that weave nimbly up and down throughout the range of the instrument. The underlying accompaniment has a forward driving pulse that continually builds anticipation to the end. The opening movement concludes with an arpeggiated cadenza finished off with a climatic e-flat''' for three bars.

The spiritual "Steal Away" is the melodic basis of the middle movement. This portion of the concerto is a real gem. A tender, sighing quality is created by the trumpet part that slowly soars above the accompaniment. The scoring creates a true sense of reverence and intimacy.

In the final movement, "Go Tell It On the Mountain," the trumpet and piano alternate between jazz licks and quasi recitative-like passages. A strong sense of jazz style will be required to pull off the shakes, smears, trills, and plunger-muted portions of the movement. The concerto concludes with a challenging cadenza that tests the range and endurance. Approximately half of the notes on the final apge are above concert b-flat'''.

This reviewer found each individual movement to be a fantastic and challenging addition to any church trumpeter's library. These new hymn settings are by no means traditional. The only criticism this reviewer observed was the matching of the three individual movements into one coherent work. The first two are tranquil and spacious with an Appalachian quality about them. In contrast, the third movement, although impressive, does not have the same qualities of richness and grandeur as the first two. The work is highly recommended for any advanced trumpet player's library.

From International Trumpet Guild Journal, June 2005