Toward Dawn (2010)
3(III=picc).3(III=corA).2bsn - Ebcl.3.bcl - ssax.asax.tsax.barsax - 126.96.36.199euph.tuba - perc(5): 4 timp/glock/vib/mar/bd - cb
Independent strands of melodic thought formed the foundation of this piece. The continuous interweaving and transformation of the instrumental lines conjures an illusive journey toward dawn.
‘Toward Dawn’ was commissioned in 2009 by the former Director of Bands at the Indiana State University (ISU), Dr. John Boyd, a conducting teacher and mentor to me. Following the long tradition of composers practising the art of conducting, I requested and was granted some rehearsal time to personally work with the ensemble during the final rehearsals. To my surprise and non-chagrin opportune, Professor Boyd told me after the rehearsal, "the group responds to you very well, why don't you conduct at the concert?" Naturally, I took the chance and premiered the work that weekend with the Indiana State University Wind Orchestra, on February 28, 2010. A generous gesture by a mentor -- a defining moment for me. It was the first realisation of my dreams in becoming a composer-conductor.
Incidentally, at the same concert, the eminent saxophonist Nobuya Sugawa was performing a concerto and also conducting a few works. With Dr. Boyd, we went out for dinner and traded some remarks on performance, conducting and composition. Mr. Sugawa had a few interesting comments for my music, describing my piece as "very colourfully orchestrated" and complimented on a passage where the solo line of the French horn seamlessly morphs into the timbre of the English horn. Curiously on a separate and later occasion, at a Peabody masterclass, Christopher Rouse spoke to a peculiar effect that the work created a sensation of 'being in a bowl of Jell-O full of white notes'. In yet another discussion of the music, Professor Harlan Parker noticed the Schwantner-esque influence, as well as musical gestures that in his words resembled "a flower blossoming".
Nevertheless, the work is dedicated to Dr. Boyd. Shortly after the premiere, the work had won the inaugural SINGAPORE COMPOSE! Competition (2010) organised by the Philharmonic Winds, Singapore. That quickly led to the Asian premiere, which was performed by the Singaporean ensemble and conducted by Zechariah Goh on April 10, 2010. Professor Harlan Parker would the lead the Peabody Wind Ensemble, giving the third performance of 'Toward Dawn'.