Aurum Aurorae

Aurum Aurorae, a Fanfare-Overture for Brasses, Organ, and Timpani, was commissioned by THE ASCAP FOUNDATION and MEET THE COMPOSER to accompany the presentation of the Gold Baton Award honoring Adolph Herseth at the Annual Conference of the American Symphony Orchestra League in Seattle on June 22, 2001. It received its premiere at that occasion under the baton of Gerard Schwarz conducting members of the Seattle Symphony and invited guests.

Each year the American Symphony Orchestra League presents its coveted Gold Baton Award to an outstanding individual who has made a signal contribution to the field of orchestral music. In 2001 the award was given to Adolph Herseth, who had just retired after an influential 52-year tenure as Principal Trumpet of the Chicago Symphony as well as teacher and mentor to seemingly the entire brass world. I was honored to be chosen to express this musical tribute to one of the great musicians of our time.

I was also asked to dedicate this work to the memory of Morton Gould, whose long and fruitful association with ASCAP, the League, and Meet The Composer left his colleagues with many memories. Longtime attendees of the ASOL’s conferences speak often of Gould’s penetrating insights and inimitable wit as he addressed us in one or another of his many leadership capacities. The shining professionalism and unwavering integrity of his compositional style over the years—the prevailing critical wind sometimes with and sometimes against him—are especially not to be forgotten.

All these things were in my mind as I approached the composition of this short piece. I was asked to write a five-minute fanfare, using the brass section of the symphony orchestra plus the magnificent new Watjen Concert Organ, installed in Benaroya Hall, the home of the Seattle Symphony. After thinking about it I decided to add timpani to the ensemble, and, since five minutes is rather long for a fanfare, to expand the piece in concept to that of a short overture, in short, a fanfare-overture.

The opening musical gesture is built from two thematic cells, one of which spells out in musical transliteration ASCAP and ASOL, and the other, GOLD and GOULD. The title (Latin for “the gold of the dawn”) refers, in addition to the name of the award, to the golden glow of the brass instruments and, metaphorically, to the ever-renewing dawns brought to us by careers such as these men have shared with us.

Some 35 years ago, in the early years of my career, Helen Thompson, the esteemed leader for many years of the American Symphony Orchestra League, tendered to me a commission from the ASOL to write a one-minute fanfare for the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, which the League at that time produced. It was with a great deal of pleasure that I incorporated the ideas of that short piece into this work, thus completing a large circle I had no way of anticipating I was even beginning back then.

Program Notes by Samuel Jones