STEELPAN CONCERTO with orchestra
Program Notes by the composer
The solo part of the Steelpan Concerto was actually written for soprano pan, a steel instrument which usually plays the primary part in the Caribbean steel bands. The work was composed in the late summer of 1994 for Liam Teague, a young musician from Trinidad whose musicianship inspired the work, and with the financial assistance of the Woodstock Chimes Foundation, Garry and Diane Kvistad, presidents. It is also an homage to Al O'Connor and the NIU Steel Band -- one of the oldest such university groups in existence -- and to the artistry of steel drum builder Cliff Alexis, whose instruments’ incredible intonation and tone make them worthy partners in any serious musical endeavor. The work was actually conceived in terms of three distinctly different accompaniments to back up the solo pan player: piano, steel band, and full orchestra. It was also written in such a way that additional parts from the steel band could be added to augment the soloist and his accompanying forces in orchestral performances. Its idiom is a popular one, similar to some extent to the music indigenous to the Caribbean islands, from which it borrows its percussion section.
The work is in two main sections connected by an extended solo cadenza. The first movement's title, Reflections, is not only a description of its musical content, style, and tempo, but carries an additional meaning: in Europe reflection is a synonym for pealing, the action of striking a bell. In this context, the movement's title refers to the bell-like sound of the Alexis instruments; the climax of the movement is intended to be reminiscent of the "change-ringing" of bells popular as a seasonal sport in English church steeples. The second movement, Toccata (touch piece), also carries a double meaning. It is not only an opportunity for the soloist to display his machine- rhythm speed, accuracy, and virtuosity as well as his phenomenal dynamic control; it is also a connection with that Baroque past with which the name of this composer -- despite all efforts to the contrary -- is forever associated.