Monday, February 21, 2011

Behind the Music: A Large Day

This Spring we're playing "A Large Day," by Kath Wissinger. It's also featured on our Second City Sounds CD. You can just tell it's music that has a story behind it. We thought it would be fun to ask Kath to tell it to us, and she graciously accepted the challenge! She also included some performance notes for any bell choir interested in playing it. Our thanks to Kath for writing for our blog, and for writing great new music for handbells.

This is the first ever installment of "Behind the Music of Chicago Bronze." We hope there will be more in the future. Now here's Kath:

  During Fall of 2000, my 14-member, 5-octave teen church group, "touch of Jesus" ("toJ,") was riding a crest of amazing ability. They could ring anything I threw at them, so I was free to write all kinds of advanced music for them. Pieces like "Jazzin'," "La Mer," "Tre Regali," "Broken for You," "The Travelers from Nazareth," "To Snow or Not to Snow," "Festive Promenade," "Chopsticks and How!," "The Sower," "Rhythmic Fanfare," and "A Large Day" were all written for this particular group as they progressed into more and more advanced music...
  At the same time, I was a fan of "The Weather Notebook" - a noontime series on our local NPR radio station which offered 2-minute tidbits of "lighthearted weather wisdom." One day, the announcer reported on a special term for a weather phenomenon on Prince Edward Island: That invigorating kind of day which sometimes follows a storm; a rarified day with azure blue skies, intense white puffy clouds, a crisp clean breeze a bright warm sun, beckoning you with inspired clarity to breathe deeply and live life fully. The PEI locals call this unique kind of day - "A Large Day." I loved the term. Even in Virginia we have "Large Days." So with this bold vision, I started working on musical ideas for this piece.

  The lilt of 6/8, a few grace notes and some rhythmic mallet and mart work coupled with a Celtic-inspired melody were the foundation ideas for this work. Three distinct themes emerged, with little transition needed from one to the next, taking the form ABCBA - palindrome-style.

  The first "A" section introduces the lyric melody in octaves with sparse, open accompaniment. "B" theme jumps right in with a driving, syncopated pulse in both the melody and the malleted bass. A simple nod to the "C" theme is the transition to "C" itself, which is more sultry and enticing in rhythm and mode. Back to "B" with an optional bodhran solo before landing back in "A" in a new key, repeated at the end with a new mart/mart lift rhythms in the bass.

  Use of an Irish drum called the bodhran is optional, but certainly recommend if possible. The bodhran is a large flat drum, held in one hand and played with a 2-ended beater called a tipper (or tipple). Unique, signature rhythmic patterns are possible with this instrument. While the score includes basic rhythmic patterns - in case you need some ideas - we invited our drummer to play whatever rhythms she wished. I encourage you to do the same. A skilled bodhran player will really make the piece sparkle! I had also intended a penny whistle to join us, but I couldn't find a player. Feel free to add this element as well.

  "toJ" played this piece for many concerts and a FirstNight Celebration and recorded it on CD ("Ring Around the Moon.") I've used it for Advanced/Bronze Events, and I know it has also been used at Distinctly Bronze by David Davidson and in another Bronze event by Debbie Rice. I've also heard from a number of Advanced Community Handbell Ensembles who have used it. Thank you, all! By using "unusual" original handbell literature, you support the possibility of more "unusual" and original pieces being published.
  I often hear "A Large Day" played too slowly - it really needs to move with energy. Check the dotted-quarter pulse at 90 or 92. Now you know why it's a Level 5 piece!!

  Score Notes for "A Large Day": The D3 should be "air" malletted ( + ) (lifted quickly and malletted - not table malletted as written) in Mm. 53, 54, 55, 57, 58, 59, 87, 88, 89, 91, 92, 93. Also m. 148 beat 1, play Ab5.

  To read more about my pieces, as well as my background and events, you can go to my website: Contact me directly at

Kath Wissinger

1 comment:

Kipp said...

Great original composition.