Premiere: Michigan State University Symphony Band. Conductor, John Madden.
Instrumentation: wind symphony
Program Notes: The Isle of May is a tiny uninhabited island off the coast of Scotland. It lies at the outer edge of a bay created by the firth (estuary) of the River Forth, which empties into the North Sea. Once home to a priory, the only buildings remaining are a castle-like lighthouse complex and a bird observatory (a smaller, repurposed lighthouse). Visitors travel by ferry largely for the wildlife. The isle is home to many seals as well as fourteen species of seabird, including the UK’s largest colony of puffins. The isle slopes gradually from sea level on the bay side to massive basalt cliffs on the eastern sea side.
The work is in three continuous sections, opening with the Bay of Firth. Rays of dawn glint off the waves and suddenly burst through the fog of the North Sea. The second section is Seagulls, a part of the large contingent of seabirds that gather on the island, their ungainly walks and sudden movement represented by an off-kilter, quirky melody in 5/8. The intensity builds, traveling from the Bay in the west over the seabirds to the final section. A sweeping melody carries us to the top of Sea Cliffs, the closing section. The basalt cliffs tower over the eastern edge of the island, pounded by ocean swells. The conclusion builds to a grandiose ending celebrating the power of the sea and the beauty of the island.
Score & Parts are available. Purchase here.