Scott Bersaglia, conductor of the Sacred Winds Ensemble, asked me to write a piece in honor of the tenth anniversary of the group. This commission reads: “The new work will be a minimum of five minutes in duration…oriented around a sacred theme to be chosen by the composer.” Scott offered me a selection of hymn tunes, and All Creatures of Our God and King just stood out above all the others. It is a good tune and it inspired a whole lot of musical thought in me. The result is a good deal longer than five minutes! It is a set of seven “songs” for wind ensemble, each embodying the original tune, or relating to it in some way. This old melody, All Creatures of Our God and King, is large in spirit, and the harmonization by Ralph Vaughn Williams, which I have adopted in the Overture, is full-bodied and wonderfully satisfying.
All things of light are paralleled and powered by an element of darkness, and my variations, particularly two through five, probe in that direction. Darkness here means awareness of a deep mystery in the universe, and of the struggles that all endure in this life.
The title, “Unending Stream of Life”, comes from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and prolific author on Buddhist subjects, Thich Nhat Hanh. One statement of his stayed with me throughout the composition of this piece: “We are life. We are inextinguishable!”
Program note by David Maslanka