'Apocalyptic Dreams' highlights Symphonic Band concert
Few composers have ever tried to unravel the mysteries of the Biblical book of Revelations in music. David Gillingham’s 20th century symphony “Apocalyptic Dreams” is a “fascinating approach with a celebratory ending” according to Purdue Symphonic Band conductor Jay Gephart whose ensemble tackles the piece at a Sunday, Nov. 17, concert.
The free event features the Symphonic Band and the Purdue Fall Concert Band, along with a guest appearance by the Penn High School Symphonic Band from Mishawaka. It is set for 2:30 p.m. in the Long Center, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette.
“The whole notion of the approaching end in time, talked about in Revelations, is scary to many but fascinating. It captures the imagination and arouses a certain level of curiosity,” says Gephart who found Gillingham’s composition so intriguing he wanted to share it with the community.
The 18-minute work contains a special relevance in the beginning of the 21st century. “There’s a feeling that some of what’s going on today in the Middle East is actually fulfilling the prophecies of Revelations,” Gephart says. And there’s a “Left Behind” series of Christian novels currently on best-seller lists that cast the events in Revelations in modern day scenarios.
Composer David Gillingham represents one of those people fascinated by Revelations, says Gephart, and lept at the chance to address it musically when the University of Georgia commissioned him to write a full symphony for concert band.
The composer wrote “Apocalyptic Dreams” in three movements with no breaks to create a continuous unfolding of events.
“Throughout the first movement, the mood is very somber and mysterious, setting the tone for the rest of the symphony. The second movement, ‘Cataclysmic Events,’ sets into motion the chain of disasters found in the book of Revelations,” Gephart says.
“The trombone states a baleful motif which is very descriptive of the melodic material as you hear this outpouring of incredible sorrow and distress.”
Gillingham brings the second movement to an end abruptly and caps the piece with an outpouring of joy depicting the return of the Messiah and the Messiah’s kingdom to earth.
“Through the use of all sorts of mallet percussion and piano we get the sense of what the celestial sounds might be like when the Messiah returns,” Gephart says. The symphony’s final movement contains a reverent chorale written by the composer, and the piece concludes with a “fanfare of trumpets and trombones so the entire movement ends joyfully with a celebratory tone. It’s as if he’s saying we thought we were getting close to the end of time, but time will not end,” Gephart adds.
“Gillingham’s music is not on a specific level. It covers the book of Revelations with a broader scope. But one thing’s for sure – it’s fascinating music and a blast to play.”
“Apocalyptic Dreams” may be the concert’s centerpiece, but the Nov. 17 event offers a variety of other musical works. Fall Concert Band includes Philip Sparke’s “Hanover Festival,” Frank Ticheli’s “Cajun Folk Songs” and Warren Barker’s “New York: 1927” in its program. Highlights of the Penn High School Band’s program are Clare Grundman’s “Fantasy on American Sailing Songs” and Edvard Gregson’s “Festivo.” The Symphonic Band also performs Samuel Barber’s “Commando March” and Eric Whitacre’s “Noisy Wheels of Joy.”
The “Apocalyptic Dreams” concert is sponsored by Purdue University Bands. The Purdue Symphonic Band’s next appearance will be in collaboration with Lafayette Ballet is an original dance and music event titled “Echoes of Indiana” in Elliott Hall of Music on April 12.