Symphony No. 1 – Annotations

Here we will take a more detailed look at the inner workings of Symphony No. 1. Each movement is broken down into sections, with detailed descriptions of the inspirations for each passage of music.


Movement I – Opening Fanfare, The Journey, & The Arrival [11:25]

This movement recalls the incredibly long journey to the beach. It begins with an opening fanfare, then moves on to the long journey, then on to the arrival at the beach, and ultimately, closes with sunset on the first day.

Opening Fanfare – “Adventure” (0:03) – The beginning of the journey. This section serves as an introduction to the action which will follow. The opening fanfare is a “flourish” of sound, followed by a fast-paced adventure theme. There are also brief fanfares at 1:11 and 2:00. The trumpet part from these fanfares will be repeated at the very end of the symphony.

The Beginning of the Journey (3:14) – Here the movement slows down dramatically as we begin the long journey to our destination. The journey began at around 1:30am and continued all night and through the next day. This music has a “lilting” feel as we journey down the highway in the middle of the night. The solo oboe crescendos and decrescendos, recalling the passing headlights of other vehicles as we drove through the night.

The Breakdown (4:29) – At around 6am that same morning, one of the vehicles in the caravan began experiencing electrical problems. Fortunately, it was able to be repaired at the next city along the way. But this experience added quite a bit of drama to the trip, as well as the symphony!

The Journey Resumes (5:37) – Soon enough, we were back on the road again, traveling on toward the destination. Here the music returns to the journey theme, but builds in intensity and excitement as we get closer and closer to the ocean.

Arrival – “Beach Theme” (7:16) – Here the music seems to evaporate into nothingness with the first crashing wave of the ocean (performed here and throughout the symphony by a gong crescendo). This is the moment the ocean first came into view, as the piano begins playing what will become the main theme of the symphony.

Exploration (8:42) – This playful section recalls the exploration of this new environment – the ocean waves crashing in and out, the feeling of hot sand against the feet, the birds soaring overhead. This theme lingers briefly before resuming the beach theme.

Sunset at Sea – “Faith Theme” (9:54) – At the end of this incredibly long journey, the artist found himself floating in the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean at sunset. There was an indescribable feeling of peace in this moment, which the artist has attempted to recall through this closing section. This “faith theme” was inspired by Tchaikovsky’s “fate theme” motif. Unlike Tchaikovsky, the artist does not believe in fate, and as such, he chose instead to use this faith theme to tie various elements of the symphony together.


Movement II – The Storm [8:28]

One afternoon during the vacation, a powerful storm appeared, seemingly “out of nowhere”. This movement attempts to capture the awesome energy of that storm.

Sunburst (0:33) – Before the storm approached, it was a beautiful summer afternoon. There was a dramatic sunburst from behind the clouds, which is heralded in this powerful fanfare.

“Ocean Theme” (1:17) – This is one of the main themes of the symphony which, appropriately enough, has something of a nautical flare. This particular incarnation of the theme is representative of a casual walk along the beach on a peaceful afternoon.

Out of Nowhere (2:50) – As this walk along the beach unfolded, there came the sound of thunder in the distance. This storm seemed to appear literally “out of nowhere”. The decision was made to head home quickly to avoid getting caught in the storm.

The Storm (3:17) – The storm quickly grew in intensity as we hurried down the beach. The wind was blowing strongly against us as we moved closer to the storm itself. The horizon took on an eerie appearance, as if the sky were burning.

Sunburst II (4:36) – Suddenly, in the midst of this growing storm, the sun appeared from behind the clouds. This made for an incredibly dramatic contrast between the dark storm clouds and the brilliant light of the sun. This fanfare is also the same “Sun Theme” as the opening sunburst, and will also be repeated in Movement IV during the sunrise. Following this fanfare, the storm resumes and continues to build in intensity until finally, we reach our destination and return safely.

The Calm After the Storm (6:00) – Here the storm begins to die down, as the rolling thunder fades off in the distance. We also return to the ocean theme, though initially is it subdued and somber in tone.

Sunset – “Ocean Theme” (6:39) – Following this powerful storm came an incredible sunset. Here the ocean theme swells to a majestic chorus before dying down quickly.

Fading Away (7:28) – The storm is over, the sun has set, and we are left with an eerie calm. The thunder continues to dissipate off in the distance as we marvel at the incredible power of nature in these closing moments of the day.


Movement III – Reflections [10:12]

The artist began work on Symphony No. 1 with this movement. It is a personal reflection of his feelings and emotions from this journey. This movement recalls all of those thoughts and inspirations which are too personal to put into words.

“Faith Theme” (0:02) – The faith theme is the primary music motif for this movement. Here it begins in a somber, meditative tone on solo oboe. It builds throughout the first section, eventually leading into the subsequent theme – Reflections.

“Reflections Theme” (4:05) – This is an introduction to the reflections theme. While it is powerful and majestic, it is still not “complete.” It seems to be longing for more. This theme will be fully realized by the end of this movement.

 Exploration reprise (5:52) – The exploration theme was first heard in movement I. Whereas in the first movement it was light and playful, here it is performed in a more subdued fashion as the artist explores personal reflections on the journey. This section begins a gradual crescendo as it builds into the ending sections.

“Reflections Theme” fulfilled (8:12) – Now we hear the reflections theme fully realized. You may notice that although it is joyous and triumphant, it still holds just a hint of the bittersweet longing found in the earlier incarnation.

“Faith Theme” fulfilled (9:12) – This is the first time in the symphony where the Faith theme is performed to its fulfillment. A joyous ending to this introspective movement – the contrast between the opening strains of the faith theme and the closing fanfare reveals the profound revival the artist experienced through this trip.


Movement IV – Dawn of Rebirth & Grand Finale [9:53]

This movement begins at dawn on the final day of the trip. It celebrates the power of the sunrise over the ocean, and also serves as a final reflection on the life-changing events. The final four minutes of the piece are quite simply a grand finale to this composition, including an Ode to Tchaikovsky.

Dawn – “Beach Theme” (0:25) – This section begins with a quiet introduction of violins and mallet instruments, which lead into a solo trumpet performing the “Beach Theme.” This is the beginning of dawn on the last day of the trip. The trumpet heralds the invocation of the excitement to come.

“Ocean Theme” (1:30) – This time around, the ocean theme begins softly, building with more and more excitement as the first lights of day continue to build. We also hear a countermelody of the Reflection theme as well.

Sunrise (3:14) – The sun rises in triumphant fashion to a joyous fanfare. This is the same sun theme which was featured in movement II.

“Adventure” reprise (4:05) – The same theme as the opening movement, this is the only other time the adventure theme is heard in this entire symphony. Here it serves to tie the beginning and ending of this journey together.

“Faith Theme” (4:37) – This brief appearance of the faith theme serves as a transition into the farewell section to come. It is also the final time we hear the faith theme in its entirety.

A Fond Farewell – “Reflections” (5:06) – Here we find an interesting contrast – the melody of the Reflections theme performed on solo piano, very similar to the first incarnation of the beach theme in movement I. The solo cello serves as a countermelody, performing brief strains from the beach theme. We also hear the solo oboe from the opening of movement III. This theme slowly begins to build into the next section…

Rebirth – New Life (6:25) – This is the beginning of the grand finale. Here the orchestra performs a  dramatic march. The excitement continues to build as the music begins a gradual slowdown, leading into the next section. The slowdown section was originally intended to be an ode to Tchaikovsky’s 3rd Symphony, final movement, which featured a similar slowing.

“Beach Theme” Finale (7:52) – We now hear the beach theme fulfilled in this triumphant chorus. This is the last of the major themes to be performed in this symphony.

Triumphant Celebration (8:49) – This is one of the artist’s favorite sections of the entire symphony – a bombastic postlude in which the entire orchestra soars. It is a celebration pure and simple! Although it does not contain any of the major themes of the symphony, it does feature a brief homage at the end. The 6-note pattern repeated 4 times at the end of this section is the same as the trumpet fanfare of the first movement adventure theme.

Finale – “Ode to Tchaikovsky” (9:26) – Slightly reminiscent of the ending of the 1812 Overture, this finale is meant as a tribute to Tchaikovsky, as well as a thrilling finish to this symphony. The orchestral chimes sound as church bells ringing joyously in the distance. The only things missing are the canons!