Commissioned by the Netherlands Brass Band Championships

For the 10th Anniversary Contest

  • Brass band
  • 17 min

Programme Note

Of Men and Mountains was commissioned by the Netherlands Brass Band Championships for their 10th anniversary contest, which was held in Drachten, Netherlands, on 8th December 1990.

The title of the work, and indeed its inspiration, came from a train journey which my wife and I made in July 1989 across Canada from Toronto to Vancouver. The awe-inspiring journey through the Rocky Mountains, with its high peaks and canyons and the sunlight shafting through the clouds high above, made me understand a little more of the majesty of nature and the fragility of humanity. The eternal struggle between man and nature was personified in the building of this incredible railway…hence my title (after Blake)

The work is dedicated to the memory of Eric Ball who died shortly before I commenced writing it. My admiration for his music is considerable and I am sure he would have shared the feelings behind the inspiration for this music.

Of Men and Mountains is in one continuous movement and lasts about 17 minutes. Its form is difficult to describe because of its motivic and accumulative nature, but it could be described as a piece in search of a theme which eventually comes in its final and complete state in the majestic ending, after an ever-increasingly paced Scherzo. However, here is a rough plan of the work:

A. Slow introduction: themes in embryo – fragmented motives.
B. First fast section: two main ideas – dramatic and very rhythmic.
B1. Second fast section: development of B – scored for separate instrumental groupings.
A1. Return of opening.
C. Long slow section: new theme – solos for various instruments.
B2. Scherzo: re-working of material from B in the form of a gradual, increasingly paced scherzo.
D. Majestic: the culmination of the work – main theme now heard in its final and complete form.
D1. Coda: a short, triumphant, fast section based on the main theme.

Edward Gregson, 1990