Soon after Carlos Surniach had begun work on the overture we hear tonight, he wrote to conductor Robert Hargreaves:
“The work to celebrate the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Muncie Symphony Orchestra will be an overture of the type of Feria Magica or Drama Jondo, works I believe you have performed…It will be entitled: Las Trompetas de los Serafines or the Trumpets of the Seraphs or the Trumpets of the Seraphim.
“I have in mind those angels represented as children with wings often playing trumpets, clarions, etc. We see them in the old paintings, in the carved furniture; some theatres have them in the ceilings and the baroque churches have them all over. They ornate, they celebrate.
So, I intend to celebrate the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of your orchestra with trumpets (there will be four) and they will ornate the orchestra not only with epic sounds, but also with sophisticated innocence.
“So help me God for a new good work! It should keep me busy for the next three months.”
Two significant elements of the work are quietly announced at the opening—the fanfare of the trumpets, and the chromatic figure in the bassoons outlining the interval of an augmented fourth. A touch of the “sophisticated innocence” anticipated may be noted at the outset in the use of dissonance (reiterated g against A flat) in the trumpet fanfare (thus making more “ornate” the harmonic idiom). Punctuating rhythmic chords employing these materials precede the appearance of strings and woodwinds on the fanfare and augmented fourth fragments and lead to a canonic treatment of a jaunty little melody in the four trumpets.
A bustling transition for the entire string orchestra brings a fresh treatment of earlier materials—including an appearance of the fanfare theme in contrabassoon, tuba, doublebass, and even timpani!
Again the trumpets are heard soloistically in a good humored fragment (some may think they hear an echo of the middle section of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”) and the strings follow with their version of the canonic material.
After a return of the “punctuation” material, the composer teases us into believing that the grand finale has arrived—triumphant clarinets, horns, trombones, violas, and cellos present a portion of the canonic theme fortississimo! There is a sudden cessation, however, and above the rumbling doublebass an “innocent” dialogue takes place between the bells and a solo violin. Now the excitement begins afresh, the horns, trumpets, and trombones exult in the “good-humored” these until the full orchestra is heard in the materials of the opening bars—fanfare and augmented fourth simultaneously sounded in celebration of a joyous occasion.