Throughout the world, the trumpet has been associated with leadership since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, its image having been found, for example, inscribed in the tomb of Tutankhamen and burial grounds in ancient Peru. For centuries, it’s clear and forthright sound has announced the presence of nobility, suggesting physical strength as well as strength of character. In battle, the trumpet became the embodiment of leadership in signaling charge and retreat.
During the Renaissance, the trumpet’s purity of sound became important to music ensembles. Later, as its valves developed and its resemblance to the human voice became apparent, its focused and penetrating lyricism inspired composers to cast it in the role of hero--the majestic force that can overcome all evil and uncertainty. Interestingly, through Taps, the trumpet is also called upon to express grief and compassion in public mourning. In jazz, it takes on myriad persona, particularly with the aid of mutes.
Good leadership is in large part the art of leading us in a better direction while we have a sense that our own wishes are being fulfilled and our needs met. Particularly in times of crisis, we turn to our leaders to inspire us to act nobly and firmly, to direct our grieving, and to respond to our needs.
This concerto is an exploration of those relationships, with the trumpet soloist in the role of leader. In the first movement, the trumpet takes charge of the ensemble “masses” and ends up—via call and response—directing them to action. The second movement reveals a leader amidst tragedy and is a meditation on the grief and compassion that a leader must express for the group. The third movement begins with the trumpet’s response to community fears and concerns, and works very gradually and arduously toward the leader’s confluence with the body politic—perhaps (since in reality this is rarely the case) revealing the concerto’s unerring hope for better leaders and, in turn, a better world.
The work was commissioned by the International Trumpet Guild, and given its first performance in July, 2002, in Manchester, England, with James Thompson as soloist.