Opus 240

Trenton Quintet (2001)

for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano

  • Overture (Billings Fantasy)
  • Burgundy’s Ode
  • Washington’s Victory

AUROS Group for New Music

Duration: 8.25 min.

Dedication: for the AUROS Group for New Music

Commission: Commissioned by the Broeker Fund for New Music

Publisher: Lauren Keiser Music Publishing

Performance materials available from the publisher.

Trenton Quintet (2001) was written for and is dedicated to the AUROS Group for New Music.

The work is based on the musical material for a planned-but-not-written comic opera The Trenton Connection (libretto by Anna Winslow). The opera is a fictional story spun around the Battle of Trenton of 1777 during the American Revolutionary War. Much of the musical language of the quintet (and the opera) is derived from early American music.

The opening movement, Overture (Billings Fantasy), sets the opening mood and historical context of the opera. The music is based on a hymn tune (PARIS) by the early American composer William Billings (1746–1800)—taken from his 1777 collection, The New-England Psalm-Singer. Two slow sections frame a faster one. The unique character of Billings’ harmonizations (which abound in parallel fifths and octaves, unusual doublings, and movement from modal to diatonic languages) is explored throughout this movement.

The second movement, Burgundy’s Ode, takes its inspiration and material from one of the opera’s significant characters, the French poet Burgundy. The movement is built around an ostinato of descending thirds (and a second). The harmonic area and tonality shifts throughout with the ostinato’s relationship to the rest of the texture continually changing.

The final movement, Washington’s Victory, is based on the material from the end of the opera: the Christmas Day celebration of Washington’s victory at Trenton. The popular Revolutionary War song Yankee Doodle is used throughout. This song was originally concocted by the British to mock the American patriots. However, the Americans “appropriated” the song for themselves and wrote new lyrics which were used to rousing effect.