In 1952, 37 year-old Composer Vincent Persichetti sat down to write a commissioned work for the American Bandmasters' Association. He finished it in January of 1953 and called it “Pageant”.
This commissioning was ironic, considering award-winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie from Chicago documented a phone interview with Persichetti in 1986 where Persichetti remarks: “I'D NEVER WRITE ON COMMISSION."
The audio from the interview is on record at the Oral History of American Music (OHAM) archives at Yale. If you can’t get to Yale's Music Library to check the archives yourself, you can read the edited transcript on Bruce Duffie’s website. It’s fascinating. I mean, where else are you going to find gems like Persichetti smoking cigarettes in what looks like.... a church?
See Photo at: www.bruceduffie.com/persichetti.html
In any case, I was curious why Persichetti would call this commissioned work “Pageant”. So, like most, I resort to Google, attempting to find any information about significant events that could have occurred during that time.
In my internet trawls, I found a peculiar swath of information that just tickled me. You can read all about it in my Twitter thread here: twitter.com/bryancrumpler/status/1004365786792841217
As I noted in the thread, 2018 is a vastly different world for me as a black African-American composer in the "classical" realm. It is certainly much different than 1915, when Vincent Persichetti was born, and in the 1950s when he was soaring to new heights just as my parents were being born. I am practically the same age now that Persichetti was when he wrote "Pageant"!
So, with that in mind, I challenged myself the past few weeks to transcribe Persichetti's "Pageant" only by ear. I had played it in 7th grade at ECU Summer Bandcamp when I'd only been on clarinet for 6 months. I still can perform it from memory to this day.
Today June 6th, 2018 marks Persichetti's 103rd birthday. And a fun fact, of course, is that 103 denotes the 1st "happy number" after 100 (the usual centenary celebration year). This birthday is more interesting to me because, as a math nerd, it also literally means he's in his "prime".
Math witticisms aside, I'm really proud of the results of my transcription and the fun cover art. I don't know what excites me more about the design:
- the fact that it's Carolina blue (#GoHeels);
-the 1915 licence plate on a '52 Buick (one of few words that rhyme with "music");
- the Pennsylvania plate number 103 (since he was born in Philly);
- the faux engraving on the ogre-teeth grill;
- the primer/primer linguistic duality;
- or the shine on ME!!!
The transcription was, of course, incredibly tedious, but I learned quite a lot in the process. Not everything is a perfect match, as I did a bit of arranging to suit my taste: in particular, I exploited the depth of the String Bass (one of Persichetti's main instruments) and added a little Celeste-ial magic to boot!
With all that in mind, Happy 103rd Birthday to one of my favorite composers from my childhood, Vincent Persichetti! 🎉🍾🎵🎶
Without further ado, please enjoy this limited edition rendition of "Pageant Op. 59", produced by yours truly.
- Bryan A. Crumpler