Instrumentation: Solo Violin or Viola
Violinist Wanchi Huang
Recital Hall of the Forbes Performing Arts Center
James Madison University
Rising on the Wings of Dawn is a beautiful image drawn found in Psalm 139. I had been partial to this Psalm for some time and previously set verses from it in And Night Will Shine As Day, scored for soprano and organ. It seemed especially apt while the COVID pandemic was raging and we were in a time of great sorrow to return to these comforting images of the intimacy and ubiquity of God. The structure embodies a rising shape in its melodic design and in the prominence of harmonics. The overtone series itself shimmers, and the individual harmonics glow. I collaborated with violinist Wendy Case in exploring various timbral shadings during the compositional process and she recorded it on the album The Tiger and the Clover. I experimented further with violinist Wanchi Huang who gave the world premiere on her recital at the Forbes Performing Arts Center in Harrisonburg, VA on 2/24/2022.
After hearing the violin version, my friend and colleague violist Ayn Balija was eager for a version of this spiritual piece for viola and I was able to create the transformation. As is always the case in creating a version for a different instrument, I made a variety of adjustments, while keeping the structural design intact. I am always fascinated by the particular timbral nuances of different instruments. In both, my goal was to capture a rising motif, leading from the lowest to the highest string, embodying the sense of rising that is key to the image in the Psalm. Ms. Balija premiered the viola version on 3/27/22 in Old Cabell Auditorium at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. –JS