Winter’s First Whisper

Written: 2008

Price: full set $165; score $45

Commissioned By: Montoya Music

Duration: ca. 14:00

Grade Level: 6

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Winter’s First Whisper, which includes Midnight Snowfall and Fresh Powder, grew from an idea for a piece that would convey the excitement of skiing. Though originally intended to be a swift one-movement work, the piece quickly grew into two separate movements, each representing a different scene dealing with snow.

Either movement can be performed separately; however, the work is intended to be performed together, and with little pause in between, as the second movement begins with the resolution of the first movement.

I. Midnight Snowfall

Living in Texas my whole life, I had never experienced a true winter. In fact, I don’t think I actually had experienced all four seasons! For in Texas, it always seemed to be summer, with short interruptions of cooler weather. There had been a few occasions where it had snowed, but it rarely stuck to the ground, and if it did, it was gone in a matter of hours.

In 2008 I moved to Michigan to pursue my Master’s Degree. On one particular day, as the snow fell, I remember contacting friends and family and exclaiming, “The snow is so big!” I never thought that snow came in different sizes, or fell at different speeds. As I began to write this adagio, I wanted to capture the feelings and excitement of the first snowfall.

I reflected on the nighttime when all was quiet and still. Suddenly the first snowflake appears. Slowly more snowflakes begin to fall as the speed increases. The bells toll at midnight as the snow gradually accumulates on the ground, turning the color from dark hues, to a soft white. Then, as if it cannot be contained any longer, snow fills the heavens as the wind carries it through the sky and to the ground, covering the earth with its white blanket.

As the sun begins to rise above the horizon, the snowfall begins to dissipate. The intensity dies down, as small flakes fall slowly and blow listlessly in the wind. The sunlight grows brighter, and presents the snow; smooth and untouched.

That is, until the world awakens…

II. Fresh Powder

Fresh Powder is the quicker of the two-movements and was initially inspired by skiing. Slowly as the piece developed, it became not only about skiing, but different vignettes related to snow.  A simpler way to describe the piece would be to refer to The Simpsons episode, “Bart Gets An F.”

Bart finds out he may flunk fourth grade and, in desperation, asks Martin (Prince) for help. He helps Bart study, and Bart reciprocates by showing him how to be more popular, which encourages him to take on some of Bart’s bad attitudes. Bart reminds the “new” Martin about the test, but he ignores it, preferring to hang out with his new friends and play practical jokes. Left with little time to study on his own, Bart prays to God that something will happen to make him miss school the next day so he can have more time to study. That night, Springfield is hit with a massive blizzard, and the schools are closed.  That next day would be declared “Snow Day: the funnest day in the history of Springfield!”

In this episode, there was a scene that panned across the town and showed the townspeople enjoying the snow. There were snowball fights, snowmen being built, ice skating, ice hockey, sledding, caroling, etc.

In my mind, Fresh Powder is about all the fun, exciting, wonderful things you can do when it snows.  It’s about the moments which reflect the beauty of snow, such as snow covered mountains and trees, moments that could be interpreted as an avalanche, moments of little animals running around on and playing in the snow, and moments where you stop and take in the beauty of the sun shining on the snow covered land.

And yes… there are sections that represent having to shovel the snow!

Winter’s First Whisper is Montoya’s fourth work for symphonic winds and is dedicated to Jenn.