SAINT PEREGRINE'S CONCERTO
For Bass Clarinet and Percussion
by Christopher Fulkerson
|To Download the Bass Clarinet part, CLICK HERE
This is the REVISED version of the solo bass clarinet part, made with the gracious assistance of the world-renouned bass clarinet pioneer Harry Sparnaay.
A computer realization is available.
To Download the Score CLICK HERE
During the 1980s the Boston microtonal composer Ezra Sims, whom I had commissioned to write his stupendous vocal octet THE CONVERSIONS for my vocal ensemble Ariel, made me aware of the exciting advances in Bass Clarinet technique that had been made by the Dutch players of that instrument, in particular their use of the altissima register. I was in touch with the Duo Contemporain, in which the Dutch Bass Clarinettist Henri Bok played with a percussionist, at the time Evert Le Mair. When I suggested a project they were very enthusiastic; before long I wrote this dual concerto for them; Henri provided me with fingerings and advice for the use of the altissima register of his instrument. We corresponded for some time in the effort to arrange an American tour for his Duo; this tour was to include the premiere of the new piece, but the tour did not materialize, in part due to the failure of the Waterfront Theater in San Francisco. I had been the chairman of the Music Committee of this noble and doomed effort to find a home for a small local company, the Pocket Opera, and with it other arts organizations, such as my contemporary vocal ensemble, and my instrumental group the Composers Chamber Players. I had read in history books of the effect of theater failure on the careers of various composers,notably Handel. No one who has not experienced the effect on their career of such a disaster can suspect the enormity of the problems such a thing can create. It wipes you out. When it happened to Handel he became a changed man. It has taken me decades to attempt to sort through all the details; the interrupted projects; the confusions between my own failings and those of others; the extra work needed to restore relationships; and the effects on relationships that will probably never be restored. All because America and the Americans are too shortsighted to build a worthwhile legacy, and seem fully willing to content themselves with popular music.
Eventually I decided that the vast peregrinations of the piece's fate fit with the circumstances of my illness and healing in a way that seemed to correspond to a saint that my mother had brought to my attention, who healed himself of cancer (later, other doctors disagreed with the orginal diagnosis I had been given of a benign cancer and its treatment - nothing in this history seems ready to settle!). That saint had the name of Peregrine, in other words, one who travels widely. The name is also that of a breed of falcon, and this seemed to also bring the piece into the sphere of the cycle on Falconry that was taking shape.
ST. PEREGRINE'S CONCERTO has much in common musically with THE CHILDERMASS, both in its details and tone and in its structure of a fast movement followed by a slow movement. It was these two pieces that really made me believe that I could write music that was truly beautiful, noble, and heroic in tone. I remain very pleased with these compositions and with the musical possibilities they opened for me. The ST. PEREGRINE'S CONCERTO makes full use of the new virtuoso resources of the Bass Clarinet, and of the Percussion (though the percussion part can also be read by two players). It was completed in 1987, and is eleven minutes long.
I am very happy to say that in early 2012 the world-renouned Dutch bass clarinet pioneer Harry Sparnaay graciously went over the solo part of the concerto several times with me and offered his expert advice about how I might consider revising the solo part to make it possible, even when difficult. The revised solo part is offered in a link above. At my earliest opportunity I will complete the engraving of the entire score and make this available. For the time being, the unrevised score is still offered for use by percussionists and for esnemble playing purposes. The percussion part is unchanged.
Updated 9/29/2010. Updated again 7/10/2012.