Fantasia on themes from West Side Story
Composition Date: 2006(adapted for band 2008/9)
Commissioned: by the Festival of the Sound, with generous support from Shoppers Drug Mart, and premiered August 10, 2006 at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada with James
Campbell soloist, Allan Gilliland conductor.
Fantasia on themes from West Side Story was commissioned by the 2006 Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, Ontario - one of Canada’s finest chamber music festivals, and a major draw for many of the world’s finest musicians. Artistic Director James Campbell asked for a piece for chamber orchestra that would feature him on the clarinet, as well as take advantage of the array of musicians on hand during the final week of the festival. The lineup for the orchestra that came together for it ended up being an all-star cast of Canadian and international chamber musicians.
Jim originally suggested an arrangement of West Side Story. While this is hands down one of my favorite pieces, and one of the great works of the 20th century, I wanted to have more flexibility with the material. So we agreed on the idea of a fantasia. The fantasia is a loose musical form in which the composer has the freedom to adapt the source material any way his or her imagination may choose to go. This allows the work to move far beyond arrangement to become what I like to call re-composition. My Fantasia on themes from West Side Story is a piece with completely original sections, sections that are arranged and sections that are re-orchestrations. The result, I hope, is a work that stands on its own; moreover, one in which it is hard to tell where Bernstein ends and Gilliland begins.
The form reflects that of the musical. It begins with material from the prelude and ends exactly as the musical does. In between, I focus more on the instrumental music rather than the “big tunes.” The familiar melodies that do get used include Tonight, One Hand, One Heart, and Somewhere.