Ron Mallory - Composer, Church Musician, Music Educator
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STORY BEHIND "THE STARS AWAIT" by Ron Mallory

I've always been fascinated by the science of astronomy, and enjoy the chance to spend a night under the stars with my telescope. For years I'd had the idea to write a piece that described the turning of day into night—but whereas most musical compositions about nightfall depict night as bringing on a time of rest, my piece would represent night bringing on the activity of an amateur astronomer out under a star-filled sky and the intellectual and emotional enjoyment of observing the wonders of the universe. The title was taken from an astronomy book I had as a child, Starwatch by Ben Mayer, which proclaimed on the title page, in big bold letters, "THE STARS AWAIT."

I wrote the piece during Thanksgiving weekend 2009, strictly for fun and never really expecting it to be performed or published. When I heard about the first-annual David Davidson Composition Contest (Sponsored by Handbell Musicians of America) a few months later, I sent it off on a whim, and was pleasantly surprised to have it chosen as the winner. I am gratified that it has been so well-received!

Someone once asked me if I considered the piece a "tone poem," and I agreed that that's a good description. It begins by depicting a powerful, dramatic sunset (measures 1-27). At measure 27, the final rays of sunshine fade, and the handchimes represent the onset of dusk. In measures 29-35, the stars come out one by one. In measure 36, the amateur astronomer begins to set up his equipment, and by measure 48 has settled into a night of telescopic observation. At measure 99 the chimes signal the first glimmer of dawn, and the closing section represents a dramatic sunrise, with the brilliant colors gradually giving way to the full light of day as the piece comes to a close.

This piece uses what's sometimes called the lydian-dominant scale (a major scale with the 4th raised and 7th lowered), which has always been a favorite of mine—I've used it in a number of my original compositions. There are two themes, a "rising" and "setting" theme, which wind their way throughout the piece; as you might expect, the "setting" theme is an inversion of the "rising" theme. The "setting" theme is heard in the treble bells in measures 14-15, representing the setting of the sun as night begins to fall. (A portion of it was also heard in the accented notes of measures 4-10.) The "rising" theme is first presented pointillistically (meaning it's jumping from octave to octave) in measures 29-34, as the stars come out gradually one by one, then is heard in a more straightforward fashion in the high bells in measures 48-57. Measures 72-79 are the most free-form of the piece, not making use of either of the main themes; these measures represent the pure emotional enjoyment of looking at the stars, contrasting with the more intellectual style found elsewhere. In measures 82-91, the "rising" and "setting" theme are heard together, as the stars seen earlier in the evening begin to set while new stars continue to rise. Measure 101 to the end repeats the opening material, but using the "rising" theme instead of the "setting" theme as the sun now rises, ending the night's session of observing the stars.

"The Stars Await" is published by AGEHR Publishing, Catalog #AG47003.
 
Copyright 2016 Ron Mallory