Three Washington Statues

Three Washington Statues was commissioned by the United States Army Band “Pershing's Own”, Colonel Thomas H. Palmatier, Leader & Commander, for the inaugural High School Concert Band Invitational “The President's Cup”, held in DAR Constitution Hall, Washington D.C. on April 10th 2015. This innovative competition saw ten of the country’s best high school bands, selected by audition, play the piece as part of a longer free-choice programme before it was later featured in a concert by the United States Army Band in the evening.

Washington D.C. contains some of the world’s most iconic and monuments, memorials and statues, especially in and around the spectacular National Mall. Composer Philip Sparke has chosen three of these as the inspiration for this piece, which was premiered close to the White House itself.

1. The Lincoln Memorial

Situated at the west end of the National Mall, the majestic Lincoln Memorial is in the form of a Greek Doric temple. Designed by Henry Bacon, it houses Daniel Chester French’s 1920 statue, Abraham Lincoln, which depicts a pensive Lincoln seated on a throne-like chair.

The music contrasts the static grandeur of the monument with the constant movement of some of the 3 million visitors it attracts every year.

2. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

One of Washington’s newest statues, having opened in 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is situated close to the Lincoln Memorial, on whose steps he gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin chose this speech as his inspiration, referencing the line “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope”. It depicts the civil rights leader standing resolutely and half-hewn out of a block of granite which projects powerfully from between two other large boulders.

The mood of the music is in part reverant, but also reflects the strength of character depicted by the powerful statue.

3. Duke Ellington “Encore”

Composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington was born in Washington D.C. in 1899. In common with many African-American artists, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Marvin Gaye, his career was launched at the Howard Theatre, in the northern suburbs of the city. Opened in 1910, the theatre has had a chequered history: it closed in 1970 and reopened in 1973, only to close again seven years later. Following a $29-million restoration, it reopened again in 2012, when the elaborate Zachary Oxman statue of Ellington, entitled “Encore”, was erected outside.

The music does not attempt copy or parody Ellington’s own style but tries to capture its energy and drive in the context of the 21st-century concert band.