A big thank you, to the amazing Trombone soloists Brett Baker, Reed Thomas (Conductor) and the students of the Middle Tennessee State University Wind Ensemble for the wonderful premiere and recording of `Outrageous Fortune’, Symphony No 2 for Trombone Soloist, Actor & Wind Orchestra.
The professionalism of the staff and students at Middle Tennessee State University is second to none!
`Outrageous Fortune’ is a symphonic drama in the structure and sentiment of a traditional concerto. I have taken this approach from Hector Berlioz’ masterpiece Harold in Italy, Symphony in Four Parts with Viola Obbligato which illustrates how a soloist can be part of a larger symphonic work.
I have designed my Symphony Outrageous Fortune as a melancholic drama, bleak and sardonic in style. It follows programmatically the story of Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. I have prefaced my score with the bard’s despairing words:
“Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind”.
Hamlet is a tale of conspiracy, betrayal, suicide, revenge and murder, and also a ghost story. Both the trombone soloist and the actor take on the role of the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet. Outrageous Fortune reflects the protagonist’s despair, his self-doubt and self-loathing and his advance towards mental breakdown. Hamlet’s character is full of bitterness, but alongside this he shows profound wisdom beyond his years.
The Danish castle of Elsinore is the setting for the drama. I have set to music, two of Hamlet’s soliloquies:
- “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt”
- “To be, or not to be, that is the question”.
Hamlet’s first monologue sees him longing to be dead and contemplating his own suicide although he is concerned that the Almighty has forbidden this option by sacred law. The cause of Hamlet’s malady is his distress that his mother has just remarried following the death of his father (the former King), less than two months ago. His mother’s suitor is his father’s own brother, Hamlet’s uncle! Hamlet rails against the rashness of his mother’s actions without apparent concern for his father’s death:
“She married. O most wicked speed, to post – With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!”.
The second soliloquy “To be, or not to be – that is the question” finds Hamlet near to mental breakdown, grappling with the choice between killing himself, or living on to avenge his father’s murder? To kill himself brings uncertainty as no one has ever returned from the afterlife – who knows what suffering awaits there?
“But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns – puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all”.
Hamlet’s release from his dilemma, comes in the final act after he has avenged his father’s death, with his subsequent murder.
I have given Outrageous Fortune 15 scene-titles:
I. O that this too too solid flesh would melt
II. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark
III. The kettledrum and trumpet thus bray out
IV Alas, poor ghost
V. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder!
VI. To be or not be
VII. Get thee to a nunnery
VIII. The Mousetrap
IX. What warlike noise is this
X. The King’s Jester
XI. Revenge should have no bounds
XII. Unbated and envenomed
XIII. Rapier and Danger
XIV. Now crack a noble heart
XV. The rest is silence
Here are some extracts taken from the first edit of our recording session as a tribute to Brett Baker, Reed Thomas and the MTSU Wind Ensemble. My voice can be heard on the recording and is only temporary until we replaced by an actor!