premiere: November 21, 2011; Northern Illinois University; NIU Philharmonic

program notes:

Runic Echo is a single movement piece in three large sections. The piece begins with soft chords in the strings interrupted by an exotic melody in the oboe that expands into a larger, more diatonic area featuring the winds whose materials foreshadow the last section of the piece. The second section begins with fast, imitative, less-tonal music in the strings followed by an episodic, rhythmically driven section that leads to a dramatic brass statement. The last section starts with a simple folk song in the cellos. I transcribed the melody from an archival recording of Finnish folk music. The tune is a “runo-song," a melody used by folk singers to tell stories from the Kalevala -- the ancient poetry that is the national epic of Finland; the verses, or runes, are known as runos. The tune is repeated several times and accompanied by the harp, which is a reference to the Finnish kantele, a small lap harp that was often used to accompany folk tunes. The song builds to a climax and closes in imitation before a brief coda that recalls the oboe melody from the beginning. As the mark of a good runo singer was the elaboration and detail in the telling of the story, I hope I have added my own elaboration in the sounding of the ancient tune.