Trombone Rhapsody – Song of Joy

This rhapsody for trombone and band was commissioned by the world famous trombonist: Brett Baker. The inspiration and template for the piece comes from the Leslie Condon composition: Song of Exuberance, published in the late 1960’s. This new work is based on the nineteenth century children’s song: He Loves me, Too.

Score and Parts: £25

Song of Joy

Commissioned by Brett Baker 2012

Influences upon the composer

My earliest musical training was gained through the Salvation Army. By the time I had learnt to play the trombone at around 14, I was already keenly interested in every aspect of music, including composition. The trombone solos I was raised on where the staples of that time which for me included; Concert Piece: Alexandre Guilmant transcribed by RS-A, Song of Exuberance: Leslie Condon and the Eternal Quest by Ray Steadman-Allen. Through my classical trombone studies I was introduced to the popular works of the time principally; Hommage à Bach by Bozza, the Rimsky-Korsakov Trombone Concerto and a number of works by Jacques Ed Barat.

When I look at Song of Joy now, I can see the influence of Barat in the slow movement with the lush harmonies incorporating parallel sevenths and ninths and unexpected harmonic progressions.

During my music degree I developed a particular appreciation of the music of Stravinsky and Shostakovich and whilst I had not intended that they would influence this composition in any way, I was struck by how much the off-beat basses at letter G and again at I, were reminiscent of Spring Rounds from Rite of Spring and a strong hint of Shostakovich Festival Overture in bars 161-165!


In addition to learning the repertoire, I was privileged to observe at close quarters the performance style of a number of trombone greats. Most notably: Brian Midgley, Leslie Piper and Stephen Pearson.

Stephen was the Principal trombonist of the ISB during my formative years and his performance of Song of Exuberance at Scarborough Methodist Church in the early 1980’s began my love affair with the piece.

Thematic Material

I wanted to mirror the choice of thematic material of Song of Exuberance. ‘He loves me Too’ is a long-since forgotten melody and lyric, more familiar to church goers of a bygone era. It has the same pentatonic and repetitive nature of the ‘Trusting Jesus Now’ which features in the former.


God sees the little sparrow fall,

It meets His tender view;

If God so loves the little birds,

I know He loves me, too.

He loves me, too,

He loves me, too,

I know He loves me, too!

Because He loves the little things,

I know He loves me, too.

He paints the lilies in the field,

Adds perfume to each bell;

If He so loves the little flowers,

I know He loves me well.

God made the little birds and flowers,

And all things big and small;

He’ll not forget His little ones,

I know He loves us all.

Words: Maria Straub Music: S.W. Straub 1874

Form and Structure:

This piece was written as a close relative of Leslie Condon’s Song of Exuberance, a piece recorded and admired by Brett. This informed the choice of chorus, minor key and strongly contrasted middle section. Like Song of Exuberance, unusual rhythmic/harmonic twists are prominent.

1-8 Introduction Cm Low chord clusters or ‘grunts’ and an organic figure in the horns that expands outwards from a unison

9-30 First Subject Cm (Dorian) Triplets against organic motif

30-48 First Subject Cm With baritones in echo – interrupted by the ‘confidence’ chord

49-68 First Theme Proper Bb He Loves me Too

69-84 Bb He Loves me Too – Band tutti

85-98 First Subject Cm Against imitation in the Euphonium

99-105 Transition C Tonic major alternating with dominant minor – a sense of harmonic searching before settling in Dm

106-121 Second Subject Dm Based on 3-note motif from the 1st subject in a developed retrograde

122-129 Second Subject Dm Trombone obligato over the 2nd subject in the Euphonium stressing the intervallic importance of the octave

130-135 Recapitulation Ebm A brief recapitulation of the 2nd subject – tutti

136-122 Cadenza Reprising earlier material – incorporating the multi-phonic chord

138-144 Transition Bb Transition to Third Subject based on melodic fragment ‘Loves me too’


Third Subject Bb Pentatonic melody again emphasising a 3-note motif

159-165 Third Subject Bb In a modified form

166-170 Third Subject Bb In contracted form

171-187 Theme Bb Reharmonised

188-End Coda Bb Third theme

The percussion section has an important role to fulfil in the piece. The rhythmic figure on the bongos in the opening bars is something of a leitmotif.

The melodic use of the Bb Bass in 29-30 is a technique ‘borrowed’ from Song of Exuberance.


The music is largely diatonic but makes use of pentatonic clusters – a common feature of my harmonic style.

Motifs and references

There are three basic melodic subjects each emphasising a three-note motif, all of which are pentatonic and derived from each other.

First subject: 9th – Root – Dominant

Second Subject: (root octave) 9th – Dominant – Root

Third Subject: Dominant – 6th – Root

The ‘confidence’ chord comprising a major third, major third, minor third (bar 43-44, 45-46, 47-48, and 136).

Letter C makes a nodding reference to George Gershwin’s ‘I Got Plenty of Nuttin.’ Itself, a song of boundless optimism.

The melodic figure in bar 119 shows the influence of J. Ed Barat.

The piece was composed over the weekend 7th/8th April 2012.

Categories: Brass Band, Solos
Product Code:BBP2012
£ 25.00