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Work

Long Walk to Freedom : brass band

by Fred Hill (2017)

Long Walk to Freedom

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Work Overview

Long Walk to Freedom is inspired by the autobiography of the same name by Nelson Mandela. The successive episodes outline his early life in rural South Africa, his arrival in Johannesburg and its night life, his awakening of social and political consciousness, his arrest and trial, imprisonment on Robben Island and brutal labour, his separation from his wife and family, his vision of a just, peaceful and equal nation, his eventual release, and his election as the president of post-apartheid South Africa. The work features polyrhythmic passages with a large and diverse percussion section, overlaid with call and response in the brasses, meditative passages, and a multilayered coda. Beginning with a shattering full 13th chord, the whole is unified by frequent reference to the stirring hymn "Nkosi Sekelele Afrika" by Enoch Sontonga (1873-1905) first introduced in full by baritones and basses, which has become the anthem of much of Sub-Saharan Africa. No specific instrument depicts Mandela himself, but there are frequent short solo passages for most of the leads.

Work Details

Year: 2017

Instrumentation: Eb solo cornet, 8 solo cornets in Bb, 4 2nd cornets, 3rd cornets, rep.cornet, flugelhorn in Bb, solo horn in Eb, 1st & 2nd horns in Eb, 2 baritones in Bb, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, 2 euphoniums in Bb, 2 EEb basses, 2 BBb basses, timpani, percussion (3 players) [drum kit, triangle, tambourine, bass drum, hand cymbals, bongoes, conga, cowbell, marimba]. 

Duration: 15 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Championship standard (frequent changes of meter, key, mood & idiom). Level A or high B.

Commission note: Written for Eddie Claxton, South West Brass Band

The composer notes:
The idea for this work came in Dec. 2013, the week of Mandela's death. The initial portion composed was a polyphonic jazz item "Shaking the Tree" featured at the 2013 Jazz Convention in Goulburn NSW. At the time I was somewhat put off by the right-wing, miltaristic bent of much of the band literature; however I was attracted by the sonorities produced by masters of the medium such as Gilbert Vinter, Elgar Howarth and Peter Graham, and thought to exploit it in celebration of the life of the great Mandela. Back in the '60s in London I had known many expatriate South African nusicians and artists, black, white and Coloured, and familiarised myself with the work of the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly Dollar Brand) and the late, great trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

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