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Iron Horse 

 for brass quintet (2019)

I. The Blue Goose

II. Highball on White Pass

from Customised
Gewandhaus Brass Quintet

Iron Horse n. (1840) : a steam locomotive  

I. The Blue Goose


    In my hometown, Yreka, CA, there used to be a beautiful steam engine called the Blue Goose that took visitors on a slow excursion through Shasta Valley.  Picture a vast valley of rolling hills surrounded by snowcapped mountains (not too unlike the Rohan realm from the Lord of the Rings).  During many summers of my childhood my father and a friend of his used to go down to the depot with their guitars and entertain Blue Goose passengers with old-timey songs.  I’d often tag along and watch as the train pulled out of the station. To this day there are few things that will set my imagination off as much as train tracks disappearing around a bend.  

    The Blue Goose was my starting point for this pastoral first movement. It opens with the listener (or passenger, rather) being slowly awoken by the morning light and the faint sound of a train chugging along.  A glance out the window reveals the beautiful valley and the rest of the movement  attempts to accompany the ride.  While the music I’ve written would seem overly dramatic as a soundtrack to the actual Blue Goose excursion (it was a slow train), it is very much in the spirit of my memory of those times and my feelings toward that place. 


II. Highball on White Pass


     By contrast, this movement is a dark, balls-to-the-wall thrill ride.  White Pass is an Alaskan train route that is noted for it’s epic scenery, cliff-hanging turns and steep grades.  This movement opens mysteriously on a dark and snowy night as a beast of an engine, shrouded in steam, awaits the highball (train lingo for “all clear to go”).  The ball is raised and the massive iron horse blows a whistle and pulls out - excruciatingly slow at first but gradually gathering speed.  Before long it’s blazing ahead at a dangerously fast clip along epic ravines, over chasms, around crazy turns…you get the picture! 


Special thanks to the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig for commissioning the work for the Gewandhaus Brass Quintett!


Duration: 12'

"...a fantastic piece and the audience reaction has been awesome!" 

• Lukas Beno 

Principal Trumpet – Gewandhaus Orchestra

Gewandhaus Brass Quintett

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