Visions Unbroken (2014)
I. Dawn Within the Skyline
II. Cityscapes to Countrysides
III. Vibrant Spirits
IV. Celestial Chroma
Joseph Perno is a campus safety officer at Moravian who had lost his daughter, Allison, in June of 2012. There were numerous fundraisers taking place in her memory, many towards East Hills Middle School, where she was an avid clarinetist dreaming to be a part of the Freedom High School Marching Band. “Officer Joe”, as we call him, said that he had two composers write pieces in honor of his daughter, and would be honored if I were to write the third. Then everything clicked, and the concerto began to take shape. Visions Unbroken is a musical autobiography of Allison’s life, family, legacy, and memory to all of those who knew her, and a tribute to one who was taken too soon from us. This work is dedicated to the Perno family, in her loving memory.
Dawn Within the Skyline describes the childhood of a young girl, born in New York. This movement begins the overarching idea of certain instruments as “family members” throughout the entire work. The solo clarinet is obviously Allison, the first flute and first oboe represent Allison’s two older brothers, Anthony and Joseph; while the viola and cello represent her parents, Officer Joe and his wife, Catherine.
Cityscapes to Countrysides is a poetic way of stating Allison’s move from the city lights of New York to a more rural
community of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. This movement is a juxtaposition of the big band sounds popular in the city, and the more flowing folk song melodies from the countrysides. The first section of the work is a bright 6/8 to 2/4 shift built upon major 7th chords, as the solo clarinet is the main event, eventually leading to a full blown swing section where the soloist comes alive, utilizing smears, screams, and falls that are highly reminiscent of the jazz style.
Vibrant Spirits is a tarantella in every sense of the word: a fast and frolicking dance in 6/8 time. Allison was always one to inspire wherever she went, and this entire movement utilizes the word “inspire” in the central structure. The opening motive in the cello and bassoon is the basis for all the melodic and rhythmic material throughout the movement, as melodic and rhythmic variations of that motive weave in and out of each other as more instruments layer in. The family aspect once again returns, as the solo clarinet, flute, and oboe break the momentum of the orchestra and take control in a trio section of their own, and the orchestra returns slowly underneath them. This leads to a short, yet contrasting brass chorale, which is inspired completely from the brass chorale in the second movement of Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra.
Celestial Chroma literally means “Heavenly Colors”, which puts the two main inspirations for this movement in a nutshell. One of the main songs played at any of Allison’s memorial services was “Over the Rainbow”. This movement utilizes that song with a new approach. The first section of the movement begins with the first octave from the song in the strings, but they quickly shift to tremolo harmonics on the pitches that make up the melody from “Over the Rainbow”. The solo clarinet enters on a melodic variation, with the higher winds weaving above.
Premiered in November 2014; Devin Diaz, clarinet and the Moravian College Community Orchestra. Read more here