Ron Mallory - Composer, Church Musician, Music Educator
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STORY BEHIND "PANORAMA" by Ron Mallory

Brian Tervo and his community handbell group, Emerald City Ringers, were organizing the Pacific Northwest Youth Handbell Festival for March of 2015, and in late 2013 they asked me if I would be the clinician, a role I gladly accepted. They also commissioned me to write a piece for the festival. I was requested to write something no more than four minutes long which would have a 3-5 octave version and a slightly easier 2-3 octave version, and which could also work as a double choir piece—but beyond that, they left the specifics open to my creative tastes.

I knew I wanted to tie the piece in to something associated with the Pacific Northwest; at one point I was even playing around with the idea of a piece representing rain. On January 25, 2014, I drove down to Crystal Mountain Ski Resort, about an hour south of where I live, for a day of skiing. It was a beautiful day, and as I drove, Mount Rainier stood prominently in front of me against a backdrop of clear blue sky. It suddenly came to me that this was what the piece should be about: the amazing scenery we have here in western Washington.

As I was skiing, the musical ideas started coming very rapidly. I first came up with the rhythmic part at the opening, representing the energy of skiing, with the rising and falling musical pattern symbolizing my trips up the chair lift and back down the mountain. The treble melody that comes in at measure 9 is just a little tune I found myself humming as the day went along. At one point during the day I went to the top of the Rainier Express chair lift, and found before me the amazing sight of Mount Rainier and a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding Cascade mountain range. (I'd been up to the top of that lift many times before, but never on a day so clear.) I came up with the lyrical melody at measure 41 as I was enjoying this incredible view. To mind also came one of my favorite works by the composer Aaron Copland, the "Fanfare for the Common Man"; I subtly "quoted" a few notes from this piece in the section that starts at measure 75. With all these ideas in my mind, I skied quickly down to the lodge (represented by the descending scales in measure 116), pulled out a piece of manuscript paper I often carry folded up in my pocket for just such moments, and sketched out almost the entire piece in about half an hour. Very rarely does a piece of music come together so quickly!

As I was driving home that day, I saw Mount Rainier in my rearview mirror, so towards the end of the piece (measure 140) you hear a little bit of the melody from measure 41 played in retrograde (since everything you see in a mirror is, after all, backwards!). And of course, after enjoying the amazing view that day, it was easy to come up with a title.

Parts of this piece use what's sometimes called a "lydian dominant scale," a major scale with the fourth raised and the seventh lowered (in this case, a C Major scale but with an F# and a Bb replacing the usual F and B). I've always liked the sound of this scale, and have used it in a number of my compositions. Also worked into the piece are a couple of short melodies that students had come up with during a composition class I had taught at the 2013 PNW Youth Festival; a few of those students also attended the 2015 festival, and got a kick out of finding their particular melodies hidden in the texture of the piece.

"Panorama" is published by SoundForth Music.
3-5 Octave Version: #SF201814; 2-3 Octave Version: #SF201815; Full Score and Percussion Parts: #SF201816

 
Copyright 2016 Ron Mallory