Dramatic Essay (1958)

For Trumpet and Band (Wind Ensemble)

By Clifton Williams

Biographical Info

James Clifton Williams Jr. (1923– 12 February 1976) was born in Traskwood, Arkansas. He began playing French horn, piano, and mellophone early on and played in the band at Little Rock High School. In his senior class of 600, he was voted for being the most outstanding in artistry, talent, and versatility.

As a professional horn player he would go on to perform with the San Antonio and New Orleans Symphony Orchestras. Williams also served in the Army Air Corps band as a drum major, composing in his spare time.

He attended Louisiana State University (B.M., 1947) where he was a pupil of Helen Gunderson and the Eastman School of Music (M.M., 1949) where he studied with Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson.

In 1949 Williams joined the composition department at the University of Texas School of Music. He taught there until he was appointed Chair of the Theory and Composition Department at University of Miami in 1966. Williams retained this position until his death in 1976. His composition students included W. Francis McBeth, Lawrence Weiner and John Barnes Chance.

Suggested Equipment

Bb trumpet is suggested by the composer.
For the recording included here, I used an Eclipse C trumpet.  However, I have performed it a couple times since the recording and used my Bach Artisan Eb trumpet.

This is the recording I made with the Rountree Wind Ensemble for the album “The Music of Clifton Williams” on Mark Records.


Practice/Performance Tips

The piece works fine on Bb, C and Eb trumpets.  The most difficult part of the work is deciding which horn to use!  I like the opening fanfare on C.  I like the lyrical first melody on Bb, and I like the double tonging stuff on Eb.  Depending on where this falls in your program, endurance may be an issue toward the end.  In that case, I would favor the smaller horn.

There is a lot of room for rubato throughout the lyrical sections.  I think it can get a little overdone and sound sappy if not careful.  I prefer to have the band basically play “straight” and let me do the rubato around them, rather than have the whole group work out the subtle nuance that could quickly turn to honey if too much is applied.

Suggested Recordings

Mike Vax, Don Jacoby, David Cooper