Watchman, Tell Us of the Night
for 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones
Lowell Mason's hymn tune "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night" first captured my interest years ago through its striking use in the first movement of the Fourth Symphony of Charles Ives. In a simple, yet evocative setting, Ives has a chorus sing the words:
“Watchman tell us of the night, what the signs of promise are:
Traveller, o'er yon mountains height, see that Glory-beaming
star! Watchman, ought of joy or hope. Traveller, yes; it brings
the day, Promised day of Israel. Dost thou see its beauteous
This hymn tune forms the primary melodic and harmonic material of the work, which uses differing combinations of the ten brass instruments in a highly rhythmic manner. The work begins with the two trumpets in the distance (one on each side); after their opening phrase they take their places on-stage with the ensemble. Completed in 1992, Watchman was first performed by the brass of the West Shore Symphony.