Falcon Attack

David R. Holsinger
Wingert-Jones Music, 2003


Falcon Attack (2003) begins with a martial trumpet fanfare in alternating 2/4 and 3/4 time.  The other instruments join in as the introduction builds to the first statement of the “falcon theme” by the trumpet and euphonium in measure 30.  Throughout the piece Holsinger inserts 3/4 and 2/4 measures periodically to keep from having too strict a sense of meter. While there is no key signature, most of the piece remains in a highly chromatic version of Eb Major.  From measure 49 until measure 79 we are introduced to a second theme in a canon between low brass in one group and flute and trumpet in another, the second theme is not as “jaunty” as the first, and is characterized by an accented quarter note triplets in the melody and a light quarter/eighth triplet in the accompaniment. The “falcon theme” returns briefly at 79 only to leave again and be replace by a highly chromatic “crash” sequence leading to the final triumphant return of the “falcon theme at 107.  Measure 138 begins a brief coda section to wrap things up!

Performance Notes

Falcon Attack (2003) was commissioned for the Northwest Middle School Band in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and their directors, Rick Sigler and Ron Amos.

What better way to celebrate the spirit of the Northwest Middle School Falcon Band than a spirited composition about their mascot?  After a crescendoing fanfare, we are confronted by the militant “falcon theme” imitating the gliding, soaring, zig zagging flight of the bird of prey patrolling the wild.  The target is sighted and the frenzy of the pursuit builds until the swooping moment of capture.  Celebrating its victory, our falcon leaps to the air once more to continue its high-flying aerobatics far above the fields and forests below.

Musical Challenges

While the meter changes regularly, the quarter note value remains constant (QN=~160).  This fact is important as Holsinger is very willing to mix triplets, sixteenths, and dotted rhythms all into the same melodic line.  This piece will require your ensemble to have a strong beat sense and confidence in their counting ability.  Similar to the meter, the lack of a key signature is more than just a suggestion that the piece will move through several tonalities before we reach the conclusion.  This is a great opportunity to remind the band of the rules of accidentals, as all flats or sharps in the piece appear as accidentals in the measure.  Fortunately there are no issues of extreme range, as students will be more than busy with the many and varied articulation markings, the mixed meter throughout the piece, and the flexible tonality.  Falcon Attack requires a minimum of 9 percussionists to cover all parts, and these students will be kept on their toes counting their rhythms and working with less familiar percussion implements than many other pieces would require.  Once students understand the light-hearted tongue-in-cheek nature of the piece, balance should not be an issue.

Ultimately, this piece requires an ensemble of independent players who aren’t afraid of counting or accidentals.  A sense of humor, while not required, will certainly help the performers enjoy preparing this fun piece for a festival or concert performance!

About the Composer

In 1999, award winning composer and conductor David R. Holsinger joined the faculty of Lee University, Cleveland, Tennessee. He is the inaugural conductor of the Lee Wind Ensemble and teaches composition, orchestration, and conducting. He holds degrees from Central Methodist University, University of Central Missouri, and the University of Kansas.

Dr. Holsinger's compositions have won four national competitions, including a two time ABA Ostwald Award. His works have also been finalists in the NBA and Sudler composition competitions. In the summer of 1998, Holsinger was featured as the HERITAGE VI composer during the Texas Bandmasters Association convention in San Antonio. This prestigious series celebrating American wind composers was founded in 1992 and had previously honored Morton Gould, Ron Nelson, Robert Jager, W. Francis McBeth, and Roger Nixon. An elected member of the American Bandmasters Association, Holsinger's recent honors include the Distinguished Music Alumni Award from Central Missouri State University, CIDA'S 1999 Director of the Year Citation, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia's Orpheus Award, the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from Central Methodist College, and the 2003 Excellence in Scholarship Citation from Lee University. Surrounding the premiere of the composer's Easter Symphony, Holsinger was honored by Gustavus Adolphus College with the awarding of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for lifetime achievement in composition and presented the Gustavus Fine Arts Medallion, the division's highest award.

In the past twelve years, Holsinger has served as Visiting Distinguished Composer in Residence at eleven American colleges or universities.  In addition to his university duties, Holsinger spends much of his energies as a guest composer and conductor with All State organizations, professional bands, and university ensembles throughout the United States. When not composing or conducting, he models HO scale trains.