River of Life

Steven Reineke
Birch Island Music Press, 1995


River of Life (1995) begins in the key of Eb Major with a gentle, flowing solo section with light, sparkling accompaniment in the percussion section.  As momentum builds toward the allegro section, the woodwinds join the brass with furious moving sixteenth note septuplet runs.  As the ensemble arrives at 21, a low brass ostinato sets up a light, quick woodwind melody.  The woodwind’s melodic statement is answered by a trumpet fanfare.

At measure 68 the piece moves into 2/2 time and stretches the melody into a half note, quarter note figure. This more lyrical section features an eventual key change into Bb Major and a solo in the trumpet at measure 82, and a general broadening of rhythm and tempo in this half-time feel.  As the lyrical section ends at measure 133, Reineke sends the ensemble back on a D.S. al Coda to get fulfill the requirements for an ABA composition.

Finally, at measure 64 the band jumps to an allegro coda section and builds toward an energetic conclusion.  This would be an excellent piece with which to open or close a program!

Performance Notes

River of Life (1995) was commissioned by and dedicated to the Talawanda High School Band, Oxford, Ohio, and their director, John Purdy.

Musical Challenges

The biggest obstacle to a successful performance of this piece is likely to be woodwind technical facility.  This is especially true of the sixteenth note sextuplets in measure 7, the driving sixteenth note melody at measure 38, and at the conclusion of the piece.  Though these notes go by quickly, they lay well in the fingers and in the key.  It’s vital to work these sections out slowly and gradually work for speed.

During the Allegro Spirito section, there could be a tendency for low brass to get too excited about their energetic, rhythmic accompanying figure.  Make sure they realize it is an accompaniment.  Have them take pride in the nuances of dynamics when they pull back, making way for melody after they’ve established the style.

In the 2/2 section, lyrical, chorale-style playing is vital.  Long, sustained phrases with the illusion of no breath will allow this section to provide the greatest contrast to the vital and energetic opening theme.

Reineke tends to write busy but accessible percussion parts, and this piece is no exception.  Make sure you have at least 6 percussionists available, three of whom should be pretty strong players (snare, timpani, and one mallet player).

About the Composer

Steven Reineke's boundless enthusiasm and exceptional artistry have made him one of the nation's most sought-after pops conductors, composers and arrangers. In recognition of his successful leadership, The New York Pops have extended his contract as Music Director through the 2015-2016 Season. In addition to the orchestra's annual concert series, Mr. Reineke leads concert tours, recordings and telecasts, including the Macy's 4th of July Fireworks on NBC Television. New York's only permanent and professional symphonic pops orchestra, The New York Pops is the largest independent pops orchestra in the United States.

Mr. Reineke is the newly appointed Principal Pops Conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra and begins his first season in 2011/2012. In addition, he serves as Principal Pops Conductor of the Long Beach and Modesto Symphony Orchestras. Previously, he was Associate Conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, where for fifteen years he served as a composer, arranger, and conducting protégé of the late celebrated pops conductor Erich Kunzel.

As the creator of more than one hundred orchestral arrangements for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Mr. Reineke's work has been performed worldwide, and can be heard on numerous Cincinnati Pops Orchestra recordings on the Telarc label. Mr. Reineke is also an established symphonic composer. His works Celebration Fanfare, Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Casey at the Bat are performed frequently in North America, with recent performances by the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic. In August 2008 his Sun Valley Festival Fanfare debuted with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony to commemorate the opening of the orchestra's new pavilion. In 2005 his Festival Te Deum and Swan's Island Sojourn were performed by the Cincinnati Symphony and Cincinnati Pops respectively. The Cincinnati Enquirer had this to say about Festival Te Deum: "Melodious and joyous, it had antiphonal brass in the balconies, organ, full orchestra and wonderful choral passages." His numerous wind ensemble compositions are published by the C.L. Barnhouse Company and are performed by concert bands around the world.

A native of Ohio, Mr. Reineke is a graduate of Miami University of Ohio, where he earned bachelor of music degrees with honors in both trumpet performance and music composition. He currently resides in New York City.