This piece originally came to being as an arrangement for unaccompanied SATBB choir. It would never have been converted for concert band if it were not for Eric Whitacre and his piece Lux Aurumque, which made a similar transition.
This piece begins with the low brass beginning the hymn tune, and we gather additional instruments until all are playing through the first half of the hymn tune. In the second half, we get more contemplative, and at one point the woodwind choir is playing a very simply echoed phrase. The full and comes back in and build with strong emphasis, which leads to a very contemplative coda.
When they first see the music, your players are apt to think there is not much to it, but it will be found to be quite challenging to get the ensemble correct and fully in tune at all times. Ultimately, it will be a very effective concert number.
For a believer the inescapable answer to the question, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" is emphatically yes. Each of us was not only there, but we participated in placing Jesus on the cross with our sin, and we died with him by joining with him in death to sin (Romans 3:21-26 and Romans 6:3-7).
Here via YouTube are two different renditions of the choral version of this piece performed by Ensemble Vocale "Secolo XXI" Directed by M° Eduardo Franco Rondina. Their version is very expressive and is an example of how moving this piece can be, and possible inspiration for interpretation.
WERE YOU THERE? arranged for symphonic winds by Tom Kirkland, comes in a PDF file of 271K containing a six page score, seventeen one page parts, plus a license page, twenty-four pages in all. Performance time will be about 3:30.
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Last update: 28 February 2019