Gillingham, David R.

Item Code:
C. Alan Publications

Abiquiu is a glorious programatic work that challenges performer and listener alike. With the support of a full percussion section, you will travel from the driving rhythms of the city, to the swell of the desert canyon, to the open skies. Hold on for the ride!

Program Notes

Abiquiu was inspired by a provocative poem by the same name written by Mesa State College Professor and Colorado poet, L. Luis Lopez.

Take this city-filled
pour it out,
place it in soil
your high desert vista.
Fill it with canyon,
smell of rain
song of bird.
Tint each
with time of day.
let each settle
into a painting of sand.
so that when I’m away
I can
close my eyes
and gaze upo
and breathe your sacred strands.

The ideas set forth by each short stanza of the poem are set somewhat programmatically to music. At the onset of the piece the music suggests the “city-filled soul” with disjunct themes, driving rhythms and harmonic confusion. Envisioning one’s self amidst the rush hour of a big city and the ensuing mental frustration. The section features “calls for help” in the horns and trumpets using large intervals, mostly of 7ths and octaves. One last “call” culminates the section as the “city-filled soul” is finally poured out in the soil beneath the “desert vista”. The pulse of the city can still be heard with the constant heartbeat of the timpani and remnants of the “call” motive in the horns. The music dramatically swells and segues with the next section beginning with a backdrop of keyboard percussion, piano and a fluttering of flutes. Arising from the texture is a theme in Db major, beginning in the horns, evoking the spaciousness of the canyon and the vastness of the open air and sky as so eloquently written in the second stanza of the poem. The theme grows in volume and texture and eventually the entire ensemble is singing the beauty of this picturesque scene and the music modulates to F major and finally to D major and then subsides. A mysterious ostinato in the piano, bells and vibraphone provides backdrop for short phrases of a chorale melody played by the clarinets as if in the distance signifying how each element settles “into a painting of sand”. Soon, however, the busyness and frustration of the “city-filled soul” begin to infiltrate the section until it all returns with all of the fury heard in the beginning of the piece (“so that when I’m away”). But soon, as if closing one’s eyes to the madness, the beauty of the canyon, sky, mesa, mountain, smell of rain and song of bird burst forth out of the texture and the majesty of the spacious “canyon” theme returns (“I can close my eyes and gaze upon and breathe your sacred strands.”). The music “climbs” to the top of the mountain and ends joyously in Eb major. The texture then thins leaving only the piano, bells and vibraphone and decays into a single Bb on the vibraphone, much like the pure voice of a child. Under this sustained voice, the clarinets quote the opening notes of the “canyon” theme, followed by the distant, “sacred strands” of the chorale in the piano and bells. The sequence repeats and the piece ends quietly with the warm sound of the marimba, bells and vibraphone.

With the generous support of Stephen Boelter and Karen Combs, Abiquiu was commissioned by the Mesa State College Wind Symphony, for the 2009 Best of the West Music Festival. During the compositional process, Calvin Hofer, conductor, was informed that Stephen developed a recurrence of melanoma, which was terminal. This was devastating news to the Best of the West family. Through my correspondence with Calvin, I discovered how important Best of the West was to Stephen. His vision was simple: to help provide a rich musical experience for all involved – performer, audience, or music educator. Stephen’s wife, Karen, continues their visionary work with her financial support of Best of the West. To honor Stephen Boelter, Calvin requested that, if possible, I include a small quote in the piece from Stephen’s Alma Mater, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Two phrases from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Alma Mater (adapted from Beethoven, Op. 81b) can be found in the clarinets in measures 93-101 and in measures 153-159 in the piano and orchestra bells. Stephen played clarinet in the Mesa State Wind Symphony.

- David R. Gillingham

Grade Level: 5
Copyright: 2010
Number of Players: Standard
Duration: 9:00

Listen to Recordings

Sample PDF

  • abiquiu.pdf
  • Watch Video


    Flute 1
    Flute 2
    Oboe 1
    Oboe 2
    Bassoon 1/2
    Bb Clarinet 1
    Bb Clarinet 2
    Bb Clarinet 3
    Bb Bass Clarinet
    Eb Contralto Clarinet
    Eb Alto Saxophone 1
    Eb Alto Saxophone 2
    Bb Tenor Saxophone
    Eb Baritone Saxophone

    Bb Trumpet 1
    Bb Trumpet 2
    Bb Trumpet 3
    F Horn 1
    F Horn 2
    F Horn 3
    F Horn 4
    Trombone 1
    Trombone 2
    Bass Trombone
    T.C. Baritone


    Timpani (4 drums)
    Percussion 1 (bells, xylophone)
    Percussion 2 (5-octave marimba, crotales, xylophone)
    Percussion 3 (slap stick, vibraphone, sus cymbal, chimes)
    Percussion 4 (hi hat, bass drum, tambourine)
    Percussion 5 (brake drum, tam tam)