Close to the Sun

Wind Orchestra

“You know, I’ve never understood the idea of “perfect”. But then I also don’t know what “normal” means either. At least with “perfect” you can understand that it is reaching for something – although, in truth, it should never, and will never, be attainable: it doesn’t exist. It’s the wrong word. It’s the wrong meaning.

But if I can at least understand the idea of trying to reach “perfection”, “normal” is the most redundant word I can think of. Very few people truly want to be “normal” – no one strives for normal. And even if they do, do they really have a notion that the concept of “normal”, which just like “perfection” – at least to my mind – doesn’t exist?

We are all different. We are all unique. Maybe the only thing that is truly unifying about any of us is that we are all broken – we aren’t “normal”, and we will never, ever, be “perfect”.

No one personified this in my lifetime more than Freddie Mercury. I remember him dying and remember crying almost uncontrollably at his death – I was young, not even a teenager, but looking back I honestly don’t know if my tears were because a hero had died, or that I understood the tragedy of how someone so brilliant, yet so flawed, could leave us here on earth.

Nothing articulates the way I felt better than the last song the three remaining members of Queen recorded: “No One But You (Only the Good Die Young)”. A tribute to Freddie, and “all those who die too soon”, the line “They’re only flyin’ too close to the sun” (presumably a reference to Icarus, who in Greek mythology had wings made of wax, and perished after flying too close to the sun, despite warnings not to from his father) provides the title of this work.

Opening with a “perfect” 5th, Close to the Sun is orchestrated in such a way that we will never hear a true, perfect, 5th. The two chords in the winds – simple and beautiful – soon develop, and become something different, something changed. Those chords, and their development, never lose their origins, but do alter – do become something different. Not normal, not perfect, but existing in their own beautiful way.

Close to the Sun was commissioned by a consortium of schools, universities, organizations, and conductors, led by Robert Ambrose and Georgia State University, and is dedicated “from RJA and PM to Ellie – in memory of Dylan”

PM – November 2018

Georgia State University (Robert Ambrose), University of Alberta (Angela Schroeder), University of Manitoba
(Jacquie Dawson), Bishop Lloyd Middle School (Anya Pogorelova), Esther Starkman School (Jeff Bryant), Vincent
Massey Collegiate (Matt Abraham), Kevin Willms, Westwinds Music Society (Kevin Willms), Music Mentors
International (Kevin Willms)