New Music Friday: The Ring of Brodgar

The Ring of Brodgar, located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland, is an enormous stone circle dating back to the 3rd millennium BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the great pyramids of Egypt. In addition to being an astronomical observatory, the Ring’s 60 stones served as a sacred, magical and mysterious ceremonial site.

The majesty of The Ring of Brodgar is heard in the main theme’s opening statements and its musical evolution from a moderate 4/4 to a moving 6/8. A short reverent choral signifies the wonderment and power standing in and among the stones, which moves to an ominous development, building in harmonic and rhythmic intensity until the music returns to the main theme and a dramatic conclusion.

The string orchestra encounters varied meters, orchestral bowings, dynamics and many performance techniques which are all very accessible in this epic, cinematic-style orchestration. The optional percussion part is performed by one percussionist alternating on wind chime, snare drum, bass drum, triangle and suspended cymbal adding color and rhythmic drive to the ensemble.

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About Mark Barnard

As a music educator, Mark Barnard has directed school and youth orchestras throughout the country, served as an educational guest conductor, clinician and presenter at state conventions and the American String Teachers National Conference. As a composer, arranger, and music editor, Mark Barnard has created numerous instrumental, choral and keyboard publications. His compositions and arrangements for educational orchestras have been featured and performed at the Midwest Clinic, Interlochen Center for the Arts and many conventions and festivals worldwide. A graduate of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and the New England Conservatory, Mark studied under artistic directors Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Lewis and Michael Tilson Thomas in the orchestra at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute and was a member of the artistic and administrative team with Michael Tilson Thomas that launched the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy.

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