Gently Touch the Sky

By Robert Sheldon

About the Composer

Robert Sheldon has experience teaching music in public schools in Illinois and Florida, as a professor at Florida State University, and as the Concert Band Editor for Alfred Music Publishing. He is author of the Sound Innovations for Band method book and over 200 compositions.

About the Music

As the piece is described on the cover of the conductor’s score,

Gently Touch the Sky is a gentle, expressive piece for young band, and an excellent change-of-pace addition to any concert program. Score to maximize color changes and harmonic interest, the work’s melodic line is a bit arpeggiated and lends itself nicely to the teaching of expressive playing.

Analysis, Interpretation, and Performance Considerations

Gently Touch the Sky opens with a quiet clarinet melody accompanied by the rest of the woodwinds. The melody follows a pattern of two-bar motives that each rise and fall, creating an effect of floating on a calm breeze. Ritardandi and rallintandi stretch out transition moments each time the melody reaches its final resolution, which is mimicked by the flutes and trumpets like a bird call.

The second statement of the melody builds to a forte before unraveling with descending woodwind lines that feel like a leaf floating gently and indirectly from a tree branch to the ground. A big swell in the upper woodwinds temporarily lifts it, then soft bell tones bring the rest of the band in. A big gust brings the band to a climax and a new tonality. The apex of the flight is only seven measures from the end, where the wind finally gives way to gravity, and the listener is slowly brought down to the ground, settling into the soft grass on the final chord. (See Landmark Overture in the related works section below for another example of musical phrases that rise and fall as if soaring on the wind.)

Gently Touch the Sky has a pretty melody that is deceptively easy to play, but the real magic is the programmatic imagery created by the phrasing and dynamics. Settling for playing what is printed in ink on the page does not do this piece justice. The performers must use adequate breath control and shape each phrase with microdynamics. If these things are done right, Gently Touch the Sky is sure to lift the audience right out of their seats.

Related Works

  • As Twilight Falls by Robert Sheldon
  • Beyond the Higher Skies by Robert Sheldon
  • In the Shining of the Stars by Robert Sheldon
  • Kitty Hawk, 1903 (The Dream of Flight) by William Owens
  • Landmark Overture by Jim Andy Caudill
  • Sheltering Sky by John Mackey

Repertoire Lists


  • Southwestern H.S. Band – April 15, 2016 (ISSMA Festival, Senior Division, Group IV)

Literary Connections

  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough