Landmark Overture

By Jim Andy Caudill

This is a piece that is not very popular and not featured on many festival repertoire lists, but is definitely worthy of performance at concerts or festivals for school bands and community bands.

About the Composer

Jim Andy Caudill was born in Ashland, Kentucky in 1932, started playing trumpet at age 5, and was touring the country as a solist by age 18. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Morehead State University and Master of Arts from Marshall University and went on to teach at the primary and collegeate levels.

About the Music

Landmark Overture seems to take the audience in flight over the country, sweeping past one notable landmark after another. Its opening allegro breezes through melodies at a fast pace, jumping from one section of the band to another every few seconds. The andantino section in the middle is much slower, but continues to have a feel of soaring, perhaps over the majestic monuments of the North American plain states. Finally the closing allegro has flavors of the opening movement, but in a different meter with much syncopation, giving it a feel of the American Wild West. Finally Landmark’s broad ending sums up the power that natural or man-made landmarks can have as they tower over their visitors.

Analysis, Interpretation, and Performance Considerations

The opening of the piece should be conducted in one with the dotted half-note at 96-120 BPM. In my opinion, the faster the better. Caudill writes clear distinctions between various articulations, which are all very important to the style of the piece. By measure 27, the musicians have already seen marcato accents, staccato markings, regular accents, slurs, and tenuto markings. The accompaniment parts are often very different from the melodies and must consider balance, articulation, and phrasing to play their roles.

The andantino section must have dynamic direction, especially in the accompaniment parts. It should feel like a glider plane floating on the wind (see Gently Touch the Sky in my list of related works below, in which Robert Sheldon writes a similar effect). Dynamics and tempo can be used to build to the fermata at measure 116. The performers should be attentive to the tuning and balance of that chord, and the conductor should utilize the caesura to let it ring in the performance hall before going on.

The closing allegro has flares of the music from the opening allegro, but in 2/4 time and with much syncopation. The staccatos and accents in the accompaniments should give it the feel of an old western film score. The first trumpet melody has wide intervals that will require good ears and comfort switching between partials. The upper woodwinds have to switch between quarter note triplets and straight eighth notes in their slurred melody. The trombones, baritones, and tenor sax have a very rhythmically challenging melody at measure 168. I conduct the accents in section (3 conducted beats for every 4 written beats like 8/8 mixed meter). There is a huge dynamic and stylistic contrast going into 176 and then again into 192 as we continue the feeling of soaring up and down on the wind.

Finally, the performers much be prepared to watch the conductor from 208 to the end for a much slower tempo. This is where Caudill sums up the majesty of the landmark with a broad, powerful ending. If you are short on percussionists and have to go without a timpanist, try to tune a concert tom to a C and have the snare drummer cover the timpani solo in measures 216-217. A bright, loud cymbal crash at 218 is essential to supporting the band’s big finish. The tenor sax, trombone, and baritone must watch carefully and avoid rushing on the closing statement in measures 219-220.

Recordings

  • United States Air Force Band, Lt. Col. Lowell E. Graham, conductor

Related Band Works

  • Court of the Patriarchs by John O’Reilly
  • Gently Touch the Sky by Robert Sheldon
  • Folklore for Band by Jim Andy Caudill
  • Odyssey for Band by Jim Andy Caudill
  • Portrait of the Land by J. Mark Quinn

Repertoire Lists

Performances

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

Literary Connections

  • America the Ingenious: How a Nation of Dreamers, Immigrants, and Tinkerers Changed the World by Kevin Baker
  • The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough
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