Children at Play

Grade 4+   |  Duration 5:30

Our family had been watching home videos lately of the time our second daughter was born, when her older sister had just turned five. One thing I noticed was that my children repeatedly brought out the child in me as I played with them, as they did for my wife, as well. It was a lot of fun to watch these videos, and the playfulness began to permeate my thinking as I was working out materials and improvising with the piece for North Hills High School in mind. Consequently, this composition became a musical expression of the joy of childhood and the longing adults often have for those carefree times.

I've called the work "Children at Play." It starts with the solo trombone (my instrument!) laying out a slow statement of a segment of the first main theme, but it turns into that look you get from a child just before they launch into a wild exploration of their freedom. Lots of energetic music ensues, a bit unpredictable, sometimes stumbling, before it finally just crashes.

Next is music for that moment when a child's life slows down for a few precious moments, and they either become sleepy or the absolute awesomeness of their world suddenly stuns them into a quiet reverie.

A renewed vigor follows, with many children charging forward at odds with each other. This can't go on, and a strong, climactic statement of the beginning of the quiet middle section grounds the piece. It all ends with music that's a bit wistful. We're all children at heart, and the work ends with a sense of longing for the innocent oblivion of youth.

In my wildest dreams about this piece, I imagine performances that would pull in fine arts colleagues as collaborators. Dancers, photographers, and visual artists responding to the theme of children at play and having their work shown when the music comes alive. The conductor should feel free to explore other options for the moment at measure 47.

Children at Play was commissioned by the North Hills High School Bands for the 53rd year of their esteemed annual commission series. Len Lavelle and Chris Ballentine are the current directors.

Audio performance by North Hills High School Wind Ensemble 

See the full score below. Suggested use:

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