When Jackson County opens its new library, it will be with a little more than just the usual fanfare. Thanks to the efforts of the Smoky Mountain Brass Quintet, the occasion will also be marked by a performance of “Smoky Moutain Fanfare,” a new piece of music commissioned especially for the library’s christening.
The score was penned by composer and teacher David Sampson, a friend of the quartet and a sought-after composer from New Jersey.
Quintet member David Ginn said inspiration for the concept struck him as he was driving by the new facility in mid-construction; he realized that such a monumental and unique project needed something equally unique to commemorate its birth.
“A project this special, it’s got to have it’s own fanfare,” Ginn recounted, and shortly thereafter, he took the idea to his four fellow members.
Trumpeter Brad Ulrich was scheduled to have dinner with Sampson around the same time, and after a mention of the idea and a little more discussion, the seed of an idea began to spring to life. The rest, said Sampson, is history.
Of his composition, he said he hit the books — and the Internet — for some Appalachian research before diving into the piece. He wanted, he said, for it to have the same unique mountain flavor that makes the Smoky Mountains so appealing and steeped in history and tradition.
Sampson listened to bluegrass, gospel hymns and the shape-note singing that found its genesis in the heart of Western North Carolina. He tried to translate that down-home, celebratory flavor into notes that brass instruments could understand.
“There is certainly a hint of North Carolina,” said Sampson. “Anytime you expand a place that’s designed for learning, it’s a time to celebrate.”
Although he relied on his research to guide him when crafting the tune, Sampson said the process itself was an exercise in spontaneity — once he started banging out the melody, the rest of the piece seemed to tumble out after it.
While he put his heart and soul into the music as its creator, Sampson said he left room — as he always does — for the performers to impose their own take on what he’s come up with.
For this particular fanfare, Sampson said he has such confidence in the talents of the players that he’s sure they can’t help but make it better.
“I know these musicians are very high level,” said Sampson. “When you’re dealing with a group that has a lot of experience, if they bring that to my music it’s going to make my music even richer.”
And he’s not remiss in his judgment of the quintet. All five members are seasoned performance musicians with university-level musical training; many members still actively teach the craft at nearby Western Carolina University.
They’ve traveled extensively, performing not only around the region but around the globe, in locales as diverse as Russia, the United Kingdom and China.
And while Ginn said they haven’t put the finishing touches on their performance of the fanfare just yet, they’re very excited about the one-of-a-kind opportunity to play such a piece. In fact, said Ginn, the June opening of the library may be the song’s first and only chance to come off the page, so they want to get it just right.
“It’s almost like a limited edition,” said Ginn. “I don’t know that this is something that will be performed again in the future.”
The library, Ginn said, is such a special project, built by the hard efforts of countless volunteers, that the quintet is excited to play its part in the excitement of finally seeing it come to fruition.
“There’s a lot of people that have volunteered and dedicated their time to making the library happen, so this piece is kind of dedicated to them also,” said Ginn.
Sampson, whose full resume includes commissions from such impressive outfits as the National Symphony Orchestra and the International Trumpet Guild, along with a plethora of grants and endowments, said he’ll be there for his piece’s inaugural performance when the library opens to – and with – great fanfare in June.
A way to support Jackson’s library
Watercolor drawings of the historic Jackson County Courthouse, painted by local artist Eva Scruggs using walnut stain, are now on sale as note cards. The depiction is modeled after a 1914 photo of the structure. Boxes are available at Used Book Store in Sylva, with proceeds going toward the new library complex attached to the historic building.