#203– June 12, 2023
Amen! by American composer and arranger Carlos Simon is our Composition of the Week.
Amen! was commissioned by the University of Michigan Symphony Band to celebrate the university’s bicentennial, with support from the H. Robert Reynolds Commissioning Fund.
The premiere performance took place at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) on November 21, 2017, the University’s Symphonic Band under Michael Haithcock.
“Amen! is a homage to my family’s four-generational affiliation with the Pentecostal church. My intent is to re-create the musical experience of an African American Pentecostal church service that I enjoyed being a part of while growing up in this denomination. Pentecostal denominations, such as Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.IC.), Pentecostal Assemblies of God, Apostolic, Holiness Church, among many others, are known for their exuberant outward expressions of worship. The worship services in these churches will often have joyous dancing, spontaneous shouting, and soulful singing. The music in these worship services is a vital vehicle in fostering a genuine spiritual experience for the congregation.
The three movements in AMEN! are performed without break to depict how the different parts of a worship service flows into the next. In the first movement, I’ve imagined the sound of an exuberant choir and congregation singing harmoniously together in a call-and-response fashion. The soulful second movement quotes a gospel song, I’ll Take Jesus for Mine, that I frequently heard in many services. The title, AMEN!, refers to the plagal cadence or “Amen” cadence (IV-I), which is the focal point of the climax in the final movement. Along with heavily syncopated rhythms and interjecting contrapuntal lines, this cadence modulates up by half step until we reach a frenzied state, emulating a spiritually heighten state of worship. (Program Note by Carlos Simon)
Amen! was revised in 2019 and arranged for symphony orchestra. It is scored for large symphonic band including String Bass (two are preferred), piano, and 5 percussion parts.
It has a duration of about 12 minutes.
The music is on rental at Bill Holab Music.
Carlos Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. Simon has also gained degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College. Additionally, he studied in Baden, Austria, at the Hollywood Music Workshop with Conrad Pope and at New York University’s Film Scoring Summer Workshop.
His most recent accolades include the Underwood Emerging Composer Commission from the American Composers Orchestra, the winner of the prestigious Marvin Hamlisch Film Scoring Award in 2015 and the Presser Award from the Theodore Presser Foundation. In the same year, he served as the young composer-in-residence with the Detroit Chamber String and Winds for the 2015-2016 season. He now serves on the music faculty at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.
Serving as music director and keyboardist for GRAMMY Award winner Jennifer Holliday, Simon has performed with the Boston Pops Symphony, Jackson Symphony, and the St. Louis Symphony. Mr. Simon has toured internationally with soul Grammy nominated artist Angie Stone, where he performed throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Carlos Simon is a member of many music organizations including ASCAP, where he was honored as “Composers to Watch” in 2015. He is also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Music Sinfonia Fraternity (honorary member), National Association of Negro Musicians, Society of Composers International, and Pi Kappa Lambda Music Honor Society. His compositions have been published by the Gregorian Institute of America (GIA) Publications and Hal Leonard Publications.
More on Carlos Simon
Other works for winds include:
- Fanfare for the Soldier (2002)
- Life Motions (2010)
- White only, colored only (2016)
- Sweet Chariot (2019)
- Reflections (2021)
- Let my people go (2023)