Musical Composition Contest

Nathan’s Midnight Concerto

$5,000 Award Winner

Alison Willis

United Kingdom

Nathan’s Midnight Concerto

(excerpts from pp. 118-119 of Forever Gentleman)

He sat down at his piano, savoring the wonder of creating music with his fingers—something he had never expected to do again.  He flexed his fingers above the keyboard, stretching them as he readied to begin playing.  Without any particular composition in mind, he began improvising a melody of triumph and liberation in the key of D Major.  He imagined the sound of a trumpet heralding a great victory to a kingdom from afar, soldiers singing joyously as they returned home bloodied and wounded, having delivered their people from a great enemy and great oppression.  As he replayed the theme a second time, he envisioned violins repeating the triumph an octave above, accompanied by woodwind arpeggios—the news of the great victory carried throughout the country, far and wide.  He then switched to the minor harmonic and softly told the story, in music, of the dread and pessimism that had fallen over the land when the enemies had first surrounded the kingdom.  In the bass register, he quietly portrayed the darkest hour when death and enslavement appeared a certainty.  As the people united, the melody gradually progressed into the treble clef.

Then as the conflict began, the tempo increased mimicking the battle that ensued.  Mixed within the main theme was another melody in counterpoint, telling the tragic story of fallen heroes, sacrificing their lives for the people they loved.  The tempo increased to a fury, as the battle raged.  In the minor key, he recreated the desperation and hopelessness of the struggle, until very briefly, it changed back into the harmonic major.  A ray of hope sprung on the battlefield—a soft theme barely developed in the upper register.  But the minor key continued to dominant, evoking despair and heartbreak.  A small victory broke through in a major key serenade an octave lower than the first strain of the hopeful theme, this time developed longer than before.  Back and forth the two harmonic keys fought, until the major key became dominant, the minor key fading and finally defeated.  Then, the theme from the opening measures played as the enemies retreated.   Nathan ended his composition as he had started it, but much louder, with many trumpets heralding a great victory and the people cheering.

He heard the chime of the second morning hour sound seconds after he had concluded his composition.

My Midnight Concerto, Nathan thought to himself with a smile.  I shall never forget it.  Someday when I open my soul and reveal everything, I shall play it for the woman I love.

Alison Willis

United Kingdom

Alison is an award winning composer whose music is gaining an international reputation. She has a particular interest in re-imagining historical sources, issues-based work and collaborative working. Her music has been described as “intensely moving” and “beautiful yet pragmatic.”

Alison studied composition with Alan Bullard and George Benjamin before having an extended break from composition to bring up her three young children. Since 2010 she has been fortunate to have works performed by, among others, London Concert Choir, Selwyn College Choir (Cambridge), The Cantus Ensemble (London), and Bristol Cathedral Choir.

Among her instrumental works are “JOURNEYS”, a piece reflecting the ongoing Refugee Crisis written in collaboration with Chiltern Youth Chamber Orchestra, “Paschalia” for organ and “When Home Won’t Let You Stay” for left hand piano, premiered by Nicholas McCarthy at The Royal Albert Hall.

Future projects include “Pax Vobis” for Hampshire County Youth Choir commemorating the end of WWI, due for performance at Winchester Cathedral in June 2018, and “A Gift to Sing”, due for premiere in LA in May 2018.


[Author’s Note: Alison’s composition was submitted both as a piano solo and with the accompaniment of an orchestra. The orchestral version will be used as the closing music for the e-version.]

Nathan’s Midnight Concerto with Orchestra

by Alison Willis