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  • Writer's pictureBret Newton

Symphony 3 "Chisos Dawn"

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

In February of 2018, I set out to write a "little" symphony. After coming off of the massive project that was Symphony 2 "The Forest of Dreams" my creative output was exhausted. I needed a small palate cleanser. Boy was I mistaken....

What evolved over the next year turned out to be the largest composition I've ever undertaken, surpassing Symphony two not only in length but also in size and complexity. Simply put - Symphony 3 now stands as the largest single work ever written for a wind band.

There are multiple layers to the piece. It can be listened to as both a programmatic symphony as well as a psychological progression from dark to light.

The Program

In 2015, I had quit my job teaching having had enough of dealing with adolescent angst and hormones (and yet, somehow I didn't learn my lesson and went back a year later...). My escape from the real world is to go birding. I had devised a giant road trip that would take me throughout the American West and allow me to view nature as I had never view it before. I told myself that I needed this trip in order to "find myself." I would start in South Texas then work to West Texas and move in a giant loop until I reached home a month later. Sadly, the trip was cut short after about a week due to the death of my grandmother. At the time, I thought the trip to be a failure as I didn't complete what I set out to accomplish and I never "found myself."

But I did find myself. It just took three years of contemplation to realize what I saw.

I. The Storm at Night

As I was driving to Big Bend National Park, I drove through a torrential storm that covered the Chihuahuan Desert. As I drove through ever growing hills, I would see shafts of golden sun breaking through the storm the shone a gilded light upon the beautiful, yes desolate landscape.

2. Into the Mountains

The Chisos Mountains lie at the center of Big Bend like a giant monolith. They contain the second highest peak in Texas and hold a natural beauty found nowhere else in the country. The climb into the mountains is a long and winding one with sharp twists and turns.

3. The Darkness of Night

True darkness is rare in our overly illuminated world. In the mountains far away from the nearest civilization, one can begin to appreciate how dark the world can really be.

4. The Glory of the Unfettered Night Sky

When the illumination of human kind is gone, the light of the natural world shines the brighter. As the skies cleared, a true wonder appears as the night sky in all its glory is revealed.

5. The Peace of Solitude

Solitude can be both comforting to the troubled mind and a source of extreme loneliness. That which is both beautiful and agonizing can create the emotions.

6. Dreams Under the Stars

As we fade into sleep, visions of beauty and light appear.

7. The Storm at Night

Peace and sleep are broken as the storm returns, now more thunderous and terrifying than before. The altitude of the mountains bring us closer to the violent heavens.

8. The NIght Birds Call

As the storm dies out, the night birds begin their chorus. They sing and call to one another in the darkness of the mountains.

9. The Ascent in the Dark

Hours before dawn, we being to climb the mountain. It is a long and arduous climb with heavy footsteps across the wet earth.

10. The Dawn Chorus

Near the top of the climb, the first rays of the sun slowly appear and the first birds of the morning begin to sing. We hear their songs and join in.

11. Dawn in the Mists of the Lost World

At the top of the mountain, the darkness is slowly abating and revealing to use a world shrouded in the final mists and clouds of the night's storm. We are standing in a world of mystery and beauty - alone.

12. Sunrise

Finally, the sun is clear of the horizon and the mountains are bathed in golden light. We stand at the top of the world and bask in the warmth as we stare out across the desert below us.


6 Flutes

  1. C Piccolo

  2. C Flute

  3. C Flute and E-flat Flute

  4. C Flute and B-fat Flute

  5. C Flute and Tenor Flute

  6. Alto Flute and C Piccolo

3 Oboes (3= E-flat Sopranino Oboe)

Mezzo-Soprano Oboe

Alto Oboe

Baritone Oboe

2 C Clarinets (=2 E-flat Clarinets)

4 B-flat Clarinets

2 A Clarinets

2 G Alto Clarinets

2 E-flat Tenor Clarinets (=2 B-flat Bass Clarinets)

2 B-flat Bass Clarinets

E-flat Great Bass Clarinet

B-flat Contrabass Clarinet

8 Saxophones

  1. B-flat Soprano Saxophone

  2. E-flat Alto Saxophone and E-flat Sopranino Saxophone

  3. E-flat Alto Saxophone and F Alto Saxophone

  4. C Tenor Saxophone and Bass Saxophone

  5. B-flat Tenor Saxophone and B-flat Soprano Saxophone

  6. E-flat Baritone Saxophone, E-flat Contrabass Saxophone, and E-flat Alto Saxophone

  7. E-flat Baritone Saxophone and C Soprano Saxophone

  8. B-flat Bass Saxophone and E-flat Alto Saxophone

4 Bassoons (3= Contrabassoon, 4=Subcontrabassoon)


4 F Horns

2 B-flat Tenor Wagner Tuben (= F Horns 5 & 6)

2 F Bass Wagner Tuben (= F Horns 7 & 8)

Alto Trombone

3 Tenor Trombones

Bass Trombone

G Bass Trombone

Contrabass Trombone

3 B-flat Flügelhorns

F Alto Flügelhorn

2 Tenor Tubas

Bass Tuba

Contrabass Tuba


4 Percussion

2 Harps





2-4 Celli

2 Basses

Off-stage Brass

  • Group 1 (rear)

  • 6 C Trumpets

  • Group 2 (left)

  • B-flat Piccolo Trumpet

  • E-flat Trumpet

  • 3 B-flat Trumpets

  • Tenor Trumpet

  • Group 3 (right)

  • B-flat Piccolo Trumpet

  • E-flat Trumpet

  • 3 B-flat Trumpets

  • Tenor Trumpet

  • Group 4 (balcony)

  • 2 E-flat Alto Trumpets

Full Score: $150 (upon request)

Complete set of parts: $850

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