Grace Hale ’20 won first prize in the 2018 Colorado Collegiate Composition Competition with a composition titled “Rhapsody on a Cityscape.”
Hale, a music major from Lake Bluff, Illinois, says “Rhapsody on a Cityscape” is an ode to her imagination and undying love for her Chicago roots. “The piece is a depiction of one of my fondest childhood memories — driving into the city, watching the skyscrapers emerge from the depths of the horizon,” says Hale.
“I am delighted that Grace received the prestigious Rocky Mountain Brassworks Composers Competition,” says Professor of Music Composition Ofer Ben-Amots. “She has been one of the most prolific, talented, and promising young composers we have seen in many years. Grace is a very quick writer, and has already shown a true creative voice through many of her new compositions.
“Her music is powerful, exciting, and original,” says Ben-Amots, who also is chair of the Colorado College Music Department.
“Rhapsody on a Cityscape” is not what one might consider a British brass band-style piece, Hale notes, but rather contains more of an American vernacular. She believes it more pertinent to express a musical narrative most honest to her own; therefore, she chose to showcase the influences in Chicago jazz and blues.
The competition was sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Brassworks, a British-style brass band in Aurora, Colorado. The organization notes that brass bands were an integral part of the evolution of the modern military band and historical in the Salvation Army. One hundred years ago, there were approximately 2,000 British-style brass bands in Colorado. As of 2018, there were three left — Pikes Peak Brass Band, Colorado Brass, and Rocky Mountain Brassworks. The Rocky Mountain Brassworks hosted the composition competition in order to spark interest in brass bands.
Hales says that British brass bands originated among common middle-class people in Britain, thus, she sought to contribute to that sentiment with a spacious, tonal, and sonically inviting piece.
The competition’s guidelines required that all compositions have the instrumentation of a traditional British brass band and be between 5 and 7 minutes in duration.
An improvisational undertaking by Hale — one involving her playing composition with a virtual reality headset that displayed the Northern Lights to both her and the audience — was featured in a story about Colorado College’s state-of-the-art Tutt Library in the Winter 2017 issue of the Bulletin.