The Flame of Fortitude

Ensemble: Concert BandGrade: 4Length: 6:00

Milton is a borough in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania on the West Branch Susquehanna River, 50 miles north of Harrisburg. Settled in 1870, the town is home to multiple factories and is a hard working community. On Friday, May 14, 1880, a day that started out clear and calm ended in disaster. Shortly before noon a passing locomotive tossed a spark onto the Milton Car Works Factory. Because it was so close to the lunch hour, the town did not recognize the steam whistles as a reason to be alarmed. To warn the town of the quickly spreading fire a man on horseback rode down Broadway Street yelling to his fellow Miltonians that there was much reason to be concerned. The fire spread quickly and the brave citizens did what they could to save themselves and neighbors

as telegrams were sent rapidly to surrounding communities. The town was leveled to ashes and the citizens of Milton were forced to bravely rebuild their lives after the fire.

The composition begins with a majestic fanfare depicting a proud town on May 14, 1880. The piece quickly moves to a fast paced section, where the listener will begin to hear train whistles in the flutes, train bells in the chimes, whirling engines in the brass, telegraphs in the woodwinds and mallets, and the wind in the scalular woodwind runs. The piece continues to grow with more driving percussion and brass dissonances depicting the Firestorm. This section abruptly ends and the audience is thrust into the solemn emotion of sorrow as an oboe solo represents the town’s sadness while the percussion section uses paper bags to represent the smoldering fire. The town begins to pull together and the music turns from sorrow to hope. The final section, Rebuilding Milton, shows the town’s drive to rebuild. One can hear small sections of the high school’s alma mater embedding the energy of youth and optimism. There is a final short recapitulation of the introductory motive, which moves to a rousing and triumphant coda.

The Flame of Fortitude was commissioned by my good friend and conductor Brett Hosterman and the Milton Community Band as a tribute to the perseverance of Milton in the face of great adversity.

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