My dad – Joe A. David, III – was a band director for over forty years from elementary grades through graduate school, including the four years that I played in the Cairo High School Band in Georgia. He was known for his infectious passion for music, relentless pursuit of excellence, and selfless dedication to his students. A lifelong Baptist, he adored the traditional American gospel hymns and would frequently program band settings of them. My personal favorite hymns were always the “invitationals” that came at the end of each worship service during the “Call to Commitment.” This phrase struck me as a particularly appropriate title since he always asked for the utmost commitment and respect from his students knowing that he would give both back in greater measure. With this piece, my hope is to capture my father’s great love of band and music as well as his optimistic and charismatic spirit that lives on in his family, friends, and generations of former students.
The work is a rhapsodic theme and variations on the hymn “Softly and Tenderly” which is first heard in solo trombone (Joe’s primary instrument) after an introductory brass fanfare. Each large section of the work bears one of his memorable aphorisms starting with the complete hymn played “never softer than solid, never louder than lovely.” The tune builds in strength and color only to be interrupted just before its resolution by percussive octatonic chords at an aggressively fast tempo. Rhythmic, harmonic, and contrapuntal challenges abound as Joe never feared complex contemporary works since “If it is to be, it is up to me!” Finally, the hymn’s refrain (“Come home, come home!”) is stated joyfully alongside the opening fanfare, building towards an emphatic conclusion that strives for “The Epitome of Decorum.” Throughout the piece, subtle allusions are made to many of Joe’s favorite band compositions including those by Hanson, Holsinger, Jager, Nelson, Schuman, Tull, and Zdechlik. This work was commissioned and premiered by the Georgia Music Educators Association District II Symphonic Band under the baton of Prof. Randall Coleman, director of bands, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.